"Be Careless with That!” Availability of Product Upgrades Increases Cavalier Behavior toward Possessions

Silvia Bellezza, Joshua M. Ackerman, and Francesca Gino
Article Snapshot
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Be Careless with That!
Key Takeaways
  • What? A new study finds that consumer act more careless with current products when they know of an appealing upgrade opportunity in the near future.

  • So What? Carelessness and neglect toward currently owned products stem from a desire to justify the attainment of upgrades without appearing wasteful.

  • Now What? Marketers should consider how rolling out frequent upgrades to a product might be beneficial for upgrade-minded consumers by “making it easier” to justify getting a new version. They should also consider other strategies such as encouraging gifting slightly older versions.

​Article Snapshot​s: Executive Summaries from the Journal of Marketing Research

Consumers act more recklessly with their current products when in the presence of appealing, though not yet attained, product upgrades to justify the attainment of these upgrades without feeling guilty or appearing wasteful.


The empirical evidence from both field data and laboratory studies demonstrate that consumers become careless with their current products when in the presence of desired product upgrades.

In today’s advanced economies with fast cycles of innovation, we are very often faced with the opportunity to purchase an enhanced products.


Research
Do consumers ever sabotage their products? We propose that consumers act more recklessly with their products when in the presence of appealing, though not yet attained, product upgrades. Carelessness and product neglect toward currently owned products stems from a desire to justify the attainment of upgrades without appearing wasteful.

Methods
We test our hypotheses in a series of studies and evidence from a real-word dataset of lost Apple iPhones. Throughout our studies, we investigate different indicators of carelessness toward owned products, such as product neglect, risky behaviors, and faster consumption rates for consumable goods. Our studies are conducted with owners of widely diffused consumer goods (e.g., phones, shampoo, glasses) recruited from a variety of populations (e.g., community participants, students, online respondents). We complement the experiments with evidence from a real-world dataset of lost Apple iPhones.

Findings

Contrary to the prevailing notion that consumers highly value and care for their possessions, the current research demonstrates that consumers exhibit cavalier behavior toward owned products when in the presence of appealing, though not yet attained, product upgrades. Carelessness toward currently owned products stem from a desire to justify the attainment of upgrades without appearing wasteful. Moreover, the authors demonstrate that product neglect in the presence of attractive upgrades can occur without deliberate intentions.


From the New York Times
NYTimes reporter Phyllis Korkki discusses Bellezza, Ackerman, and Gino's new article from the Journal of Marketing Research.
Implications

This research has implications for managers interested in capitalizing on product cycles. For example, the principle of planned obsolescence creates a limited lifespan for products. This strategy can, however, backlash. Apple’s strategy of remotely distributing software updates has negatively been labeled a “trap” to dampen older products and promote acquisition of the latest devices. However, our findings suggest that planned obsolescence might actually be beneficial for upgrade-minded consumers by “making it easier” for them to damage or detect functional flaws in owned products.

Questions for the Classroom

  • What is the psychology of new product upgrades' adoption?
  • Under which conditions do we behave recklessly with our own belongings?
  • How do we justify unecessary purchases to ourselves?

Article Citation: Silvia Bellezza, Joshua M. Ackerman, and Francesca Gino “Be Careless with That!” Availability of Product Upgrades Increases Cavalier Behavior toward Possessions. Journal of Marketing Research

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmr.15.0131

Authors:

  • Silvia Bellezza, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Columbia Business School
  • Joshua M. Ackerman, Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of Michigan
  • Francesca Gino, Tandom Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School


Author Bio:

 
Silvia Bellezza, Joshua M. Ackerman, and Francesca Gino
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