Here comes summer. Soon, tourists will descend on New York for the time of their lives. The shows! The dining! The street vendors hawking fake Louis Vuitton handbags!

Needless to say, the appeal of that last attraction perplexes many marketers of luxury goods. Why do women flock to buy worthless knockoffs? Is there any way to stem this tide? Perhaps a recent study can offer some insights.

One experiment focused on buyer attitudes that serve two distinct "social functions":

  • Social-adjustive ("This will help me fit in.")
  • Value-expressive ("This will help me stand out.")

The researchers showed two different images of a "fake" Louis Vuitton handbag to two randomly chosen groups of women. One group saw the bag with a conspicuous logo, and the other saw the bag without it. The women then answered a questionnaire that classified their attitudes and their willingness to buy the fake.

Results showed that those subjects classified as "social-adjustive" were the most likely to buy the fake bag, especially when it had a conspicuous logo. The appeal of seeming to fit in with an elite group was strong enough to make these shoppers risk buying the flashy fake.

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