Have you ever heard of a product that failed because it was so original? The authors of this article argue that the Newton PDA, launched by Apple in 1993, failed partly because of its originality. After some problems with the initial version of the Newton PDA, huge negative word-of-mouth was generated in a short amount of time. This negative WOM destroyed the Newton’s reputation permanently.
This research investigates if product originality can lead to negative WOM, which harms rather than promotes a product. The authors explore when and whether product originality can lead to negative WOM.
Word-of-mouth (WOM) is known as the passing of information from person to person by oral communication (the free dictionary). WOM consists of two attributes: amount (how much people talk about a product) and valence (if people talk positively or negatively about the product).
This paper explored how originality and usefulness of products has influenced the word-of-mouth about these products. The authors hypothesize that usefulness is a moderating factor for product originality and product success.
One of the most interesting theoretical parts of this paper is that the authors assume that negative WOM (as with the case of the Newton PDA) is created partly because of the originality of the product. I personally belief that the product features of an entirely new product category play a more important role, and that negative WOM is just a logical response to bringing a new product to the market that is not working as it should.
The most interesting practical part of this paper is that the authors use a wide range of products to test the usefulness of products, ranging from memory sticks to massagers and even furniture. To test their hypotheses the authors used three separate studies with students from their university.
I would argue that some individuals perceive the usefulness of a memory stick differently than others. One of the individuals might know a lot about computer equipment and therefore knows the potential usefulness of a memory stick, whereas another individual might not know a single thing about computer equipment and therefore does not know the potential usefulness. This might lead to a misperception about the perceived usefulness and the potential usefulness of a product.
I would therefore want to debate about the following statement: The authors should also take prior knowledge of the students about the products in to account. This will reduce the bias of the students towards certain products.
Moldovan, S., Goldenberg, J., & Chattopadhyay, A. (2011). The different roles of product originality and usefulness in generating word-of-mouth. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 28(2), 109-119.