The Effect of Superstitious Beliefs on Performance Expectations

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J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2009) 37:161–169 DOI 10.1007/s11747-008-0116-y

ORIGINAL EMPIRICAL RESEARCH

The effect of superstitious beliefs on performance expectations Lauren Block & Thomas Kramer

Received: 7 January 2008 / Accepted: 15 August 2008 / Published online: 9 September 2008 # Academy of Marketing Science 2008

Abstract We explore superstitious beliefs as a basis of product performance expectations and their impact on initial purchase likelihood and subsequent satisfaction. In doing so, we demonstrate instances when superstitiondriven expectations cause consumers to make purchase decisions that run counter to economic rationality. In the first set of studies we find that Taiwanese consumers are relatively more likely to purchase a product with positive superstitious associations based on its “lucky” color, and are more likely to purchase and are willing to pay more money for a product with a smaller but “lucky” number of units contained in the package (e.g., eight tennis balls compared to ten). In contrast, consumers who do not hold such superstitious beliefs adhere to the more rational choice paradigm. Next, we show that the differences in purchase likelihood are driven by superstition-based performance expectations. We further generalize these findings to product satisfaction, and find support for expectation disconfirmation sensitivity as a moderator of the effect. Keywords Superstition . Consumer behavior . Irrational beliefs . Performance expectations

Lauren Block and Thomas Kramer contributed equally and are listed in alphabetical order. The manuscript benefited greatly from the insightful comments and suggestions received from the editor and four reviewers. L. Block : T. Kramer (*) Department of Marketing and International Business, Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College/CUNY, Box 12-240, One Bernard Baruch Way, New York, NY 10010, USA e-mail: thomas_kramer@baruch.cuny.edu L. Block e-mail: lauren_block@baruch.cuny.edu

Consumer expectations play an important role in marketing because of their impact on initial purchase decisions, satisfaction judgments, and subsequent repurchase behavior (e.g., Kopalle and Lehmann 2006; Oliver 1980; Oliver and Bearden 1985). Research has shown that expectations can be based on variety of factors, including advertising or published quality ratings (Kopalle and Lehmann 1995), trial (Goering 1985), company promises and word-of-mouth (Zeithaml et al. 1988). However, consumers’ superstitious beliefs as drivers of expectations have only received scant attention in the marketing literature. This gap in the literature is even more surprising given how frequently marketers rely on superstitions in their communications, thereby potentially creating or changing consumer expectations. For example, prominently featuring a number perceived to be lucky in Western cultures, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York offered a July 07, 2007 wedding package with a reception for 77 guests, a seven-tier wedding cake, seven Tiffany diamonds for the bride, and a seven-night honeymoon at any Ritz Carlton in the world for $77,777. On a smaller scale, Wal-Mart ran a “Lucky in Love Wedding Search” contest, in which seven lucky couples were selected to get married in the Wal-Mart lawn and garden area of their local Supercenter on July 07, 2007 and received a wedding reception for 77 guests. Finally, Icelandair recently ran a “Lucky 7s $7” promotion (similar to Continental Airlines’ “$888 to Beijing” campaign), which allowed customers to add on several excursions in Iceland for $7 each—as long as they were booked by lucky July 07, 2007. The economic boon of lucky numbers is not limited to the US and Western cultures. For example, the number 8 is considered lucky in Chinese cultures; astonishingly, at a government auction of license plates in Guangzhou, China, the most expensive plate (AC6688) went for 80,000 yuan, which is noteworthy not only because it is roughly 11 times

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