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People with positive self-image seem to feel more attracted to iPhone or iPad [PhD Wiebenga, January 8]

23 December 2014

Consumers are unconsciously influenced by brand names. We feel attracted to products that reflect a positive self-image and make us feel good. We prefer to avoid products that reflect a negative self-image and ‘hurt’ us a little. Brands can thus have a great influence on how we regulate our self-image, in an unconscious way.

FEB researcher Jacob Wiebenga explains why people are so attracted to brands that contain the personal pronouns “I” and “My”, such as iPod and MySpace. His thesis provides new insights into how consumer’s thinking and acting is unconsciously shaping and is shaped by their environment. He also paints a clear picture of how consumers in an effective and flexible way to achieve our goals and deal with the complex world in which they live.

'Self referring' product names

Research from the 80s has shown that people feel subconsciously more attracted to products that they associate with themselves. Other research has shown that this also counts for letters in the alphabet. People evaluate the letters of their name on average more positive than the other letters in the alphabet. Wiebenga investigated whether this is also applicable to product names that are self-referring, and thus able to stimulate self-association, because the names make use of the personal pronoun I or My.

How many Apple products owned

Wiebenga let people fill out a questionnaire that measured their self-image, after which they had to indicate how many Apple products they owned. These products are by definition self-referring, with names such as iPhone and iPad. Participants were found to have more Apple products when they had a more positive self-image.

Size of a person's signature

It seems that people with a positive self-image are so attracted to this kind of products because these products reflect a positive self-image. Wiebenga tested the effect with non-existing brand names and he measured the self-image of the participants in an unconscious way (on the basis of the size of their signature). The same pattern emerged.

Avoid products

Wiebenga also examined whether people with low self-esteem negatively evaluated self-referential products and prefer to avoid them. He discovered again that a positive self-image leads to a positive evaluation of the product, and also that a negative self-image leads to a negative evaluation of the self-referring product. This effect is stronger for products that really say something about a person (such as a phone, watch or sunglasses) than for products such as trash cans, socks or a bottle.

Curriculum vitae

Jacob Wiebenga studied Communication Studies. He conducted his research within the program Marketing of the Faculty of Economics and Business. The research was funded by Brand Loyalty. Wiebenga is now E-Commerce Specialist working at FBTO / Achmea. He will be awarded his PhD on January 8, 2015 (16:15). Thesis supervisors are prof. Bob Fennis, prof. Laurens Sloot. The title of the thesis is: Implicit self-regulation in consumer goal pursuit.

Last modified:15 December 2016 12.07 p.m.
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