Monday, September 10, 2012

Super Size Me: Product Size as a Signal of Status Journal of Consumer Research 38, 6 (2012) 1047-1062

This research proposes that consumers’ preference for supersized food and drinks may have roots in the status-signaling value of larger options. An initial experiment found that consumers view larger-sized options within a set as having greater status. Because low-power consumers desire status, we manipulated power to test our core propositions. Whether induced in the lab or in the field, states of powerlessness led individuals to disproportionately choose larger food options from an assortment. Furthermore, this preference for larger-sized options was enhanced when consumption was public, reversed when the size-to-status relationship was negative (i.e., smaller was equated with greater status), and mediated by consumers’ need for status. This research demonstrates that choosing a product on the basis of its relative size allows consumers to signal status, illustrates the consequences of such a choice for consumers’ food consumption, and highlights the central role of a product category’s size-to-status relationship in driving consumer choice.