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  • Writer's pictureFrancesco Romano

The moderating effects of arrogance and expertise on persuation

This research made by Francesco Romano was aimed at defining a guidance for the creation of influencer marketing campaigns and for the development of programmes to find the most suitable consumers to leave reviews. Specifically, the author focuses on different ways of communication and on four specific characteristics and their impact on persuasion to understand who is the ideal endorser for a product and how he should behave. The source characteristics taken into consideration are expertise, attachment to the source, arrogance and modesty of the source.

To carry out the research a review of the existing literature was necessary, as well as an analysis of a web-based survey (CAWI method) from which 585 valid responses were generated.

Regarding different communication styles, it is important to mention that explicit endorsements (e.g., “I recommend the product”) are more persuasive than implicit ones (e.g., “I like the product”) because the endorser exposes himself more by offering not just an opinion, but real advice. Also, linguistic intensity (i.e., statements in which one expresses his opinion in strong and unequivocal terms) has a positive effect on persuasion, but only if the message is consistent with consumers’ previous beliefs. Also, presupposing some of the statements and using rhetorical questions makes the interlocutor accept a message more easily, because it forces him to elaborate less the argumentation.

Regarding the characteristics of a source, expertise increases the persuasiveness and credibility of a source, but attachment to a source has a positive effect as well because it increases the reliance on heuristics during the elaboration of a message, meaning that a consumer will be less likely to focus on the details of an argumentation and will focus more on the personal characteristics of the speaker. Instead, arrogance can have two different effects on persuasion: it reduces the likeability of a source, thus hindering persuasion, but it also makes the speaker look more competent, thus increasing his persuasiveness. Therefore, it is necessary to mention that trust moderates the efficacy of arrogance: if a person trusts the speaker, the positive effect of arrogance will outweigh its negative effect, but if a person doesn’t trust the speaker, arrogance will be detrimental to persuasion because the negative effect will be stronger than the positive one. On the other hand, modesty seems to always have a positive effect on persuasion because it increases the likeability and trustworthiness of the speaker.

Aware of their effects on persuasion, the author wanted to find out which of these characteristics had the largest impact, and how marketers should exploit them in the field of influencer marketing and online reviews.

To do so, the author created four different scenarios with reviews about a solar protection cream: each respondent had to read just one review, and each scenario presented a review written in an arrogant or modest way, and in two cases the reviewer was described as an expert in cosmetics, while in the other cases the respondents were asked to imagine that the review was written by their best friends (so, scenario 1 had a review written in an arrogant way by an expert, scenario 2 had a review written modestly by an expert, and scenarios 3 and 4 were written in an arrogant or modest manner by people who were described as the respondents’ friends).

Respondents were asked to rate how they perceived the reviewers in terms of arrogance or modesty, expertise, persuasiveness, and the attachment they felt for them. Afterwards, the author imported all the data into RStudio and aggregated it into individual descriptive variables. Then, Chi-squared tests and a Fisher’s exact test were carried out to check for the homogeneity of the samples, and pairwise T-tests using Bonferroni’s correction were carried out to make sure that the overall ratings given by the respondents were consistent with the author’s previous expectations.

Once the homogeneity of the samples was confirmed and it was understood that the results were consistent with expectations, the author run linear regressions to understand which of the characteristics had the largest impact on persuasion, and found it to be attachment to the source. Expertise had a positive impact as well, while arrogance and modesty could not outweigh each other and therefore did not present any differences regarding their effect on persuasion.

Therefore, based on the results of the experiment, marketers should work with influencers to whom consumers are extremely attached, while their expertise, although it is a preferable feature, is not as essential. Instead, since the field of online reviews does not suit influencers and it is not possible to find reviewers to whom many consumers feel attached, in this case it is preferable to encourage expert reviewers to leave reviews about the company’s products. Thus, online review platforms should improve their interfaces in order to make it clearer when a reviewer is an expert in a certain product category for two reasons: first, so that consumers could better understand who they should trust; and second, so that marketers could better understand who they should convince to leave reviews about their products.

Also, it is not important how endorsers are perceived in terms of arrogance or modesty, but marketers should instruct them on how to express themselves, using explicit endorsements and linguistic intensity when possible, presupposing statements and using rhetorical questions to make their calls to action.

Finally, while binding influencers with a contract can be a winning strategy, in the case of online reviews researchers found that low-contractuality (e.g., giving free samples and asking for a review in return) is preferable, because it fosters the desire to help the company and the sharing of positive word of mouth, making reviews more frequent and more generous.


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