Some more background on this, because I think it’s interesting.

Apparently there are three dimesions to NFU, flavors of ‘counterconformity’ (love that term!): creative choice (creative but socially acceptable, that is), unpopular choice (not necessarily socially acceptable), and avoidance of similarity.

NFU is a useful construct cross-culturally– different cultures may emphasize different dimensions to greater or lesser extents (for example, in more traditional societies, the unpopular choice route may be the road less taken).

With respect to the pricing business, it seems like the link is between the similarity avoidance dimension and willingness to pay higher prices.  I haven’t been able to find anything yet on individual differences among the three dimensions, but surely there must be.  So yeah, if your items remain affordably priced, you’ll still be able to attract some high n-f-u folks.  Just maybe not those who emphasize avoidance of similarity.

And it’s all relative, anyway. Who do people implicitly compare themselves with? What’s the reference group? After all, a daring fashion choice in the small town midwest may look very different from a daring fashion choice in L.A.  Something that reads as a creative choice in one place may be an unpopular choice in another crowd. Same thing goes for pricing– expensive for who?  The $40 necklace may be quite luxurious for your group of friends, but considered very inexpensive by another group.

So knowing that our buyers have a high need for uniqueness still doesn’t get us out of having to understand our market. Darn it.


Reference: A. Ruvio, Shoham, A., Brencic, M. 2008. Consumers’ Need For Uniqueness: short-form scale development and cross-cultural validation. International Marketing Review 25:1, 33-53.


Need for Uniqueness

January 14, 2009

One of the more interesting concepts I’ve stumbled across in my marketing lit explorations has been Need for Uniqueness (or it’s complement, Need for Conformity). It’s an individual-level personality trait.  People with a high need for uniqueness value unique behavior for its own sake– this includes their purchasing habits, so the fewer people who buy a certain product, the more likely people with need-for-uniqueness are to buy it. The inverse is true for the Need for Conformity types– the more people who buy something, the more they’ll want it, too.

It seems self-evident to me that folks who buy art jewelry have some degree of Need for Uniqueness goin on.  Jewelry is there for the sole purpose of self-expression, after all, and if you consider yourself to be a unique person, you’re gonna wanna show it.

Okay, this is all pretty intuitive so far. Where do the marketing insights come in? Well, apparently it hooks up to the pricing issue again.  While need for uniqueness is not the same thing as prestige (people signalling their wealth through conspicuous consumption, which as we know can involve some pretty boring-looking but expensive objects), a higher price means that fewer people will be able to buy it, which means that the need-for-uniqueness folks (I’ll just call them n-f-u’s) will prefer it to lower-priced alternatives.  Thus the mechanism behind the oft-repeated, counterintuitive advice to artists that raising your price may increase sales. *light bulb blinks on*

Oddly enough, this preference for relatively rare, high-priced goods appears to be independant of the quality of the item– to the extent that more people of all sorts prefer high-quality items, if a high-quality item is being bought more often, then it reduces its uniqueness, and so the really high n-f-u types may actually buy a lower-quality item, since it’ll still be the more unique choice. I wouldn’t have guessed that.  That’s not to say that high n-f-u people don’t value quality– they do, everyone does– it’s just that sometimes it becomes irrelevant.  That actually explains a lot, I think.  Like why there’s such a lot of expensive yet poorly made jewelry out there.

Another interesting tidbit is that getting high n-f-u people to pay attention to the functional characteristics of items actually reduces the need-for-uniqueness effects to some extent.  It reduces their willingness to pay more for uniqueness. This makes intuitive sense– for example, I bought this fancy designer tea infuser one time that looked really cool but doesn’t actually work very well. If I had been thinking more carefully about the functionality, I probably would have opted for a different, probably less expensive infuser.

So if you’re going the route of pricing your items higher to attract the high n-f-u buyers, emphasizing functional product characteristics at that point can be shooting yourself in the proverbial foot.  So when I’m about to sell a $100 necklace, I should probably shut up about the fact that it’s very light weight. I should probably rewrite my story cards in light of this, actually.

Ok, I’ll stop there. Much food for thought. All of the above ruminations were based on:

W. Amaldoss, S. Jain. 2005. Pricing of Conspicuous Goods: A Competitive Analysis of Social Effects. Journal of Marketing Researcj 42:1, 30-42.

So I’m in my art show booth, people are coming in and out. I’m a confirmed introvert, but I want to be a good retailer. Do I greet every one, whether they make eye contact or not? Should I try to engage them in conversation? How come they seem to leave immediately whenever I stand up and say hello?

Well, I have no idea. We introverted types need a “handbook of human interaction” or something.  So when I came across “Rapport Building Behaviors Used By Retail Employees”*, I was hoping for some insight.  Most of it was exactly what you’d expect: customers like attentive, courteous, personal, helpful behavior.  Wow. Who’da thunk it?

One little bit did catch my eye, though: they identified a number of rapport-building strategies, but found that customer’s perception of rapport did not increase when several of these strategies were used at once. So one at a time will do.  If you can manage to be very good at some rapport-building behaviors when the situation requires it, that’s enough. You don’t have to try to charm their pants off the whole time they’re in your booth.

Still seems like some of these behaviors are turn-offs in an art show setting. I’d be interested to  find research explaining why that might be.


*D. Gremler, K. Gwinner. (2008). Journal of Retailing 84:3. 308-324.