Marketing: Your Friends Are Watching [Wall Street Journal]

This excerpt originally appears here at the Wall Street Journal.

WEEKINIDEASThat “Like” button, it seems, can work two ways.

If a potentially embarrassing product has the popular Facebook button or Twitter icon next to it, consumers are less likely to buy than if the social-media links are missing, two marketing scholars have shown. But if a reputation-enhancing product has the links, consumers are more likely to buy.

In the study, nearly 200 people, ages 16 to 45, rated their likelihood of buying items presented on a mock shopping site. When men considered the acne medicine Clearasil and women looked at Spanx body-shaping underwear, ratings on an “intend to purchase” scale were 25% lower when social-media symbols were present. But when men looked at bike shorts and women at fashionable perfume, the likelihood of buying rose by about the same amount. The icons made consumers act as if they were under surveillance by their social networks, the authors said.

“The ‘Conspicuous Purchase’ Effect,” David Neal and Claudia Townsend, paper presented at the State of Style Conference, New York (February)