Buying Authentic Luxury Products or Counterfeits: The Role of Benign and Malicious Envy: An Abstract
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Counterfeited luxury goods have increasingly become an economic and social problem worldwide. Buying counterfeits is a common act for many consumers, and the consumption of counterfeited luxury goods has shown an increasing trend. Considering negative effects associated with counterfeiting, how to encourage consumers to buy authentic products has increasingly become an important but challenging issue. Given the significance of the topic, we can find two things. The first thing is that except for Wilcox et al. (2009), socio-psychological motivation associated with counterfeit consumption is under-researched. The second thing is that most of previous studies overlook the importance of theory in explaining the motive behind purchasing counterfeits. To address the above gap, this paper employs Social Comparison Theory to examine the influence of envy (categorized as malicious envy and benign envy), which is a social-psychological aspect, on consumers’ counterfeit/genuine brand buying behaviors. Envy emanates from an upward social comparison, which is a basic constituent of human cognition (Lange and Crusius 2015). Malicious envy and benign envy can be distinguished based on the consumers’ feelings, thoughts, behavior, and motivations. Benign envy induces a moving-up motivation designed to improve one’s current position, whereas malicious envy leads to a pulling-down motivation designed to damage the position of the superior other. In this paper, we adopt this conceptualization of envy and then we make several novel contributions. First, ours is the first empirical effort in terms of employing envy as a socio-psychological driver to explain the reason why a group of consumers turn to purchase counterfeited luxury products instead of authentic luxury products to fulfill their needs. We found that the two dimensions of envy work differently to affect people’s consumption behavior in terms of choosing either genuine luxury products or counterfeit luxury products. Specifically, while benign envy drives genuine luxury product purchase, malicious envy drives counterfeited luxury product purchase. We suggest that the type of envy can also moderate the relationship between luxury product consumption behavior and personal well-being. What we found is that the well-being of people who are benignly envious is more likely to be affected by their choice of genuine luxury products or counterfeit luxury products in comparison with that of maliciously envious people. Second, this paper makes theoretical contributions by employing Social Comparison Theory to illustrate the motivation behind counterfeit consumption behavior. Third, previous researchers are largely focused on what antecedents can contribute to counterfeit purchase intention. They treat counterfeit consumption as a dependent variable. However, in this paper, we also regard counterfeit consumption as an independent variable that can affect personal well-being. Because personal well-being is an important indicator to gauge consumer satisfaction toward the good, this study can provide luxury brand companies with more insights.