We study a dynamic contribution game where investors seek private benefits that are offered in exchange for contributions and a single, publicly-minded donor values project success. We show that donor contributions serve as costly signals that encourage socially-productive contributions by investors who face a coordination problem. Investors and the donor prefer different equilibria but all benefit in expectation from the donor’s ability to dynamically signal his valuation. We explore various contexts in which our model can be applied and delve empirically into the case of Kickstarter. We calibrate our model and quantify the coordination benefits of dynamic signaling in counterfactuals.
Fundraising campaigns draw support from a wide pool of contributors. Some contributors are interested in private rewards offered in exchange for contributions (buyers), whereas others are publicly-minded and value success (donors). Buyers face a coordination problem because of the positive externalities of campaign success. A leadership donor who strategically times contributions can promote coordination by dynamically signaling his valuation. The ability to signal increases the probability of success and benefits all participants relative to the donor valuation being known. We validate our modeling assumptions and theoretical predictions using Kickstarter data.
The propensity of consumers to talk after a good versus bad experience with a product can differ based on information available from other marketing channels, for example the brand image or advertising. This can result in selection of positive/negative word-of-mouth for reasons outside of product quality. We develop a unifying framework of WOM, brand image, product advertising, and pricing with a focus on the instrumentality motive of word-of-mouth: early adopters talk to inform new buyers’ purchasing decisions. The different marketing channels shape the information sharing behavior of the early adopter as well as the target consumer’s purchase decision. We show that if the brand image is strong, then in equilibrium only negative WOM can arise. In contrast, with a weak brand image, positive WOM must occur. We also show that holding product quality fixed, a positive advertising signal realization leads to a more positive WOM selection. The model can be applied to both one-one informal WOM as well as online reviews. The assumptions and main predictions of our model are consistent with those that we identified from a primary survey and observational Yelp data.
We study reward-based crowdfunding, a new class of dynamic contribution games where a private good is produced only if the funding goal is reached by a deadline. Buyers face a problem of coordination rather than free-riding. A long-lived donor may alleviate this coordination risk, signaling his wealth through dynamic contributions. We characterize platform-, donor-, and buyer-optimal equilibrium outcomes, attained by Markov equilibria with simple donation strategies. We test the model’s predictions using high-frequency data collected from the largest crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. The model ﬁts the data well, especially for predictions concerning comparative statistics, donation dynamics, and properties of successful campaigns.
The propensity of consumers to engage in word-of-mouth (WOM) can diﬀer after good versus bad experiences. This can result in positive or negative selection of user-generated reviews. We show how the strength of brand image - determined by the dispersion of consumer beliefs about quality - and the informativeness of good and bad experiences impact the selection of WOM in equilibrium. Our premise is that WOM is costly: Early adopters talk only if their information is instrumental for the receiver’s purchase decision. If the brand image is strong, i.e., consumers have close to homogeneous beliefs about quality, then only negative WOM can arise. With a weak brand image, positive WOM can occur if positive experiences are suﬀiciently informative. We show that our theoretical predictions are consistent with restaurant review data from Yelp.com. A review rating for a national established chain restaurant is almost 1-star lower (on a 5-star scale) than a review rating for a comparable independent restaurant, controlling for various reviewer and restaurant characteristics. Further, negative chain restaurant reviews have more instances of expectation words, indicating agreement over beliefs about the quality, whereas positive reviews of independent restaurants feature disproportionately many novelty words.
The propensity of consumers to engage in word-of-mouth (WOM) can diﬀer after good versus bad experiences, resulting in positive or negative selection of user-generated reviews. We study how the propensity to engage in WOM depends on information available to customers through diﬀerent marketing channels. We develop a model of WOM in which a target customer makes a purchase decision based on his private brand association, public product-speciﬁc information (e.g. from advertising or past reviews) and WOM content, and an early adopter of the new product engages in WOM only if her information is instrumental to the target customer’s purchase decision. We deﬁne brand image to be the distribution of the customers’ brand associations, and strength of the brand image to be the precision of this distribution. We show that if the brand image is strong, then in equilibrium only negative WOM can arise. In contrast, with a weak brand image, positive WOM must occur. Moreover, holding product quality ﬁxed, a positive advertising signal realization leads to a more positive WOM selection. We use restaurant review data from Yelp.com to motivate our model assumptions and validate the predictions. For example, a textual analysis of reviews is consistent with prevalence of an instrumental motive for WOM. Further, a review rating for national established chain restaurant locations, where the brand image is strong, is almost 1-star lower (on a 5-star scale) than a review rating for a comparable independent restaurant, controlling for reviewer and restaurant characteristics.
The propensity of consumers to engage in word-of-mouth (WOM) diﬀers after good versus bad experiences, which can result in positive or negative selection of user-generated reviews. We show how the dispersion of consumer beliefs about quality (brand strength), informativeness of good and bad experiences, and price can aﬀect selection of WOM in equilibrium. WOM is costly: Early adopters talk only if they can aﬀect the receiver’s purchase. Under homogeneous beliefs, only negative WOM can arise. Under heterogeneous beliefs, the type of WOM depends on the informativeness of the experiences. We use data from Yelp.com to validate our predictions.
We study reward-based crowdfunding campaigns, a new class of dynamic contribution games where consumption is exclusive. Two types of backers participate: buyers want to consume the product while donors just want the campaign to succeed. The key tension is one of coordination between buyers, instead of free-riding. Donors can alleviate this coordination risk. We analyze a dynamic model of crowdfunding and demonstrate that its predictions are consistent with high-frequency data collected from Kickstarter. We compare the Kickstarter mechanism to alternative platform designs and evaluate the value of dynamically arriving information. We extend the model to incorporate social learning about quality.
Reputation concerns can discipline agents to take costly eﬀort and generate good outcomes. But what if outcomes are not always observed? We consider a model of reputation with shifting observability, and ask how this aﬀects agents’ incentives. We identify a novel and intuitive mechanism by which infrequent observation or inattention can actually strengthen reputation incentives and encourage eﬀort. If an agent anticipates that outcomes may not be observed in the future, the beneﬁts from eﬀort today are enhanced due to a “coasting” eﬀect. By investing eﬀort when outcomes are more likely observed, the agent can improve her reputation, and when the audience is inattentive in the future, she can coast on this reputation without additional eﬀort. We show that future opportunities to rest on one’s laurels can lead to greater overall eﬀort and higher eﬀiciency than constant observation. This has implications for the design of review systems or performance feedback systems in organizations. We provide a characterization of the optimal observability structure to maximize eﬀicient eﬀort in our setting.
We study a canonical model of reputation between a long-run player and a sequence of short-run opponents, in which the long-run player is privately informed about an uncertain state that determines the monitoring structure in the reputation game. The long-run player plays a stage-game repeatedly against a sequence of short-run opponents. We present necessary and suﬀicient conditions (on the monitoring structure and the type space) to obtain reputation building in this setting. Speciﬁcally, in contrast to the previous literature, with only stationary commitment types, reputation building is generally not possible and highly sensitive to the inclusion of other commitment types. However, with the inclusion of appropriate dynamic commitment types, reputation building can again be sustained while maintaining robustness to the inclusion of other arbitrary types.