University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
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Abstract

New FTC guidelines have been created to control improperly used endorsements with online consumer reviews. These guidelines state that bloggers and word-of-mouth marketers must disclose material connections if they are being endorsed in any way, and a paid endorsement is considered deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims. This study examines how this regulation may influence consumers’ attitudes and behaviors regarding online reviews. The present research tests whether: a) previously documented bias effects of negative and positive reviews still exist under new guidelines; b) the minimal FTC requirements are sufficient to properly inform consumers; and c) a more standardized and elaborated statement would be more effective. A total of 276 participants were recruited to read a simulated online consumer review. Participants viewed one of three possible conditions (no endorsement statement, minimal FTC required statement, and modified FTC statement). Participants then rated their intent to buy the product, confidence in the purchase, and the influence of the review on the intent to buy and on confidence. There was a significantly lower intent to buy (p < .01) when the modified FTC statement was utilized, demonstrating the potential need for more standardized guidelines to be utilized in order to protect consumers. Implications of the study are discussed.

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