Unintended effects of incentivizing consumers to recommend a favorite brand

George Anghelcev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Marketers often use incentives such as coupons, rewards or special membership discounts in order to motivate consumers to purchase or recommend a particular brand. This practice is based on the underlying assumption that an increase in incentives will lead to an increase in consumer response – an idea which has been at the core of traditional economic thinking for decades. Some psychologists have claimed, however, that under specific conditions an increase in incentives can reduce (rather than increase) one's willingness to perform the behavior which is being incentivized. If materialized, the possibility that extrinsic incentives may diminish consumer willingness to recommend a favorite brand could have important theoretical and practical consequences in the context of word-of-mouth or buzz marketing. This study tests that possibility in the context of an experiment about Apple computers, a favorite brand among US college students. Participants were asked to recommend the brand to a friend (1) in absence of any monetary reward and (2) for a small monetary incentive. Students who were promised a small monetary reward experienced a decrease in intrinsic motivation and wrote shorter recommendations than those who were not promised any incentives. Data also suggest that the quality of the recommendation may decrease when incentives are offered. The results are discussed in line of their possible theoretical and practical significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-223
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Marketing Communications
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2015


  • WOM marketing
  • advertising
  • incentives
  • intrinsic motivation
  • motivation crowding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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