Nailya Ordabeyeva

Yes, conservatives like to wear Ralph Lauren clothes, while liberals prefer threads from Urban Outfitters. Why? Because the former view our social hierarchy as legitimate; the latter don’t.

That’s all according to a study by Assistant Professor of Marketing Nailya Ordabayeva, to be published in the August issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. Ordabayeva and a colleague found that conservatives buy products they believe will signal their own superiority (big-name brands, high price tags) while liberals buy products they hope will show their uniqueness (unconventional colors or design).

The data suggests that taglines like Mercedes’ “A Class Ahead” and Apple’s “Think Different” really work. Ordabayeva’s research also has startling implications regarding the extent of our national polarization.

The professor summarized her findings in a Harvard Business Review article, “How Liberals and Conservatives Shop Differently.” And the full research paper, “Better or Different? How Political Ideology Shapes Preferences for Differentiation in the Social Hierarchy,” is available at the Journal of Consumer Research website.