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Consumer reactions to unsustainable luxury: a cross-country analysis

Cesare Amatulli (Ionian Department of Law, Economics and Environment, University of Bari, Bari, Italy)
Matteo De Angelis (Department of Business and Management, LUISS University, Roma, Italy)
Giovanni Pino (Department of Economics, University of Chieti-Pescara, Pescara, Italy)
Sheetal Jain (CEO Luxe Analytics, Delhi, India)

International Marketing Review

ISSN: 0265-1335

Article publication date: 22 December 2020

Issue publication date: 6 April 2021




This paper investigates why and when messages regarding unsustainable luxury products lead to negative word-of-mouth (NWOM) through a focus on the role of guilt, need to warn others and consumers' cultural orientation.


Three experiments test whether messages describing unsustainable versus sustainable luxury manufacturing processes elicit guilt and a need to warn others and whether and how the need to warn others affects consumers' NWOM depending on their cultural orientation.


Consumers experience guilt in response to messages emphasizing the unsustainable (vs sustainable) nature of luxury products. In turn, guilt triggers a need to warn other consumers, which leads to NWOM about the luxury company. Furthermore, the results suggest that two dimensions of Hofstede's model of national culture – namely individualism/collectivism and masculinity/femininity – moderate the effect of the need to warn others on NWOM.

Practical implications

Luxury managers should design appropriate strategies to cope with consumers' different reactions to information regarding luxury brands' unsustainability. Managers should be aware that the risk of NWOM diffusion may be higher in countries characterized by a collectivistic and feminine orientation rather than an individualistic and masculine orientation.


Consumer reaction to unsustainable luxury, especially across different cultural groups, is a neglected area of investigation. This work contributes to this novel area of research by investigating NWOM stemming from unsustainable luxury manufacturing practices in different cultural contexts.



The first three authors are listed in alphabetical order and contributed equally to the article.


Amatulli, C., De Angelis, M., Pino, G. and Jain, S. (2021), "Consumer reactions to unsustainable luxury: a cross-country analysis", International Marketing Review, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 412-452.



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