Aspirational brands such as luxury brands have a tendency to make consumers feel rejected in retail environments. Previous studies show that this rejection actually increases consumers’ positive feelings toward the brand. In this research, however, we suggest that this finding might not hold for all customer segments. Specifically, we suggest that for those customers who feel insecure in a certain domain (e.g., feel insecure about their social standing), rejection by a brand that is aspirational in that domain (e.g., a status-signaling brand) might backfire. Two experiments and a separate field study provides evidence that is consistent with these predictions. These results are discussed in depth, including limitations and future possibilities to further the study.
Aspirational brands are defined as brands that tap into the ideal self-concept (Ward and Dahl, 2014). For example, people who aspire to have high social standing view luxury brands as aspirational. Presently, most sales associates from aspirational brands are encouraged to display judgmental behavior when interacting with customers (Neuman, 2014). This is supported by past research that has shown that creating space between the customer and the brand increases the customer’s wants and needs to associate even more with this aspirational brand. This deliberate space between the brand and customer increases their desire to be recognized by that brand. (Ward and Dahl, 2014, p. 590).
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