New research published in Current Psychology explored the aspects of brand personality that cause customers to reject luxury brands. The findings indicate that when customers perceive brands to have dark triad traits or other negative qualities, they may reject the brand and engage in harmful behaviors against the brand.
Marketing studies have explored factors influencing customer attitudes, including brand personality. In the luxury sector, it’s been found that customers’ perception of brand personalities can affect their relationship with brands. Customer evaluation of a brand’s quality can be explained by signaling theory. Researcher Jiseon Ahn defined signaling theory as a theory that “explains how customers use various cues (e.g., brand characteristics, elements, and attributes) to evaluate the quality of a brand.”(Olson & Jacoby, 1972).
Signaling theory is particularly relevant for luxury brands. Current research has indicated that customers’ negative views of brands can affect their consumption behavior. The concept of personality has been used to study how negative aspects of brands contribute to negative customer behavior.
Research into personality traits has identified a “dark triad” of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. These traits are linked to negative behaviors such as moral disengagement and unethical choices. When luxury brands exhibit these negative traits, customers respond with negative behaviors such as switching, avoiding, and complaining. This study examines customers’ disengagement and negative behaviors towards luxury brands that exhibit the dark triad of traits.
This study employs signaling theory to create a conceptual framework incorporating a dark triad of negative brand personality traits, moral disengagement, and negative behavioral intentions among customers.
The research team recruited a random sample of participants from Qualtrics.com and conducted an online survey. Participants were requested to name the luxury brand they had purchased most recently within the previous year, and questions were designed based on the brand identified. The study involved 193 participants with a gender distribution of 60% men and 40% women, aged between 19 to over 50 years, and the majority of them had completed higher education.
The study employed methods derived from prior research to evaluate the characteristics of the dark triad of personality, moral disengagement, negative word-of-mouth, and cessation of patronage. Participants were asked to respond to statements like the following used to measure Machiavellianism: “This luxury brand tends to exploit others to achieve its goals.”
Each trait and item was assessed on a Likert-type scale, with a score range between 1 (indicating strong disagreement) and 7 (strong agreement).
Analysis of the data revealed that negative brand personality is linked to dark personality traits and moral disengagement, which in turn are associated with negative feedback and customers stopping their patronage. Consequently, luxury brands with negative brand personality may suffer from adverse effects like decreased patronage and negative word-of-mouth. Additionally, the study found that customers tend to disconnect from brands if they perceive them as Machiavellian or psychopathic.
Luxury brands need to develop marketing plans that prioritize physical energy, sensory appeal, and a wide range of offerings to enhance how consumers view them. This approach can help overcome negative perceptions that luxury brands are manipulative, callous, or superficial. One effective way to achieve this is through interactive marketing communication that conveys empathy, and luxury companies can train their personnel to create emotional bonds with customers.
The study had a few limitations; first, collecting more information about the type of brands and how individual customers consume products would likely produce further insights. Second, the subjects were all American, leaving questions about how a more diverse participant group would respond.
The research emphasizes the significance of acknowledging and managing negative perspectives of brand personality and tailoring brand marketing content to reduce adverse consequences regarding customer behavior towards brands.
The study, “Associations between a dark triad of features in luxury brand personality and customers’ behavior“, was authored by Jiseon Ahn.