Social Information in the Retail Environment: The Importance of Consumption Alignment, Referent Identity, and Self-Esteem
Darren W. Dahl, Jennifer J. Argo, and Andrea C. Morales
Journal of Consumer Research
Vol. 38, No. 5 (February 2012), pp. 860-871
Published by The University of Chicago Press
This research focuses on understanding when low body esteem consumers are most likely to engage in negative social comparisons and examines how this process influences product evaluations. In a series of three studies, we find that two pieces of social information are needed for negative comparisons in a retail environment to occur: (1) an attractive social referent must be actively consuming (i.e., wearing) the product and (2) the consumer must also be actively consuming (i.e., wearing) the product. If only one of these conditions holds, there is no alignment in consumption, and a negative comparison does not occur. Importantly, we also show that the identity of the social referent is critical to these effects. By identifying key factors that determine when comparative information will influence consumers, this research highlights how marketing strategies impact the consumer inside and outside of the retail environment.