Ever wondered why some people rabidly defend the bands that they love, while attacking products that compete against their favorites?  Ars Technica has an article up that helps explain the phenomenon:

You may think you’re defending your favorite platform because it’s just that good. But, according to a recently published study out of the University of Illinois, you may instead be defending yourself because you view criticisms of your favorite brand as a threat to your self image. The study, which will be published in the next issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, examines the strength of consumer-brand relationships, concluding that those who have more knowledge of and experience with a brand are more personally impacted by incidents of brand “failure.”

The researchers performed two experiments, one on a group of 30 women and another on 170 undergraduate students, in order to see whether the subjects’ self esteem was tied to the general ratings of various brands. Those who had high self-brand connections (SBC)—that is, those who follow, research, or simply like a certain brand—were the ones whose self esteem suffered the most when their brands didn’t do well or were criticized. Those with low SBC remained virtually unaffected on a personal level.

The residual effect of this is that those with high SBCs tend to discount negative news about their favorite brands, and sometimes even ignore it altogether in favor of happier thoughts.


“Because the brand is seen as a part of the self by virtue of being intimately tied to the self, failure on the part of the brand is experienced as a personal failure,” reads the paper. “Therefore, in an effort to maintain a positive self-view, high SBC individuals react defensively to brand failure by evaluating the brand favorably despite its poor performance.

I wonder where that leaves me. I tend to attack brands or ideas that I dislike, even if I don’t have any good alternative in mind, or preconceived loyalties.

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3 Responses to “The psychology of fanbois”

  1. It’s a god point -what it made me think of beyond products was Warcraft addiction – and just how deeply personally these hard core players take their characters, and how much of their self esteem rests upon them.

    I’m aware to some extent of my own brand loyalty weaknesses so I do make an effort to keep looking around eg im a massive pc user for the flexibility, but keen iPad user for the chic and the lightweight long battery positives. I was amd graphics in 2008, now I’m nvidia. When u switch brands, it’s surprising how quickly u forget the old – proving that my loyalty was never that objective to begin with.

  2. “I wonder where that leaves me. I tend to attack brands or ideas that I dislike, even if I don’t have any good alternative in mind, or preconceived loyalties.”

    I always assumed it was your hobby to dislike things.

  3. heh I’m pretty neutral with, well, everything. No brand loyalty for me whatsoever, I’ll use whatever works best for me. I used nVidia graphics for years, because they had the best offerings at the points when I was buying new adapters, then ran a few ATI boards, now back to nVidia. They’re both good, which is “best” depends on a variety of factors and changes pretty much from day to day. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

    I do it with smartphones too – I have an iPhone, but I think android phones are awesome too. I dislike RIM’s offerings, but entirely on a functionality and openness standpoint.

    Brand loyalty, IMHO, is purely stupid. Why provide free advertising for a company? What did they give you? Even if you got a good product, you paid for it. You owe them nothing. It’s one thing to pimp something for it’s own merits, but it’s just stupid to support a name.

    You see it in politics too. People vote for Their Party, regardless of the actual merits of the officials running, the issues, or their platforms.

    They then group people into categories of Us vs Them, for those supporting other parties/products/whatever. People are not defined by their stuff, or the political parties they support(Note: Not the same as their beliefs) and defining yourself by your stuff is a terribly sad thing to do.

    I understand that people do it, and why they do it… but I don’t understand why so many people do it. It’s mind boggling, and depressing.

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