The Downsides of Status Consumption
CitationLee, Jeff. 2013. The Downsides of Status Consumption. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Business School.
AbstractWhile research on status consumption has largely focused on consumer desire for goods that are associated with high social status, the essays featured in this dissertation will broadly explore instances where consumers might prefer to avoid high-status products. Essay 1 seeks an explanation for the recently documented consumer tendency to mix high and low-status goods (a behavior referred to as "omnivorousness"). The results of four studies suggest individuals high in need for self-expression desire omnivorousness, because this behavior expresses cultural expertise. Furthermore, agency (the ability to control one's choices) and high status are essential for the self-expressive benefits of omnivorousness, and brand collaborations that pre-fabricate omnivorous choices can yield reactance from omnivorous consumers.
Essay 2 explores the role of imagination in influencing desire for status goods ownership. Although imagining product ownership can often increase consumer interest in a product, the results of this essay suggest that backfire effects can occur when imagining status goods ownership. Specifically, the results of five studies suggest that in this product category, imagining ownership can make self-presentation concerns salient (as well as negative audience reactions), thus tempering any initial interest in seeking status-goods ownership as a means of self-promotion. Finally, Essay 3 explores product categories where consumers seek functional performance benefits from product use (ex. language learning or brain training software). The results of three studies suggest that while high-status branded products may be desired by consumers, when consumers use these products they actually experience performance deficits due to the high-standards and intimidation created from product use.
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