Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Designer Brands: What Makes People Buy Them?

Can you tell without the brand name?

Some brands are known worldwide to be “it” labels. Brands like Hermès, Céline and Givenchy are regularly sought after by both fashion icons and more regular people, like you and me. The question is: why do these names so intensely affect how these products are viewed? Truly enough, many designer label products are well made and durable. This doesn’t answer the question, however, of why such highly priced and sometimes frankly gaudy merchandise is continuously bought off the shelves.

While designer brands continue to do runway shows directed towards a certain clientele, much information and “hype” is now also being translated through other forms such as social media and brand ambassadors. One of Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion outlines why this type of marketing works. The Principle of Consensus suggests that, as social creatures, we tend to want to do what other people are doing. People want to do what the group is doing. Another way of looking at this is that people want to do what influential and desirable people are doing. This might be why designer brands work. People see celebrities and important people carrying a particular handbag from a designer brand and want that handbag too. On a wider scale, people want to embody the persona of the rich and famous. Radha and Jija (2013) found that people were more likely to remember a brand when a celebrity has endorsed it. While not being able to speak for everyone, at least a good number of people desire to be rich and live a lavish lifestyle like the celebrities that they admire.

Cialdini (2005) suggested that people are more likely to adhere to a request when social proofing is in action. He conducted an experiment within a hotel room setting, which showed that people are more likely to reuse their towels when the environmental information card compared their use to that of other guests. People were more likely to reuse their towels when the card said that 75% of other guests did, rather than when a request only was made. Though this seems far removed from the realm of designer handbags and clothing, it runs on the same principle. People want to be as good as or better than the people before them.

Lastly, designer brand products are scarce and scarcity makes people want that item more. Parker (2011) found that people are more likely to select an item in a store that is shown to be scarce. The logic behind this is that regardless of what the item is, if there isn’t much of it, it’s because everyone else has already bought it. This means that item is worth buying, according to the rest of the shoppers. Further to this, designer brands are made of expensive materials and aimed at a small group of people, making them a limited-quantity and limited-edition product. Limited-edition products create a sense of exclusivity, with consumers finding them to be more ‘special, unique and valuable’  (Aggarwal, Jun & Huh, 2011; Cialdini, 2008). Jan, Ko, Morris and Chang (2015) investigated limited edition products created by luxury brands and found that a limited-quantity message regarding the luxury product is most effective in increasing response. The less there is known to be, the more people want it.

In the end, people want to be like or be better than the rest, and they might actually believe that having something with a fancy name makes them this way.

Aggarwal, P., Jun, S. Y., & Huh, J. H. (2011). Scarcity messages. Journal of Advertising40, 19-30.

Cialdini, R. B. (2005). Don’t throw in the towel: Use social influence research. American Psychological Society Observer18, 33-34.

Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N., & Martin, S. J. (2008). Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive.

Jang, W. E., Ko, Y. J., Morris, J. D., & Chang, Y. (2015). Scarcity Message Effects on Consumption Behavior: Limited Edition Product Considerations. Psychology & Marketing32, 989-1001.

Parker, J. R., & Lehmann, D. R. (2011). When shelf-based scarcity impacts consumer preferences. Journal of Retailing87, 142-155.

Radha, G. & Jija, P. (2013). Influence of celebrity endorsement on the consumer’s purchase decision. International journal of scientific and research publications, 3, 1-28. 

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