Social Comparison Theory (Case Studies + Marketing)

Social comparison theory is the idea that we figure out how good we are by comparing ourselves to other people. For example, we might look at how well we are doing in school compared to our friends. Marketers use this idea to make us want to buy their products. They show us how their product can make us look cooler, smarter, or better than others. By making us think we need their product to be as good as or better than others, they influence us to buy it to feel better about ourselves and improve our social standing.



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Social Comparison Theory in Marketing

Social Comparison Theory in marketing means that people like to compare themselves to others to see how they measure up.

For example, if a kid sees their friend has a cool new toy, they might want one too so they can feel just as cool.

Marketers use this idea to make you want to buy things by showing you what others have or do, making you want to do the same to fit in or feel good about yourself.

Social Comparison Theory in Consumer Behavior

Social Comparison Theory in consumer behavior means that people look at others to assess their own status, achievements, or choices. This comparison helps them decide if they are doing well or need to improve.

Marketers use this natural tendency by highlighting desirable products or lifestyles.

By showing what others have or do, they make consumers feel a need to purchase similar items to fit in, feel successful, or boost their self-esteem.

This drives consumer decisions and influences buying behavior.

Social Comparison Theory in Social Media Marketing

Social Comparison Theory in social media marketing means that people compare themselves to others they see online to evaluate their own lives, achievements, or choices.

Marketers leverage this by showcasing attractive lifestyles, products, or experiences through influencers and advertisements.

By presenting idealized images and success stories, they create a desire in consumers to purchase similar products or adopt certain behaviors to feel better about themselves, fit in, or achieve a sense of belonging.

This strategy effectively drives engagement and influences purchasing decisions on social media platforms.

Case Studies of Brands Using Social Comparison Theory

1. Nike

Strategy: Nike frequently collaborates with top athletes and influencers to showcase its products. By highlighting these successful figures using Nike gear, Nike creates a powerful image of excellence and achievement.

Implementation: Through campaigns like “Just Do It,” Nike presents stories of athletes overcoming obstacles. Social media posts and advertisements feature well-known sports figures wearing Nike products.

Outcome: Consumers compare themselves to these athletes, feeling inspired to purchase Nike products to enhance their own performance and feel part of an elite group. This strategy has helped Nike maintain a strong brand image and drive significant sales growth.

2. Apple

Strategy: Apple uses product launches and influencer endorsements to create a sense of exclusivity and desirability around their devices.

Implementation: Apple’s marketing often features influential figures in tech, design, and entertainment using their latest devices. Their “Shot on iPhone” campaign showcases stunning photos taken by users, making others want to replicate these results.

Outcome: Consumers aspire to own Apple products to feel innovative and up-to-date, aligning themselves with the perceived success and sophistication of Apple users. This approach has consistently driven high demand for new Apple products.

3. Coca-Cola

Strategy: Coca-Cola leverages social comparison by associating its brand with happiness, togetherness, and memorable moments shared by diverse groups of people.

Implementation: Campaigns like “Share a Coke” personalized bottles with popular names, encouraging people to share their experiences on social media. Ads often depict friends and families enjoying Coke during celebrations and everyday moments.

Outcome: Consumers compare their social experiences to those depicted in Coca-Cola ads, feeling compelled to include Coca-Cola in their gatherings to enhance their own social enjoyment. This has reinforced Coca-Cola’s brand image and driven consumer loyalty.

4. L’Oréal

Strategy: L’Oréal uses celebrity endorsements and beauty influencers to create aspirational beauty standards.

Implementation: Their campaigns often feature famous models and actors promoting L’Oréal products, with messages like “Because You’re Worth It,” emphasizing self-worth and confidence. Social media influencers demonstrate how L’Oréal products can transform their looks.

Outcome: Consumers who compare themselves to these attractive and confident figures are motivated to purchase L’Oréal products to achieve similar beauty standards. This has helped L’Oréal maintain a leading position in the beauty industry.


Social comparison theory is the idea that we judge our worth by comparing ourselves to others. This helps us understand our own abilities and status, influencing our self-esteem and decisions.

The father of social comparison theory is Leon Festinger.

An example of a social comparison is when a student compares their test scores to their classmates’ scores to determine how well they did.

The social comparison theory suggests that people evaluate their own abilities, achievements, and opinions by comparing themselves to others. This helps them understand where they stand and influences their self-esteem and behavior.