Some of the most successful brands in the world make the idea of “ownership” central to their products and marketing. Apple’s products, for example, are portrayed as highly customisable and personal, and their marketing makes you feel like you’re holding the item in your hand.A new paper from Liad Weiss and Gita Johar at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business finds a way that this might backfire. People project their own perceived traits onto the things they own, and the opposite onto things they don’t.
“Previous research finds that consumers classify in-group (but not out-group) members as integral to their social-self. The present research is the first to propose and find that consumers also classify owned (but not unowned) objects as integral to their personal-self ….Consequently, consumers judge product traits (e.g., masculinity) as consistent with their own traits (assimilation) if they own the product, but as inconsistent with their own traits (contrast) if they interact with the product but do not own it.”
Columbia’s “Ideas at Work” breaks the concept down, using Apple as an example.
Consider a consumer who perceives herself as lacking creativity. She may project her own lack of creativity onto an Apple computer that she owns — or is encouraged to feel ownership of — and associate Apple computers with low creativity.
When they don’t own a product, they’ll feel the opposite way. Someone who feels uncreative would associate Apple products with high creativity if they don’t own one.
The paper has some interesting implications on Apple’s strategy in particular and ownership marketing in general. As products and brands become more widely owned and more ubiquitous, marketing them as something unique and essential for creativity might not work as well.
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