Lead by Example? Custom-Made Examples Created by Close Others Lead Consumers to Make Dissimilar Choices
Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming
73 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2019 Last revised: 12 Jul 2019
Date Written: June 2, 2019
Prior to customizing for themselves, consumers often encounter products customized by other people within their social network. Our research suggests that when encountering a custom-made example of an identity-related product created by an identified social other, consumers infer this social other was motivated to express uniqueness. After making this inference, consumers are also motivated to express uniqueness, particularly when the example was created by a close versus distant social other. Consumers express uniqueness through their own customization choices, choosing fewer options shown in the example or choosing fewer best-selling options. Consumers sometimes even pay a monetary cost or sacrifice preferred choices in order to make their own product unique. Further, this effect dissipates when motivations other than expressing uniqueness are inferred about a social other (e.g., for functionally-related products). Across eight studies that span different product contexts, involve real choices, and isolate the underlying theoretical mechanism (i.e., motivation to express uniqueness), our research documents the unique role of custom-made examples, demonstrates the importance of social distance for customization choices, and identifies a novel path explaining when and why individuals express uniqueness.
Keywords: customization, social distance, social influence, social network, need for uniqueness, product examples
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