Using spotlight effect to curb counterfeit consumption – an experimental investigation
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate how counterfeit users estimate the probability of being detected and how this probability affects their counterfeit consumption behaviour. Specifically, it addresses three questions: do perceived social consequences influence counterfeit users’ probability estimate of being detected? What is the psychological mechanism underlying the estimation of this probability? And how does this probability estimate affect counterfeit purchase and usage intentions? Design/methodology/approach – The authors used three scenario-based experimental studies with university students in Hong Kong, a place where counterfeit products are widely available. First study used a factitious brand of jeans as the stimulus and the other two studies used a Ralph Lauren polo shirt. In each study, the authors measured participants’ responses towards counterfeit purchase and the probability of being detected after they read the relevant brand information and had a close-up view of the attributes in the genuine and counterfeit versions. Findings – The authors found that counterfeit users are susceptible to a pessimism bias such that they estimate a higher probability of being detected when they judge the outcome of being detected as more severe and this bias is driven by the spotlight effect in that counterfeit users judging the outcome as more severe tend to perceive that others pay more attention to their counterfeit usage. Moreover, this pessimism bias is mitigated when the target user is another person instead of oneself, thus suggesting the egocentric nature of the bias. Research limitations/implications – The authors used undergraduate students and scenario-based experimental approach in all the studies that may limit the generalisability of the findings. Practical implications – The results suggest that brand managers should emphasise the importance of negative social consequences and highlight the role of outcome severity and egocentric bias in their advertising and communication programmes in order to curb counterfeit consumption. Originality/value – The research contributes to the growing literature on counterfeit consumption by studying the process underlying estimation of the probability of being detected by others, an important but often neglected factor that influences counterfeit purchase decision. The authors also highlight the role of outcome severity and egocentric bias in this process.
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