The use of counterfeit versions of luxury brands is a growing phenomenon. Viewing their use by others may lead consumers to change their perceptions of the genuine brand. In several experiments, female participants viewed (or imagined) a female of varying social classes using a counterfeit or genuine product and were subsequently asked about the genuine luxury brand. While people were drawn toward the genuine brand more when in-groups than out-groups used counterfeits, asymmetries occurred. Higher classes denigrated the brand when lower (versus higher) classes used counterfeit brands, but lower classes did not denigrate when higher classes used them. A conceptual account, based on asymmetries of social hierarchies and greater uncertainty of counterfeit (than genuine) product benefits, was supported, with feelings of connection to the luxury brand as mediator. Asymmetric effects were reduced among consumers highly familiar with the genuine brand. Implications for marketing and protection from brand dilution are discussed.
- Reference groups
- Social hierarchy