While a substantial body of research suggests that belongingness needs motivate consumers to use brands to assimilate with a reference group, relatively less attention has been devoted to understanding when and why consumers use brands to differentiate themselves from the group. The current research fills this gap in the literature and identifies two ways individuals can differentiate themselves from the group through the use of brands: horizontal and vertical differentiation. Horizontal brands offer differentiation through the expression of personality, taste, traits, and so forth, whereas vertical brands offer differentiation by conferring status or demonstrating one's superiority to others in a group. The results reveal that under social exclusion (inclusion), low self-esteem consumers increase perceptions of group heterogeneity (seek to protect their future belongingness) and subsequently increase their attachment to horizontal (vertical) brands. Overall, the results suggest that the belongingness goals of low self-esteem individuals drive such seemingly contradictory behaviors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Business and International Management
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Economics and Econometrics