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New Psychological Insights into Counterfeit Consumption

Bian, Xuemei, Wang, Kai-Yu, Smith, Andrew, Yannopoulou, Natalia (2015) New Psychological Insights into Counterfeit Consumption. In: American Marketing Association Summer Educator Conference. . (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:50498)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


With the increasing sales of counterfeits worldwide today, a more comprehensive understanding of the psychological processes concerning counterfeits consumption, combined with the illegality and/or socially undesirable nature of counterfeits, the important but largely overlooked underlying mechanisms of counterfeit consumption propensities, will significantly contribute to the literature and may help marketers set up more refined and more effective marketing strategies. To achieve this end, this research addresses the following research questions which are yet to be fully addressed by extant research: Are there any other motivational factors (for example intrinsic motivations) not comprehensively described by previous research?; Are there any psychological concerns (negative outcomes) associated with consuming luxury (high involvement) brand counterfeits?; and How do consumers rationalize or justify their behavior?

For the purposes of this study, we chose the Chinese marketplace as our context, because China is both the largest producer (International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, 2010) and consumer of counterfeit products (Cheung and Prendergast, 2006), while it is estimated that 20% of domestic sales in China are counterfeits (Swike et al., 2008). We conducted sixteen one-to-one in depth interviews with Chinese consumers, aged 18 to 30 years old, and of varied socio-economic backgrounds who had experience with counterfeits.

The analysis led to the generation of three primary themes relating to the psychological aspects of counterfeit consumption and purchase: 1. Cognitive elements, namely the interplay between motivation and rationalization/neutralization of the behavior; 2. Consumer expertise and confusion; and 3. Risks avoidance, pursuing rewards and self-conscious emotions.

This research advances of our theoretical understanding of consumer motivations underpinning counterfeit consumption. Building on previous research, for example Wilcox et al. (2009), this research identifies new consumer motivations (self-image enhancement and intrinsic hedonic outputs (‘thrill of the hunt’) and a sense of interest) for counterfeit consumption. The findings suggest that counterfeit consumption, on becoming a norm in a society, seems to be legitimized but still carries risks (i.e. being found out). In addition, this article contributes to the understanding of consumers’ cognitive processes by providing, apparently for the first time, empirical evidence for distinct rationalization functions underlying counterfeit consumption. This research reveals that consumers tend to adopt neutralization techniques (denial of responsibility and appealing to higher loyalties) to cope with cognitive dissonance. This research also adds to the understanding of counterfeit consumption by revealing the possible impact of consumer expertise and product quality ambiguity on counterfeit choice.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: Counterfeit; Luxury Brand; Consumer Ethics; Motivation; Moral Logics; Neutralization.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5415 Marketing
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Kent Business School (do not use)
Depositing User: Xuemei Bian
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2015 14:05 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 10:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Bian, Xuemei.

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