Opinion Leaders as Brand Advocates in the Medical Industry – How Medical Professionals Perceive Source Credibility and Company Affiliations
Opinion leaders are experts in their domain of interest that share their experience with others. Opinion seekers, on the other hand, value the opinion leader’s knowledge and use them as a source of information to form an opinion about a service or a product. Marketers in the healthcare industry have recognized this information flow and have begun to use leading experts as a valuable third party who can take over the role of brand advocates or endorsers of a particular product. This research examines the marketing concept of opinion leaders advocating a product and persuading medical professionals. In two experimental studies, the influence of opinion leaders on medical students and practicing physicians and their perceived credibility of the message, as well as their attitude towards the company, is examined. The second focus of this research is how medical professionals cope with this form of persuasion attempt and whether their persuasion knowledge is activated. The influence on medical students and physicians through a peer expert - a skilled expert without any public recognition – represents the point of comparison in both studies. The results demonstrate that there are no significant differences in terms of perceived credibility between peer experts and opinion leaders, and that there are no differences regarding their influence on message credibility or attitude toward the company either. Moreover, disclosing company affiliations lead to the correction of attitudes toward the company. However, disclosing conflicts of interest can also be beneficial as it boosts the credibility of the source and helps to increase the perceived credibility of the corporation.
Opinion leadership, Persuasion knowledge, Healthcare marketing, Source credibility, Disclosure
Master of Science (M.Sc.)
Edwards School of Business