New York, Dec 25 (IANS) Are you jealous of your high-status friend or colleague? Try to make a ‘status pivot’ so that you can shine brighter than those successful peers.
According to new research, when confronted with comparisons to high status friends and colleagues, consumers prefer to make a “status pivot” into another area where they can shine brighter than their successful peers.
With a “status pivot”, consumers “change the game” when they buy and display products to showcase their accomplishments in other areas where they fare better, referred to as “alternative domains,” than if they try to hold firm and buy products in the domain where their peers prevail, said Boston College Associate Professor of Marketing Nailya Ordabayeva, a co-author of the new paper appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research.
“We examined how people choose among different product options and consumption strategies to cope with such status threats and how effective these strategies are in alleviating the stress of upward comparisons,” said Ordabayeva.
“Comparison to more successful peers strengthens consumers’ belief that success in one life domain, such as financial well-being, must come at the cost of failure in other life domains, such as personal life, which ultimately boosts consumers’ preference to display success in these alternative domains where they believe their successful peers may be failing,” she elaborated.
On the one hand, when faced with a peer who displays the trappings of financial success and professional achievements, a consumer could entrench and purchase goods and services in the same area as the peer in an effort to reflect equal levels of success.
Instead, the new research shows, individuals prefer to make a status pivot and excel in alternative domains – such as personal relationships, social life, parenting, physical and mental health, and fitness.
The findings hold implications for marketers of premium and luxury brands who are trying to understand what kind of products consumers embrace to compete with others, and what kinds of products can help relieve consumers’ stress about “upward comparison”.
The researchers examined consumption choices in a variety of settings: runners at the Boston Marathon, golfers in Switzerland, residents and visitors to glamorous Monaco, users of a social media platform, working parents, as well as hundreds of survey takers online.
Being compared to successful peers led consumers to display pictures and messages about family, parenthood, and friendships, rather than professional accomplishments, on their coffee mugs and smartphone covers.
“We found that pivoting to alternative domains is so appealing and effective because experiencing a status threat motivates consumers to focus on trade-offs and downsides associated with achieving high status,” said Ordabayeva.
“Importantly, we find that status pivoting is particularly prevalent when consumers do not believe they can attain a similar level of success in the domain of the threat as their successful peer.”