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Signals sell: Designing a product line when consumers have social image concerns

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  • Friedrichsen, Jana

Abstract

One important function of consumption is for consumers to show off their taste, virtue or wealth. While empirical observations suggest that producers take this into account, existing research has concentrated on analyzing the demand side. This paper investigates how a monopolist optimally designs its product line when consumers differ both in their taste for quality and their desire for a positive social image. The monopolist distorts qualities and prices to allocate images to consumers. It generically pools consumers with different tastes because high-taste consumers lend a positive image to the product of their choice and thereby increase the product's value to others. Often, average quality is lower than in a market without image concerns and there is underprovision as compared to the welfare-maximizing allocation. Although average quality is higher in a competitive market, welfare typically is not.

Suggested Citation

  • Friedrichsen, Jana, 2016. "Signals sell: Designing a product line when consumers have social image concerns," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2016-202, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbmbh:spii2016202
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    Cited by:

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    2. Friedrichsen, Jana & Engelmann, Dirk, 2018. "Who cares about social image?," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 61-77.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    image motivation; conspicuous consumption; two-dimensional screening; mechanism design;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

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