Is top 10 better than top 9? The role of expectations in consumer response to imprecise rank claims

Mathew S. Isaac, Aaron R. Brough, Kent Grayson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Many marketing communications are carefully designed to cast a brand in its most favorable light. For example, marketers may prefer to highlight a brand's membership in the top 10 tier of a third-party list instead of disclosing the brand's exact rank. The authors propose that when marketers use these types of imprecise advertising claims, subtle differences in the selection of a tier boundary (e.g., top 9 vs. top 10) can influence consumers' evaluations and willingness to pay. Specifically, the authors find a comfort tier effect in which a weaker claim that references a less exclusive but commonly used tier boundary can actually lead to higher brand evaluations than a stronger claim that references a more exclusive but less common tier boundary. This effect is attributed to a two-stage process by which consumers evaluate imprecise rank claims. The results demonstrate that consumers have specific expectations for how messages are constructed in marketing communications and may make negative inferences about a brand when these expectations are violated, thus attenuating the positive effect such claims might otherwise have on consumer responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-353
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2016


  • Advertising
  • Categorization
  • Expectations
  • Rankings
  • Transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing

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