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What Makes Things Cool? How Autonomy Influences Perceived Coolness

Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 2, 543 - 563

Abstract: Despite assertions that coolness sells products, little is known about what leads consumers to perceive brands as cool. This research uses an experimental approach to examine the empirical relationship between consumers' inferences of autonomy and perceived coolness. Six studies find that behaviors expressing autonomy increase perceived coolness, but only when the autonomy seems appropriate. Autonomy seems appropriate, and hence increases perceptions of coolness, when a behavior diverges from a norm considered unnecessary or illegitimate, when the autonomy is bounded (i.e., deviations are small or occasional rather than large or perpetual), and when the consumer views social norms as being overly repressive. A final experiment further supports the connection between autonomy and coolness and illustrates that coolness is distinct from liking by showing that whether a consumer has a goal to express autonomy moderates preference for cool brands.

Date: 2014
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