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What makes us proud to consume a product?

Joseph R. Daniel
Joseph R. Daniel

A consumer and organizational psychology enthusiast

Jakarta  /  Wed, March 15, 2017  /  01:40 pm
What makes us proud to consume a product?

Pride is an emotion that plays an important role in many aspects of our lives, including our consumption experiences. (Shutterstock/File)

Pride is an emotion that plays an important role in many aspects of our lives, including our consumption experiences. 

We feel proud when we graduate from university, or when we receive a job promotion. We proudly celebrate these valuable achievements by having a nice dinner in a cozy restaurant with our family and closest relatives, doing karaoke with our crazy best friends, or watching a movie at the cinema with our loved ones. 

In choosing products for public-use like clothes, bags, cars, or watches, we often evaluate the product by considering whether wearing it will make us feel proud, or whether the product can elegantly differentiate us in public or not. Pride is not only the emotion that drives our consumption, but also an emotion that is elicited by consumption.

In Indonesia, ‘pride in consumption’ is a topic that has received considerable attention not only by marketers, but also by our government. In the past few years, there has been a series of governmental ‘buy-local’ campaigns, aiming to elicit national pride in the consumption of local products. In the era of globalization and the ASEAN Economic Society, our domestic products have to compete against many foreign versions that have flooded our department stores and local markets. Consuming local products, then, is considered as a patriotic act, one that we should do with pride as Indonesians.  

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However, what exactly makes us proud to consume a product? Recent studies in consumer psychology have shed a light on this issue. 

We pride ourselves in using products of unique and superior quality

Every product or service has benefits that are designed to meet the specific needs and wants of consumers. As consumers, we tend to evaluate the benefit-offered by products or services first before we make a purchase. We selectively choose products that we perceive to be most suitable for our needs and particular expectations. If the benefit-offered or the objective quality of the product we bought is superior to other similar products, we will feel proud in the result. Superiority elicits pride.

We are proud to wear a particular brand of jeans, for example, because the jeans are made of local materials that are strong and durable, or the jeans’ design corresponds with global trend that can make us look dashing in public. At other times, we feel proud to possess a certain gadget with the latest, highly desirable benefit that enhances our virtual communication. At other times, we pride ourselves when we consume a particular traditional beverage, only because it has unique taste compared to other local or modern beverages that most people consume. We also feel proud when we were accepted and enrolled in a top, globally recognized university. 

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The objective, unique and superior quality of a product or service is often a powerful trigger of our sense of pride, and as a result, the feeling will emerge to some extent during consumption. 

We feel proud when we use products that reflect our distinctive identities

In many instances, we buy products or services not because of what the products can do for us but because of what the products mean to us. We tend to buy products or services that are related to our aspirations, values, culture, and many things that define ourselves. For example, we often buy woven clothes of our homelands not because of the price or quality of the clothes, but because these products define who we are. We buy because the woven clothes have unique patterns that symbolize the cultural philosophy we grew up with and inherited from our ancestors. 

Another example comes from sports consumption sub-culture. A proud fan of a football team is usually willing to buy the team’s jersey even though it is not made of high quality materials. The pride he or she feels when wearing the jersey and celebrating the club’s victory may not be determined by what kind of fabrics the jersey was made with. What is important for him/her is the message that he or she communicates to observers simply by wearing the jersey: “I am a Milanisti”, “I am a Madridista”, or “I am a Liverpudlian” etc. 

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In addition, because humans are social creatures who have a natural tendency to seek power and status, in many times we also choose products that can signal our social standing to others. We purchase extravagant products, luxury cars, or services from five-star hotels not merely because of their functional benefits, but because those products and services are effective and indirect tools to give others hints about which ladder of the social-hierarchy we stand on. 

Consuming products or services that symbolize our identities and social superiority often fosters our sense of pride.

We feel proud when we contribute to the greater good or do something socially valuable through our consumption

Consumption activities, both of which occur in shopping centers as well as in traditional markets are not just an economic transaction between buyers and sellers, but also a social interaction in which the principles and ways of life of the individuals involved are built, expressed, and transformed. We often buy products not because of the quality of the products, or what the products represent, but because through the whole consumption activity we can explore and engage with the reality around us. We meet the sellers and other buyers, converse with them, try to understand their lives and empathize with them.

Because of this interactional nature of consumption, we may not buy local food, for instance, because of the nutritional quality of the food or what the food symbolizes, but because by consuming the food we will help the small merchants who sell it. We often buy certain products because we want to do something good for others, or we want to contribute to a participatory political campaign, or help activists promote social justice for the marginalized. Consumption is often a means to help others and that is exactly what makes us proud. We take pride in it because the whole consumption process is a social activity through which we build our community life and help other people. 

Pride that we feel in our consumption activities usually emerges because of one or a combination of two or three of the tendencies above. However, pride also has dark side that we need to be aware of because it can lead to arrogance, ethnocentrism, hostility toward out-groups, and other unfavorable behaviors that may threaten our social relationships. Therefore, if we want to instill pride in people consuming our products, we have to put considerable efforts into the design and positioning of the products, and the whole consumption experience that we offer to the consumers. We may also need to be careful so we can effectively evoke the right sense of pride in the consumption of our products. (kes)



Joseph R. Daniel is a consumer and organizational psychology enthusiast who lives in SoE, East Nusa Tenggara. He likes reading, watching TV series, and supporting his favorite team, AC Milan. He can be found on his Facebook page.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.