Several studies have shown that superstitious beliefs, such as beliefs in “lucky” product attributes, influence consumer purchase behaviour. Still, little is known about how social influence, in particular mere social presence, impacts consumer superstition-related purchase decisions. Drawing on impression management theory, this paper aims to investigate the effect of social presence on consumer purchase decisions of products featuring lucky charms including the role of anticipated embarrassment as a mediator of the social presence effect.
In three studies, participants select products that feature or do not feature a lucky charm. They make these selections under varying conditions of social presence, as induced by the shopping setting in the scenario or through the use of confederates or fellow participants observing them make a real product selection. Participants are students from Australia and China.
The studies show that social presence makes consumers less likely to select products that feature a lucky charm. This suppressing effect is mediated by the consumers’ anticipated embarrassment.
The study investigates the effect of social presence but does not investigate different parameters of social presence such as the number of people present and their familiarity. The study investigates effects for purchase settings but does not include effects of usage and neither does it look into differences across product types or lucky charm types.
Marketers should be careful to not make lucky charms too publicly salient. Online settings are more suitable than mortar-and-brick settings for selling products featuring a lucky charm.
The present research is the first to investigate consumer purchase behaviour for a product featuring a lucky charm. It is also the first to investigate the impact of social influence on superstition-based decision-making.
Wang, D., Oppewal, H. and Thomas, D. (2017), "Anticipated embarrassment due to social presence withholds consumers from purchasing products that feature a lucky charm", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51 No. 9/10, pp. 1612-1630. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-02-2015-0087
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