Behavioral Research Lab Connects Students with Faculty Research Projects

June 18, 2012

Consumer-generated advertising resonates most with loyal customers. Individuals give the best advice when they believe they are the only ones being asked. Persuasive statements are most effective with three claims.

These and other research findings by members of the Georgetown McDonough School of Business faculty benefit from the 750 undergraduate marketing and management students who have participated in studies through the McDonough Behavioral Research Laboratory.

On May 10, the lab’s organizers presented research highlights from the past academic year, including three faculty studies and two student projects from Associate Professor Kurt Carlson’s Buyer Behavior course, which also participated in research for the lab.

Consumer-Generated Advertising

In their study, “Consumer-Generated Advertising: Does Awareness of Co-Creation Help or Hurt Persuasion?,” Assistant Professor Debora Thompson and Associate Professor Prashant Malaviya asked students to evaluate ads under various conditions. The results of their research show that the “consumer-generated” label, where customers submit their own advertising to a company, is less effective for non-loyal consumers or for those consumers able to scrutinize the message. They also found that more people will connect with the ad creator and the ad if there is a narrative about that individual showing similarities between the creator and the audience.

Asking Advice

Associate Professor Robin Dillon-Merrill and Carlson relied on the lab and student participation to study “What Influences Willingness to Give Advice?” They found that for the best results, those seeking advice should ask many people but not disclose how many people they are consulting – respondents provide the best advice when they believe the person asking is more dependent on the answer. They also suggest that people encourage prospective advisors to consider what they know before answering and avoid asking friends for advice – it’s best to consult subject experts.

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Carlson also included students in his research about “Magic Number Three: Limits on the Persuasiveness of Positive Claims.” He and research partner Suzanne Shu of UCLA learned that people are skeptical of a persuasive argument when there are less than three positive claims associated with it. They also found that four or more claims are difficult to process, leading to a mental bump that increases skepticism.

Undergraduate Research: Buyer Behavior Class

For their final project, Ryan Fan, Tian Xing, Michael Watson, Eghosa Aghayere, and Raymond Delorenzo explored “Public Praise and Motivation.” They sought to discover the effects that public praise on the motivation of the observers of the same activity. For their research, they used the example of students receiving high grades being singled out in class for their accomplishments.

The students found that this recognition does motivate students to study harder, but only for those highly interested in the topic at the outset. For those less interested in the topic, seeing someone else praised for their success actually undermined motivation. They conclude that reward alone is not enough – both incentives and interest need to be improved to increase motivation. They believe this has implications for marketers seeking to feature the success of an individual as part of a promotional campaign.

To determine “How Course Satisfaction is Determined for GU Students,” the team of Kimberly Garity, Jake Haley, Bryn Hastings, Marie-Camille Negrin, Thomas Ladd, and Alden Stabb surveyed their classmates. They found that course satisfaction among Georgetown students is determined by several factors, including professor quality and interest in the subject. They also found that initial expectations about the course play a large role in determining course satisfaction. For example, students are more satisfied with a lower-quality class than a higher quality class if the lower quality class exceeds their expectations.

The students concluded that reputations are extremely important to how a service is perceived. They recommend that marketers remember that while exceeding expectations can improve the satisfaction of any service, not meeting expectations can lead to dissatisfaction.