Redefining Home: How Cultural Distinctiveness Affects the Malleability of In-Group Boundaries and Brand Preferences

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Journal of Consumer Research, ISSN: 0093-5301, Vol: 44, Issue: 1, Page: 44-61

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Torelli, Carlos J.; Ahluwalia, Rohini; Cheng, Shirley Y. Y.; Oslon, Nicholas J.; Stoner, Jennifer L.
Oxford University Press (OUP); Oxford University Press
Business, Management and Accounting; Social Sciences; Arts and Humanities; Economics, Econometrics and Finance; culture; brand preferences; cultural symbolism; cultural distinctiveness; in-group bias; Business; Marketing
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In a world of increasing global mobility, we investigate how feelings of cultural distinctiveness-feelings of being different and separated from the surrounding cultural environment-influence consumers' preferences for brands that symbolize a related cultural group (i.e., a group that is geographically proximal and/or shares sociohistorical and cultural roots with one's own cultural group). Results from seven studies demonstrate that consumers experiencing cultural distinctiveness are likely to evaluate favorably and prefer brands associated with a related cultural group, in a choice set or consumption situation, even if they are not the favored option in the choice set. This pro-in-group bias for culturally related brands is driven by a heightened desire to connect with "home," which prompts consumers to expand their in-group boundaries to include the related cultural group within a broadened definition of home. However, this pro-in-group bias is attenuated when the salience of intergroup rivalries is high, where experiencing cultural distinctiveness can backfire and result in less favorable evaluations of brands associated with a related cultural group. This research is the first to demonstrate that cultural consumption is a dynamic process, and that in-group boundaries can be malleable and expandable, depending upon the motivation of the consumer.