“Status By Association” by Dr. Brent Mcferran
Dr. Brent Mcferran
W.J. VanDusen Associate Professor of Marketing
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
While research has examined the implications of consumers receiving versus consumers not receiving preferential treatment (i.e., VIPs vs. non-VIPs), the present research diverges by examing a third group of consumers: guests of VIPs. Guests are individuals who share in the preferential treatment received by VIPs not because they have earned this right due to their brand loyalty or purchase volume, but rather because many loyalty programs entitle a VIP to bring others (e.g., family member, friends, colleagues). In a series of five studies using a variety of methods, we demonstrate a “status by association” effect wherein feelings of status extend from someone with “real” status (i.e., a VIP) to another individual who does not personally possess status (i.e., a VIP’s guest). In particular, we find that guests of a VIP often experience the same (or more) status than their sponsor. Importantly, we also document a causal relationship between felt status and the sharing of word-of mouth. Implications for marketing theory and practice are discussed.