A new study has found that people who buy fake “luxury brand” goods experience a range of psychological motivations, including the “thrill of the hunt.”
Researchers from four universities recently carried out an in-depth study of why consumer demand for counterfeit brands is growing.
They found that the “thrill of the hunt” and “being part of a secret society” are often prime motivational factors behind these purchases.
They also found that, following the purchase of known counterfeit goods, people experienced a range of emotions, including shame and embarrassment, as well as positive hedonistic feelings.
The Chinese marketplace was chosen for the study as China is the largest producer and consumer of counterfeit products, according to the researchers.
For the study, they conducted 16 in-depth interviews with Chinese consumers ranging in age from 18 to 35 from varied educational and economic backgrounds who have experience buying counterfeit goods.
The research team found that there were three primary themes relating to buying counterfeit goods: First, motivations and coping strategies; second, a consumer hierarchy based on uncertainty and consumer expertise in counterfeits; and third, risk, rewards, and self-conscious emotions.
According to the study’s findings, all of the participants could readily account for their desire for luxury brands or could provide accounts of their associates’ preoccupations with such brands.
This desire was thought to be a result of people feeling aspirational and social comparison pressures, which are common in rapidly developing economies, the researchers posit.
Although some participants in the study were conscious of the harm to the brand being copied, others expressed little concern, with some even arguing that counterfeiting is good for the brand being copied, almost as if the illegal counterfeit industry is paying the brands a compliment or is promoting the legitimate brand, the researchers discovered.
The researchers found evidence that various “neutralization” techniques were employed by consumers to rationalize their unethical purchases. The most common involved a “denial of responsibility,” where the consumer argued that he is not personally accountable for the behavior that violated social norms because factors “beyond one’s control” were involved.
The research was published in the Journal of Business Research.
Source: University of Kent