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The Department of Environmental Economics and Management

The Robert H. Smith Faculty
of Agriculture, Food and Environment
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

PO Box 12, Rehovot 76100
Fax: 08-9466267

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Prof. Ayal Kimhi, Tel: 08-9489376

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(Poor) seeing is believing: When direct experience impairs product promotion


Ert, E. ; Raz, O. ; Heiman, A. (Poor) seeing is believing: When direct experience impairs product promotion. International Journal of Research in Marketing 2016, 33, 881 - 895.


Marketing tools that enable pre-purchase experience (e.g., product trials, sampling) are considered efficient means of reducing uncertainty and increasing demand for unfamiliar products. It is widely agreed that having more information improves the quality of choice, so demonstrations, sampling, and other experience-generating marketing tools are expected to increase consumers' welfare. The current paper challenges this concept by suggesting that experiencing some product types for a limited time might provide unrepresentative information, and thus might result in suboptimal choices. In three experiments, we evaluated the effect of potentially unrepresentative experience on consumer product acceptance. The results show that while experiencing products affects consumers even when it provides little information, the effect might be positive or negative, depending on the product value distribution. Specifically, short experience with the product increases the appeal of negatively skewed products, which appear appealing after a short, yet unrepresentative experience. Yet short experience impairs the appeal of positively skewed products, which appear unappealing given short or low-intensity experience. This pattern emerges even though the most likely result of a given sample is not a good predictor of the expected utility of the product. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.