Researchers have found that consumers abandon and avoid products when they feel threatened by the presence of dissimilar groups who also use the product. In this article, the authors propose a different strategy for responding to dissimilar users, upgrading to a brand’s more exclusive products. Results from six studies show that upgrading is a preferred strategy for consumers with strong self–brand connections, who are unlikely to avoid or abandon the brand because their self-identity is tied to the brand. Among these consumers, the act of upgrading to a brand’s more exclusive products is driven by their feelings of self-threat when exposed to dissimilar users, which triggers a desire to attain a higher-status position among brand users that is fulfilled by upgrading. The authors also identify moderators of the upgrading effect for consumers with strong self–brand connections. These consumers’ increased interest in upgrading is dampened when a brand’s exclusive products are made more readily available and when a brand has already conferred higher status to them through a customer status tier program.
- brand management
- self–brand connections