Content class effects on consumer online information processing

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Wang, Shih-lun Alex, 1972-

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Do consumers process information differently when the information is presented in the form of a third-party endorsed article versus advertising? Is it indeed the desirable managerial strategy to have all content types "speak with one voice?” How do factors such as product involvement, subjective and objective knowledge interact with the message consistency or message inconsistency conditions to influence subjects’ processing and their purchase intent? Based on these three main research questions, the study examined how subjects processed the information by integrating and examining two streams of content class, advertising and the thirdparty endorsed article online under the influences of message manipulation, involvement level, and consumer knowledge. The laboratory experiments with 221 subjects were used to test several hypotheses. An opposite result was found as subjects exposed to message inconsistency had higher purchase intent. It was clear that there was indeed a iv canceling effect across the content types when message claims they carried were presented in the same fashion to be consistent. Presenting information in different or varied sources may have stimulated thinking as subjects attempted to reconcile differences and made the different message claims complementary to each other. Results also suggested that product involvement, subjective knowledge, and objective knowledge independently influenced subjects’ information processing toward consistent messages and inconsistent messages across the content classes. While product involvement was a better determinant of process measures, objective knowledge influenced the focus of attention toward the articles and the evaluative measures toward the articles. While subjects with low subjective knowledge were more easily persuaded, subjects who were not motivated and had low objective knowledge appeared to rely on positive attitude toward the article (AArticle) to make their decision. The results are encouraging since both advertising and the third-party endorsed article are important in increasing a consumer’s purchase intent. Advertising and PR practices together could elicit more effective communication and have different and additive effects on persuasion. However, the findings of the study suggested that message inconsistency might be the most desirable condition when the message claims across the content types were positively distinguished, processed, and evaluated by subjects. Implications for advertisers and the direction of future research are also presented. v




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