Branding in the New World: How Accessible Information, Social Media, and Changing Values Impact Symbolic Consumption
CitationGoor, Dafna. 2020. Branding in the New World: How Accessible Information, Social Media, and Changing Values Impact Symbolic Consumption. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Business School.
AbstractConsumers attitudes towards products and brands are rapidly changing. The democratization of luxury has made products of quality more available and the internet has facilitated access to information that was previously not in hand. How do consumers react to these changes? And, in what effective ways should brands respond to consumers’ shifting values and behaviors? This dissertation attempts to answer these questions in three essays by investigating some paradoxical effects of luxury consumption, social comparison, and brand secrecy in the new world on consumers symbolic consumption and behavior.
The first essay highlights a tension between consumers’ desire for an aspirational lifestyle and the growing demand for authentic living. I suggest that aspirational luxury products may conflict with consumers self-views, making them feel inauthentic. The second essay demonstrates an unexpected effect of upward social comparison on compensatory consumption. Thanks to online social media, consumers constantly encounter displays of others’ success. I find that upward comparisons in one domain may lead consumers to prefer status enhancing items in an alternative identity domain, in which they fare more favorably. I investigate the domains consumers pivot to, and compare the prevalence and appeal of the “status pivoting” behavior.
Lastly, the third essay explores an emerging phenomenon of brand’s pseudo-secrecy. I suggest that when brands offer consumers an opportunity to attain seemingly secret information about publicly available products, such as secret menus or hidden stores, they increase their subjective experience of social centrality, which in turn positively impacts word-of-mouth and purchase behavior in the marketplace.
I use a mixed-methods approach, combining field studies, lab experiments, a netnographic analysis, observational studies, and qualitative interviews with consumers, to gain a comprehensive understanding of these phenomena, and examine their prevalence and impact in real-world settings.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37364451