Marketing Status: What Makes Me Superior? Why Do I Care? And Am I Worse Off?



Firms, ranging from airlines to casinos are increasingly endowing their most loyal customers with status. In this talk, I discuss three separate papers that explore the role of status in a marketing context. In the first, titled “Selective Superiority,” we show that the degree to which a consumer feels elite depends on how many people are of lower status. Further, we show that people exhibit selective supremacy such that what matters most is the status of the people immediately below them. The drivers of selective supremacy include: 1) a need to be recognized as being of high status; and 2) a desire to feel superior to other elites. In “The Intrinsic Benefits of Status,” we show how consumption of status benefits provides an intrinsic benefit in addition to any extrinsic benefit. This benefit depends on neither conspicuous consumption nor the perks associated with the status conferred. It is driven by an emotional response to the utilization of privileges bestowed, even when those privileges are costly. Finally, in “Status and the Diderot Effect,” we explore the impact of status-related benefits on more general evaluations of service performance. We document how status serves to elevate performance expectations for aspects unrelated to those benefits allotted with one’s status. Consequently, consumer stratification can have a detrimental impact on customer satisfaction, not only for the firm conferring the status, but other providers tangentially associated with the service experience. Taken together, this work reveals both pros and cons in how consumers respond to status conferred upon them by firms seeking to stratify customers as a way of offering differentiated goods and services.

Contact information:
Dr. B. Donkers