Fairness ideals in distribution channels

Tony Haitao Cui, Paola Mallucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The authors analytically and experimentally evaluate how firms make decisions in a two-stage dyadic channel, in which firms decide on investments in the first stage and then on prices in the second stage. They find that firms' behavior differs significantly from the predictions of the standard economic model and is consistent with the existence of fairness concerns. Using a quantal response equilibrium model, in which both manufacturer and retailer make noisy best responses, the authors show that fairness significantly affects channel pricing decisions. In addition, they investigate what affects the perceptions of fairness. More specifically, they analyze whether the notion of fairness is influenced by social norms of strict equality, by endogenous investments and contributions that are affected by players' decisions, or by the exogenous game structure. To do so, the authors compare four principles of distributive fairness: strict egalitarianism; liberal egalitarianism; libertarianism; and a sequence-aligned ideal, which is studied for the first time in the literature. Surprisingly, the exogenous game structure reflected by the new ideal, whereby the sequence of moving determines the equitable payoff for players, significantly outperforms other fairness ideals, suggesting that equity in distribution channels can arise even in contests in which channel members have fairly different payoffs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)969-987
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this work was provided to the first author through Carlson Dean's Small Research Grant and Grant-in-Aid Program, University of Minnesota. The first author's research is partially supported by the NSFC Project No. 71331004.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, American Marketing Association.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Distribution channels
  • Experimental economics
  • Fairness ideals
  • Quantal response equilibrium

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