The “Attraction Effect” debunked.



The Attraction Effect is this: you add a high-priced but not necessarily better option to your range of products, thereby boosting the sales of one of your other products – probably the one that used to be priced highest.  The Attraction Effect, also known as the ‘Decoy Effect’ has been widely researched, taught in marketing classes and presented at pricing conferences around the world.  It has intuitive appeal: you have two products, priced at say $30 and $60. You want to increase sales of the $60 option, so you introduce a $100 product; that’s probably not much better than the $60 one. The $60 product now doesn’t seem expensive. Hey presto, its sales increase. Sounds great, right ?   The Attraction Effect was first pronounced to the world in the 1980’s.

But – most of the evidence for the Attraction Effect was obtained by asking respondents (often US college students) to choose between various products.  Typically these products were presented using text descriptions (Product A, $295, quality level 80; Product B, $350, Quality level 90 …).

The Attraction Effect was debunked in 2014 in two very large-scale studies. It seems it was an artefact of asking people stylised questions about price and quality, using principally text descriptions unlike those they encounter in real life.
To quote the authors of the studies:
“Ninety one attempts to produce an attraction effect … only 11 reliable effects … significantly fewer than expected”.
Yang & Lynn, More evidence challenging the robustness and usefulness of the Attraction Effect. Journal of Marketing Research, 51,4, 2014.

“We found no evidence of the attraction effect …”
Frederick, Lee and Baskin. The Limits of Attraction. Journal of Marketing Research 51,4, 2014.
So — you can’t magically boost the sales of one of your products by adding in a higher priced option.

This new evidence supports the idea of replication – carefully re-examining the validity of past studies. Replication is well established in many disciplines but is a bit underdeveloped in marketing.  Replication is the way that marketing science can slowly progress.

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