Signaling Identity Through Brands: The Role of Perceived Authenticity




The paper investigates how consumers respond to someone who is using a brand to signal an unobservable aspect of identity. Whereas prior research suggests that signaling identity may satisfy the signaler’s goals of conveying unobserverable traits or group (non)membership, we propose that the act of identity signaling may be perceived negatively by observers. Buying or owning a brand for the sole purpose of conveying a particular identity may be seen as extrinsically motivated and a reflection of an inauthentic self. In contrast, buying a brand for intrinsic motives, such as for utilitarian or self-expression benefits, may be viewed as more authentic. In addition, we propose that the signaler’s perceived similarity to the observer may moderate this relationship. The predictions are tested in three studies.

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Dr. S. Puntoni