Ironic consumption refers to using a product (brand, style, behavior, etc.) with the intent of signaling a meaning (identity, message, belief, etc.) that reverses the conventional meaning of the product. We report five studies showing that people are more likely to think that a consumer is using a product ironically when the product is incongruent with the consumer's known identity or beliefs. The impression that ironic consumers make on an observer depends on the observer's relationship with the consumed product. When a consumer uses a product associated with the observer's in-group (e.g., wearing a "Powered by Kale" shirt in front of a vegan), observers have a less favorable impression if they believe the consumer is using the product ironically. Conversely, when a consumer uses a product that is not associated with the observer's in-group (e.g., wearing a "Powered by Kale" shirt in front of a meat-eater), observers have a more favorable impression if they believe the consumer is using the product ironically. Collectively, our studies suggest that consumers can use products ironically to selectively signal one meaning to an in-group (who is likely to detect irony), and another to out-groups (who are unlikely to detect irony).
- impression management
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business and International Management
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Economics and Econometrics