Calculators for Women: When Identity Appeals Provoke Backlash

28 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2019 Last revised: 15 Feb 2019

See all articles by Tami Kim

Tami Kim

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Kate Barasz

Harvard Business School

Leslie K. John

Harvard Business School

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: February 4, 2019

Abstract

From “Chick Beer” to “Dryer sheets for Men,” identity-based labeling is frequently deployed to appeal to people who hold the targeted identity. However, five studies demonstrate that identity appeals can backfire, alienating the very individuals they aim to attract. We begin by demonstrating backlash against identity appeals in the field during the 2016 presidential election (Study 1) and in the lab (Study 2). This (in)effectiveness of identity appeals is driven by categorization threat—feeling unwillingly reduced to a single identity—which is induced when a) the identity deployed is that of a typically marginalized group (Studies 3-4) and b) the appeal evokes a stereotype about that identity (Study 5). Ironically, identity appeals often drive identity-holders away from options they would have preferred in the absence of that appeal.

Keywords: Identity, Gender, Categorization threat, Stereotypes

Suggested Citation

Kim, Tami and Barasz, Kate and John, Leslie K. and Norton, Michael I., Calculators for Women: When Identity Appeals Provoke Backlash (February 4, 2019). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 19-086. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3329326 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3329326

Tami Kim

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Kate Barasz

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Leslie K. John (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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