Many companies encourage feelings of ownership of their products as a strategy to increase sales. For example, Nike allows consumers to customize sneakers online before making a purchase. Apple's marketing makes consumers feel that they are holding its products in their hands. These strategies are based on the theory that consumers who feel ownership of a product will be more likely to judge it positively.
However, Professor Gita Johar and doctoral candidate Liad Weiss show that encouraging a feeling of ownership can have unintended effects. Consumers tend to “self-project” their traits onto products they own, the researchers found. Consider a consumer who perceives herself as lacking creativity. She may project her own lack of creativity onto an Apple computer that she owns — or is encouraged to feel ownership of — and associate Apple computers with low creativity. Conversely, consumers tend to project their “anti-self” onto products that they do not own. When a consumer who perceives herself as uncreative realizes that she does not own an Apple computer — when shopping, for example — she may then identify all that she lacks in creativity in the computer, and associate Apple computers with high creativity.