Over the last decade, the use of rating scales has grown in popularity in various fields, including customer online reviews and energy labels. Rating scales convey important information on attributes of products or services that consumers evaluate in their purchase decisions. By applying multidimensional scaling, this paper reveals that the meaning of the levels of a rating scale can be altered by manipulating the labeling of the rating scale levels. The study reveals that consumers perceive product attributes as being more similar if the labels share similar or identical linguistic or visual characteristics. In addition, two choice-based conjoint studies examine whether the way consumers make their choices among products can be influenced by changing the labeling of rating scale levels. The results show that a manipulation of the meaning of rating scale levels diminishes both the importance of the rating scale information and consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for a rating upgrade.
Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 2013, Vol 12, Issue 3, p. 223-231