Competing for consumer identity: Limits to self-expression and the perils of lifestyle branding

Alexander Chernev*, Ryan Hamilton, David Gal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


The idea that consumers use brands to express their identities has led many companies to reposition their products from focusing on functional attributes to focusing on how they fit into a consumer's lifestyle. This repositioning is welcomed by managers who believe that by positioning their brands as means for self-expression, they are less likely to go head-to-head with their direct competitors. However, the authors argue that by doing so, these companies expose themselves to much broader, cross-category competition for a share of a consumer's identity. Thus, they propose that consumers' need for self-expression through brands is finite and can be satiated when consumers are exposed to self-expressive brands. Moreover, they argue that consumers' need for self-expression can be satiated not only by a brand's direct competitors but also by brands from unrelated product categories, nonbrand means of self-expression, and self-expressive behavioral acts. The authors examine these propositions in a series of five empirical studies that provide converging evidence in support of the notion that the need for selfexpression can be satiated, thus weakening preferences for lifestyle brands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-82
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Brand
  • Competition
  • Identity
  • Lifestyle
  • Preferences
  • Self-expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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