Why Focusing on the Similarity of Substitutes Leaves a Lot to Be Desired

Posted: 28 Jan 2017

See all articles by Zachary Arens

Zachary Arens

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater - Department of Marketing

Rebecca Hamilton

Georgetown University

Date Written: September 28, 2016

Abstract

Consumers frequently choose substitutes for products that are out of stock, unavailable, too unhealthy, or too expensive. A series of studies shows that focusing on differences between the substitute and the unattained alternative reduces the consumer’s desire for the unattained alternative more than focusing on similarities between them. Whether consumers were dieting, listening to songs, or consuming snacks in the lab, focusing on differences reduced their desire for the unattained alternative — and subsequent consumption of this item after consuming the substitute — more than focusing on similarities. This suggests that consumers can reduce overconsumption by focusing on how the substitutes they consume differ from the alternatives they wish to avoid.

Keywords: substitution, similarity, post-substitution, consumption

Suggested Citation

Arens, Zachary and Hamilton, Rebecca, Why Focusing on the Similarity of Substitutes Leaves a Lot to Be Desired (September 28, 2016). Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 43, No. 3, 2016; Georgetown McDonough School of Business Research Paper No. 2902709. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2902709

Zachary Arens (Contact Author)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater - Department of Marketing ( email )

United States

Rebecca Hamilton

Georgetown University ( email )

537 Hariri Building
Washington, DC 20057
United States

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