The fashion industry has boomed thanks to marketing by high-end brands. Some would argue that those clothes and accessories are not worth their exorbitant price tags. But to the wearer, perhaps the perceived social benefits of wearing them outweigh their costs.
The question, however, is do people really hold luxury items, and in turn their wearers, in higher regard? For example, does the average person who sees a pair of rare sneakers tend to like those sneakers more than a lesser-known brand?
We conducted an experiment with 400 people on Amazon Mechanical Turk in which participants were instructed to “Imagine you see someone wearing the shoes below,” and then randomized whether they saw a pair of Hoka brand shoes, a lesser-known company based in France, or a pair of Nike Air Max 270s from the well-known Nike company.
Participants were then asked “How much do you like these shoes? (1 = Not at all, 7 = Extremely)” using a 1-7 scale.
We found no significant difference in shoe likability between the off-brand Hoka shoes (avg. = 4.26) and the Nike Air Max 270s (avg. = 4.45), (p = 0.318). Nor did we find any differences across genders or ages, even for men and younger people who we’d expect to be a bit more familiar with the brand.
So, if you’re planning to drop some cash on a luxury pair of Nikes in hopes of getting some social clout, you may want to think twice. But if you buy Nikes because you just really love Nikes, then go ahead and just do it.
We used an independent samples t-test to test for significant differences in perceptions between our two experimental conditions. For significant differences, the difference between the two groups' averages would be large and its corresponding “p-value” would be small. If the p-value is less than 0.05, we consider the difference statistically significant, meaning we'd likely find a similar effect if we ran the study again with this population. To test for significant interactions between the main results and participant demographics, we used OLS regression analyses with interaction terms.