Mortality Salience and Brand Attitudes: the Moderating Role of Social Presence

Marieke Fransen, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Dirk Smeesters, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Bob Fennis, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
Terror Management Theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, and Solomon 1986) suggests that reminders of death intensify the desire to express cultural norms leading to culturally prescribed behavior. Living up to these norms provides high levels of self-esteem serving as a buffer against existential anxiety. In the present paper we argue that people can experience an extra self-esteem boost when they act in accordance with cultural norms while others can observe this behavior. More specifically, it is hypothesized and found that the presence of others (i.e., social presence) moderates mortality salience effects on consumption-related behavior. Study 1 demonstrated that consumers, under conditions of mortality salience, express more favorable attitudes towards a luxury brand (valued in Western cultures) when they know that other can observe their behavior. In Study 2 these results were extended to non-luxury brands. Under conditions of mortality salience, consumers expressed less favorable evaluations of non-luxury (non-valued brands) when they were aware of the presence of others. These results imply that consumers derive self-esteem indirectly from the knowledge that others observe their appropriate behavior rather than directly from following the cultural values or norms of ones society.
[ to cite ]:
Marieke Fransen, Dirk Smeesters, and Bob Fennis (2010) ,"Mortality Salience and Brand Attitudes: the Moderating Role of Social Presence", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 37, eds. Margaret C. Campbell, Jeff Inman, and Rik Pieters, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 534-535 .