Antecedents and Outcomes of Generation Z Consumers’ Contrastive and Assimilative Upward Comparisons With Social Media Influencers

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Purpose: This study aims to focus on the dynamics in influencer-consumer relationships to understand how Generation Z consumers’ identification and social comparison with influencers shape their response to influencers’ branded posts. Specifically, this study investigates how perceived similarity and wishful identification lead to distinct social comparison mechanisms that affect Generation Z consumers’ self-improvement motives, which, in turn, drive their message engagement, brand attitudes and purchase intentions.

Design/methodology/approach: An online survey was conducted with 295 college students who are digital natives and whose purchase decisions are heavily influenced by social media influencers.

Findings: The study findings confirmed that perceived similarity positively influenced assimilative comparison emotions of optimism, admiration and aspiration while negatively influenced contrastive comparison emotions of envy, depression and resentment. Wishful identification positively affected both assimilative and contrastive comparison emotions. Both types of social comparison emotions further affected consumers’ motivations to follow the influencer for self-improvement, thereby enhancing their brand attitude, purchase intention and engagement behaviors.

Originality/value: This study is one of the earliest attempts to investigate the relationship dynamics between influencers and consumers from the lens of social comparison. The study examines the antecedents of perceived similarity and wishful identification, the mediators of upward comparison emotions and self-improvement motives and the brand evaluation outcomes of message engagement, brand attitude and purchase intention.


Online ahead of print, April 11, 2023.