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Where Consumers Diverge from Others: Identity Signaling and Product Domains

14 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2007  

Jonah A. Berger

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department

Chip Heath

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Abstract

We propose that consumers often make choices that diverge from those of others to ensure that they effectively communicate desired identities. Consistent with this identity-signaling perspective, four studies illustrate that consumers are more likely to diverge from majorities, or members of other social groups, in product domains that are seen as symbolic of identity (e.g., music or hairstyles, rather than backpacks or stereos). In identity domains, participants avoided options preferred by majorities and abandoned preferences shared with majorities. The social group associated with a product influenced choice more in identity domains and when a given product was framed as identity relevant. People diverge, in part, to avoid communicating undesired identities.

Keywords: Social Influence, Social Contagion, Identity, Reference Groups

JEL Classification: M30, M31, M37

Suggested Citation

Berger, Jonah A. and Heath, Chip, Where Consumers Diverge from Others: Identity Signaling and Product Domains. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 34, August 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1017174

Jonah Berger (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department ( email )

700 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6340
United States

Chip Heath

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

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