If You've Got it, Don't Flaunt it

Aug 08, 2013, 11:07 ET from American Marketing Association

CHICAGO, Aug. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Showing off your new BMW or iPad can backfire on both you and the brand. Not only can it make people dislike you, it can hurt the brand's equity. That's the message of a recent article in the Journal of Marketing Research published by the American Marketing Association.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20111102/DC96044LOGO)

Revving the BMW's engine as you drive, wearing Gucci sunglasses indoors, or posting a picture of yourself posing with your iPad are all examples of flaunting the brand. People engage in these behaviors to try to impress others and elicit envy. However, such flaunting can lead others to dislike both you and the brand. In particular, when people suspect that you're trying to impress them, they may react negatively towards you, and this negative feeling may transfer to the brand.

When is this likely to happen? The research shows that flaunting behavior may dilute the brand when the observers are not strongly tied to the brand. Observers with high self-brand connection, meaning they are highly attached to the brand and consider it a part of their self-concept, tend to dismiss the flaunting behavior. However, those not connected to the brand tend to see the flaunter as typical of brand users, and because flaunting is considered inappropriate, they dislike the flaunter and transfer this negative feeling to the brand. Three studies tested reactions to flaunting of well-liked brands (e.g., Apple or Tiffany).

"These findings are important because they show that companies risk future customers if current customers flaunt the brand," says co-author Amna Kirmani. "And thanks to Twitter and Facebook, there are many opportunities for flaunting. Companies need to find a way to control this type of behavior, or they risk damaging their brand equity." Co-author, Rosellina Ferraro, adds that "while companies may want to encourage consumers to highlight their brand in a way that others notice, they don't want it done in a way that's going to turn off other consumers."

So what's a marketer to do? One implication is to get consumers so connected to the brand that they can forgive and forget any fellow consumer's flaunting behavior. Another implication is that companies need to communicate the proper usage of the brand. However, this involves walking a fine line. On the one hand, companies want to discourage flaunting behavior, but on the other hand, they want to encourage people to be excited about using the brand.

About the AMA

About the American Marketing Association:
The American Marketing Association (AMA) is the professional association for individuals and organizations who are leading the practice, teaching, and development of marketing worldwide. Learn more at marketingpower.com.

Contact: Christopher Bartone – 312.542.9029 – cbartone@ama.org

SOURCE American Marketing Association