Customers can sometimes learn unanticipated or hidden use value of a firm’s product whereas the non-customers remain uninformed about that extra value. A monopolist will increase its profit by informing the non-customers of its product’s hidden value. However, our analysis reveals that this may not be true when the firm faces competition in the market—the firm may actually make a higher profit if it keeps its hidden value secret from its competitor’s customers even if advertising to inform those customers is costless. This is because no advertising leads to information heterogeneity among consumers about the existence of the firm’s hidden value, which gives an incentive for both firms to continue targeting their own existing customers rather than poaching each other’s customers, alleviating price competition and increasing firms’ profits. This beneficial strategic effect of keeping some product value secret from the competitor’s customers can persist even when the firms anticipate the hidden value and compete more aggressively for customers in the early period. Our research suggests that firms can benefit from an “under-promise and over-deliver” strategy if they refrain from communicating their extra value to the competitor’s customers. Moreover, positive word of mouth about a firm’s product will not necessarily benefit the firm and can in fact make all firms worse off.
|Journal of Retailing
|Published - 2017