snob effect
n. The desire to purchase something only because it is extremely expensive or extremely rare; the tendency for demand to increase along with the price of an item whenever that item is perceived to improve the social status of the consumer.

Example Citation:
Custom-tailored products that cannot be mass-produced and things that are supposed to be hard to buy, such as Ferraris, can't be promoted by bandwagon effects. Such presumptive rarities flourish with snob effects, the phenomenon that a thing becomes more desirable because fewer people can afford it or can find one.
—Andrew Allentuck, "Jumping on the bandwagon," eBusiness Journal, May, 2000

Earliest Citation:
Counterfeiting intended to mislead consumers is always bad, Shapiro concedes. But there are other cases in which there is no intent to deceive: "If you buy a 'Rolex' watch for $ 25, you know it's not a real Rolex watch." The welfare of those consumers who enjoy wearing the famous name is increased, while the only injury is to owners of genuine Rolexes, whose benefit from the "snob effect" is reduced.
—Marc Levinson, "The free-market way to protect consumers," Dun's Business Month, June, 1986

Notes:
While investigating the related phrase bandwagon effect (the desire to purchase something only because many other people have purchased it), I came across the following, which seems to imply that both phrases were coined back in 1950:

Leibenstein (1950) added two additional emulatory societal effects — the bandwagon effect (people buy what is widely being bought) and the snob effect (people buy what is not being widely bought).
—R Keith Schwer, Rennae Daneshvary, "Symbolic product attributes and emulatory consumption," Journal of Applied Business Research, Summer 1995

Related Words:

Categories: