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Luxury Brand Lovers Are Secretly Masochists, Study Suggests

Update Date: Jun 25, 2014 07:27 PM EDT

In Pretty Woman, Vivian Ward gloats and rebuffs the rude salesclerks who had initially rejected her. In real life, she would've gone back and bought the entire store.

New research reveals that rejection actually boosts desire for brand affiliation. Customers who visit high-end boutiques are more actually more likely to purchase and display items when snobby salesclerks have snubbed them.

"Our research highlights the fact that we are profoundly attuned to social threats and are driven to buy, wear, and use products from the very people who are disrespectful to us," study authors Morgan K. Ward of Southern Methodist University and Darren W. Dahl of the University of British Columbia, wrote in the study.

After conducting four experiments in retail environments, researchers found that people increased their regard and willingness to pay after brand rejection. However, this technique only works for luxury brands.

The latest findings also revealed that people were more willing to buy items with brands they believed related to their ideal self-concept. Customers were also more likely to spend money if the snobby salesperson delivering the threat represented the brand, and the threat had occurred recently.

However, the act of affirming self-concept before rejection could help decrease the negative influence of being rejected. Researchers explain that the findings suggest that people who are uncertain of their self-concept are most vulnerable to this type of rejection.

"Our findings also shed some light on a potential explanation for why an increasing percentage of aspirational products are purchased online rather than in intimidating retail stores designed to display these products. While many consumers may purchase online for convenience, shopping online also may enable them to avoid threatening encounters with intimidating salespeople," researchers concluded.

The findings were published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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