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Various forms of traditional promotions (e.g., free-standing inserts) as well as newer versions of viral marketing campaigns ask consumers to write personal testimonials about their brand-related experiences. In the present research we pose this question: does the act of testimonial writing simply record the consumer's extant attitude toward the brand or does this act serve as a form of self-generated advertising with the power to positively impact that attitude? Results from three studies reveal that testimonials do in fact positively bias consumers' evaluative judgments. However, testimonial promotions can be a double-edged sword: the positive effects induced by testimonial writing may be counteracted if testifiers feel obligated—due to the probabilistic prizes that motivate them to write testimonials—to exaggerate their testimonial statements. This research explores testimonial writing as a path to enhance brand evaluations and focuses on whether consumers' natural tendencies to exaggerate their testimonials might mitigate these evaluations. We find that, indeed, brand evaluations suffer when consumers exaggerate their testimonial statements.
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