Word-of-Mouth Endorsements and Goal Type in Service Advertising

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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This paper investigates the effectiveness of advertising messages that highlight abstract versus concrete goals and of consumer endorsements varying in strength in the context of services with various levels of risk. The results show that, for services of low risk, consumers exposed to concrete goal-oriented messages in advertisements have a more positive ad attitude and purchase intention towards the service if the ad message is accompanied by strong-tie word-of-mouth (e.g., family or friends) versus weak-tie word-of-mouth (e.g., reviews from typical consumers). No such difference is observed if consumers see advertisements with abstract goals. In the case of high-risk services, abstract goals in advertising are more effective when ad messages are accompanied by weak (versus strong)-tie word-of-mouth. By priming consumers to think of low-risk services as having relatively higher risk (and vice versa), we show that the results are not merely driven by the type of service but by the level of perceived risk that consumers associate with the service. We conclude with implications for academics and practitioners.