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Camera-shy or camera-ready?: Visuals as a signaling mechanism for categorical membership

Authors/Editors: Dibiaggio, L.
Grodal, S.
Suarez, F.
Type: Working Papers
Published by: SSRN


Recent research has emphasized that signaling clear membership in product categories influences how products perform. In this paper we focus on two shortcomings in the categorization literature. First, while prior literature has focused primarily on category labels as signals of categorical membership, other mechanisms that communicate association to a category—such as semantic networks and images—have been under-researched. We draw on the literature on multi-modal processing of information to explain how text-based mechanisms such as the use of labels and semantic networks differ from visual-based mechanisms such as the use of images. Second, the prior literature has overlooked the asymmetry in the effect of positive and negative labels on performance. We draw on an extensive literature within psychology to argue that negative labels have a stronger effect on performance than positive labels. Using original data from the crowdfunding website Indiegogo from 2010 to 2015, we find that both text-based mechanisms, semantic networks and labels, and visual mechanisms of signaling category membership are associated with performance. Our findings also suggest that images convey category membership by activating different cognitive structures than text. Furthermore, we find that labels with negative valence have a stronger effect on performance than positive labels. Our study theorizes and provides empirical support for a more complete understanding of how producers can signal categorical membership to shape the performance of their products.