Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information

Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information

by Itamar Simonson, Emanuel Rosen

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Going against conventional wisdom, Absolute Value reveals what really influences customers today and offers a new framework—the Influence Mix—for thinking about consumer decision making, which should help managers develop more effective marketing strategies.

How people buy things has changed profoundly—yet the fundamental thinking about


Going against conventional wisdom, Absolute Value reveals what really influences customers today and offers a new framework—the Influence Mix—for thinking about consumer decision making, which should help managers develop more effective marketing strategies.

How people buy things has changed profoundly—yet the fundamental thinking about consumer decision making and marketing has not. Most marketers still believe that they can shape consumers' perceptions and drive their behaviors. In this provocative book, Stanford professor Itamar Simonson and best-selling author Emanuel Rosen show why current mantras about branding and loyalty are losing their relevance. When consumers base their decisions on reviews from other users, easily accessed expert opinions, price comparison apps, and other emerging technologies, everything changes. Contrary to what we frequently hear, consumers will (on average) make better choices and act more rationally.

Absolute Value answers the pressing question of what influences customers in this new age. Simonson and Rosen identify the old-school marketing concepts that need to change and explain how a company should design its communication strategy, market research program, and segmentation strategy in the new environment. Filled with deep analysis, case studies, and cutting-edge research, this forward-looking book provides an entirely new way of thinking about marketing.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Customers in the information age are no longer at the mercy of marketers and advertisers; much more important are the opinions of friends and loved ones who evaluate the “absolute value” of a product rather than the “relative value” of a marketing message. Simonson, a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and Rosen (The Anatomy of Buzz) aim to help marketers and strategists make better decisions about how to reach consumers when the flow of information is no longer up to them. Marketers used to work with a time-honored set of assumptions: the importance of a company’s brand, the effect of loyalty, customers’ irrationality, option paralysis, and the need to carefully position products. But the goal is now about tracking what people want, then providing it. The new framework (“Influence Mix”) includes the customer’s preferences, beliefs, and experiences; input garnered from other people; and information services, and marketers. The authors cover the decline of branding; the challenges for review sites (such as Amazon, Yelp, and Zagat) trying to maintain their credibility; the ability of smaller businesses to create transparency through user reviews; the declining importance of both “sophisticated” countries and brands; and the degree to which customers trust each other, not marketers. This accessible, data-rich study should help businesses make the crucial shift from a focus on perception to word-of-mouth marketing. Agent: James A. Levine, Levine/Greenberg Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Tim Brown
“Absolute Value brilliantly describes a world which threatens to disrupt conventional ideas about branding and marketing. Companies that seek only to persuade will be replaced by those that truly seek to serve the real needs of the customer.”
Ravi Dhar
“Pay attention to this book. It offers important insights into changing consumer behavior and presents new rules for success in the marketplace of the future.”
Kevin Lane Keller
“Marketing is changing more rapidly than ever. In Absolute Value, Simonson and Rosen provide a uniquely comprehensive and insightful look into the new consumer world. It provides an invaluable roadmap as to where marketing is going, challenging conventions and many so-called best practices in the process.”
Chip Heath
“Simonson and Rosen marshal fact and provocative argument to explain why the radical transparency of the internet undermines touchstones of traditional marketing as basic as segmentation, positioning, and even brand. Every marketer is going to have to read this book.”
“A smart, incisive and compelling must-read for marketers who want to understand how technology is making shoppers more smart and savvy.”
Kirkus Reviews
An erudite study on how the information age has affected the consumer purchasing experience. Marketing and advertising professionals Simonson and Rosen (The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing, 2000) collaborate on a timely discussion of how consumer purchasing patterns have drastically changed in recent years. They attribute this radical shift to the information age's increased availability of "perfect information," whereby consumers have unlimited access to peer reviews, informed professional opinions (Yelp, Zagat, etc.) and specific details prior to purchasing a product. It's a potent combination establishing what the authors call the "absolute value" of an item or service for sale. They further explore this consumer-driven concept and how it relates to marketers in three sections detailing the foundation of the marketing industry, how the customer experience is fundamentally changing and directly affecting the promotion of products, and the advertising industry's response to that change and where its future lies. Supplemented by examples both real and hypothetical, the authors discuss how online shopping has replaced traditionally based sales trends with responsible (not "irrational") information-fortified purchasing. This trend, however economically beneficial for consumers, forces marketers to remix and restrategize how they advertise to the public, a method Simonson and Rosen call the "Influence Mix," an amalgam of influential sources through which to base effective marketing decisions. In other sections, the authors weigh the significance of product diversification and deliberate browsing against interpersonally communicated opinions, and they elucidate the relevance of brand proxying in today's oversaturated marketplace. Perhaps better suited to professionals than casual readers, both Simonson and Rosen expertly channel their industry expertise into this tightly focused, contemplative analysis. The age of informed decision-making is upon us, they write, and this means more carefully evaluated choices for buyers and the ultimate challenge for marketers and advertising teams. A well-produced economic study on how technology is changing how we shop.
Library Journal
According to Simonson (Sebastian S. Kresge Professor, marketing, Graduate Sch. of Business, Stanford Univ.) and Rosen (The Anatomy of Buzz), what draws consumers to products in an age of readily available information is their "absolute value," or ultimate quality. The authors argue that the ease of finding immediate evaluations from strangers, friends, and experts about any given item with the click of a button has stripped away most marketing dogma. Gone are the days when positioning or brand loyalty influenced what people bought. Many products are at the mercy of aggregation tools and review websites, with the report from a buyer about their experience determining its success or failure. The book identifies the shift from relative value to absolute; the new changes in marketing, given the way people respond to the rapid spread of accessible information about new products; and the introduction of an "Influence Matrix" that helps managers determine where their product falls in this new framework. Simonson and Rosen offer suggestions for how to navigate successfully the new environment and quickly respond to the opportunities it affords. VERDICT The authors' approach to thriving in the new climate of consumerism is a worthwhile addition to any business section.—Laurel Tacoma, Strayer Univ. Lib., Washington, DC

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)


Meet the Author

Itamar Simonson is the Sebastian S. Kresge Professor of Marketing at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. His award-winning work has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other outlets worldwide. He has been recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on consumer decision making.

Emanuel Rosen is the author of the national bestseller The Anatomy of Buzz. He was previously vice president of marketing at Niles Software, where he launched the company's flagship product, EndNote. Rosen started his career in marketing as an award-winning copywriter. His books are available in twelve languages.

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