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One of my girlfriends is headed to NYC in a couple of weeks and is thrilled about the prospect of finding this season’s new fake Prada bag. I pretended to be excited for her sake. Today I read an article, “Why Do Consumers Buy Counterfeit Luxury Brands?” by Keith Wilcox, Hyeong Min Kim and Sankar Sen, which actually makes me feel better as a consumer because I wonder why women go nuts to buy these worthless copies. The article sites a recent study that explains this behavior.

Researchers did one experiment focused on buyer attitudes that serve two distinct “social functions” – the “social-adjustive” (this will help me fit in) and the “value-expressive”(this will help me stand out). The researchers showed two different images of a “fake” Louis Vuitton handbag to two randomly chosen groups of women. One group saw the bag with a conspicuous logo, and the other saw the bag without it. The women then answered a questionnaire that classified their attitudes and their willingness to buy the fake.

Results showed that those subjects classified as “social-adjustive” were the most likely to buy the fake bag, especially when it had a conspicuous logo. The appeal of seeming to fit in with an elite group was strong enough to make these shoppers risk buying the flashy fake. The researchers’ doled out this advice to luxury goods manufacturers: tout the in-crowd status of owning the real luxury item and depict the shame of being discovered with a knockoff.

I just wonder if my girlfriend would have participated in the study if she’d still be up all night googling street corners in NYC.

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