A marketing study out of the W. P. Carey School of Business
at Arizona State University evaluated the phenomenon of "material possession
love." The researchers interviewed car, gun, computer and bicycle
enthusiasts about their favourite things.
"Until now, when we've thought about attachment to objects, most consumer
researchers have thought of it in terms of self-identity, such as whether
owning and driving an expensive sports car helps you tell others you have a
higher social status or makes you seem sportier," said the study's main
author, John Lastovicka, in a university-issued statement.
"However, here we found that, in some cases, consumers became emotionally
attached to possessions as real substitutes in what resembled human
The researchers began their investigation by interviewing people at car
shows. One car owner named his vehicle Maybelline and said he spent more
time with it than with other people. Another said he spent every penny he
had, and borrowed from his parents, to buy a new car because it was "love at
The researchers then moved on to gun ranges, and finally supplemented their
findings with surveys of hundreds of gun owners, cyclists and computer
"We went into this just looking at automobiles, but found it was a
generalizable phenomenon," said Lastovicka. "We were surprised to find
people lavishing love on bicycles, computers and guns. Also, this wasn't
love for a brand; this was simply a love for the specific possession owned
by the consumer."
They found people who loved their objects so much they spent hours doting
over them, and doled out huge quantities of cash to buy complementary
products and services.
"I've never seen whopper segmentation effects like this," said Lastovicka.
"However, love is a powerful human emotion, so it shouldn't be very
surprising that those who really love something are lavishing their money
and time on it."
But at least one fish-aquarium enthusiast said the study paints an overly
negative picture of people who have perfectly healthy obsessions.