Men's affinity to luxury products

Henrietta Strickland
July 6, 2018

The test results showed that the men who received a dose of testosterone had a stronger preference for the luxury brands than men who got the placebo. Basic research shows there is a fundamental need to signal one's rank across species.

In the study, called "Single-dose testosterone administration increases men's preference for status goods", researchers measured men's desire for status brands and products, like expensive jeans or watches, and how that desire might be influenced by increased testosterone. At the individual level, social rank can have a significant impact on mating opportunities, access to resources, stress levels, and social influence, depending on how high or low the status is. They were randomly presented with one of three versions of an advertisement for each item, with each version of the ad emphasizing either the item's quality, luxuriousness, or power.

For the study, 243 men, all around the same age were split into two groups at random.

The new study sheds light on why men in particular may have such extravagant preferences: testosterone. One group was given a dose of testosterone and the other was given a placebo treatment. For each pair, participants were asked "which brand do you prefer and to what extent?", on 10-point scale anchored with each brand.

The second task was created to tease apart testosterone's effect on the desire for luxury good from other potential effects, like an increased desire for high-quality goods or for goods that evoked a sense of power.

For example, the mock ads variously described a Mont Blanc pen as "the internationally recognized symbol among the influential" (status), "mightier than the sword" (power) "an instrument of persistence and durability" (quality), says David Dubois. It also found that testosterone increases positive attitudes toward goods when they are described as "status-enhancing" but not when they are described as "power-enhancing" or high quality. These results establish a causal link between testosterone and increase of preference for status-enhancing goods.

When asked about whether knowing that the driver of their actions was, at least in part, biologic could cause the men to change their testosterone-driver behavior, Dr. Nave says no: Biologic drivers have typically not been successful for, say, stopping smoking or other addictions. "As there is evidence that T [testosterone] promotes status-related behaviors in females further research should explore whether the effects of T [testosterone] on consumer preferences are generalizable to females, while taking into account that which brands and goods are status-enhancing is likely to differ across sexes".

"I've always been struck by the variations in consumers' appetite for luxury, with some markets or periods encouraging a "luxury fever" (e.g., urban areas, fast-developing markets such as China etc.) and others less so". "Our findings are exciting because they show that consumers' drive for luxury may stem directly from differences in testosterone levels varying with the amount of social competition, population density, or male/female imbalance".

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