The purpose of this paper is to focus on the potentially positive role of rumors in generating curiosity about new products, and further shows how this prior knowledge through rumors affects consumer responses to subsequent official preannouncements about these products.
Building on the seminal work by Rogers (2003) on the innovation-adoption process, the authors examine how two factors – product newness (incremental vs radical) and rumor ambiguity (ambiguous vs unambiguous) shape consumer interest (curiosity) toward new products.
Study 1 experimentally tests the assumption that incremental and radical new products may benefit from different types of rumors, and shows that radical new products benefit more from ambiguous rumors as compared to incremental new products in terms of increased curiosity toward the product. Study 2 links rumors to preannouncements, and shows that rumors set expectations that become confirmed or disconfirmed by preannouncements. The results show that the curiosity evoked by the rumor has a significant impact on purchase intentions toward the new product, especially when they are confirmed by the preannouncements about the same product.
There is scant research investigating how rumors may shape consumer expectations about new products despite the prevalence of rumors in the marketplace, and this research provides a first outlook on the positive role that rumors play in the marketplace.
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