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Calling Out Addiction: Whistleblowing for a Sustainable World

30 May 2024
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By Dr. Muhammad Junaid

“Like any other addiction, it (consumption addiction) distorts simple pleasures into the illusion of omnipotence, and the person will finally become a prisoner of his habits” – Dimitris Begioglou as quoted by Spyros Zonakis (2018).

Brand addiction, once confined to substances, now pervades our consumer landscape, posing complex challenges for individuals, businesses, and societies. Unlike mere brand passion and brand love, brand addiction ensnares consumers in a relentless pursuit of a particular brand’s products, prompting us to explore its implications in depth.

At its core, brand addiction represents a psychological state where a consumer is mentally and behaviorally preoccupied with a particular brand, driven by uncontrollable urges to possess its products. Brand addiction involves positive affectivity and gratification. Researchers identify various facets, from excessive acquisition to financial strain, illustrating its multifaceted nature. But what drives individuals to succumb to brand addiction, and what lies beneath these behaviors?

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Consider the case of a woman who secretly accumulated 700 pairs of shoes, each costing between $700 and $4,000, leading to her husband filing for divorce. Is this behavior rational? Far from it. Is it merely a choice, or does it reveal deeper societal and psychological currents? Moreover, how do marketing tactics exacerbate brand addiction, and how can businesses balance profit with ethics?

For the sake of sustainability, brand addiction poses one of the biggest hazards at both the micro and macro levels. On a personal level, brand addiction manifests in anxiety, irritability, and financial strain, trapping consumers in a cycle of compulsive buying. But are these patterns sustainable, and what impact do they have on well-being and societal cohesion?

Zooming out, brand addiction poses significant implications for businesses, economies, and cultures. While companies profit from loyal customers, the commodification of addiction erodes consumer autonomy and exacerbates societal disparities. Brand addiction exacerbates economic inequalities by concentrating wealth with select brands, hampering local businesses, and fostering overconsumption. Additionally, it results in the erosion of cultural diversity, favoring global brands over local identities, stifling creativity, and innovation.

Navigating the complexities of brand addiction, marketing managers face a crucial decision: perpetuate addictive consumer behaviors for immediate gains or prioritize ethical and sustainable practices that promote long-term well-being. Can marketing transcend manipulation and exploitation to foster genuine, mutually beneficial relationships between consumers and brands?

In conclusion, brand addiction presents a modern marketing conundrum—a phenomenon blurring the lines between consumer choice, brand responsibility, and societal impact. By recognizing the detrimental effects of brand addiction and advocating for ethical marketing practices, we can strive to cultivate a consumer culture rooted in sustainability, autonomy, and collective well-being. Isn’t it time we reassess our relationship with brands and reclaim control over our consumption habits? The future of marketing—and society at large—hinges on it.


  • Spyros Zonakis. (2018). In a society addicted to consumerism, a movement of anti-consumers. https://news.streetroots.org/2018/02/16/society-addicted-consumerism-movement-anti-consumers

Further Readings:

  • Brand Addiction: Wow! Or Woe? International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, 16 (2).
  • Destination Love and Addiction: Insights from Positive Addiction Theory. Journal of Vacation Marketing, forthcoming.
  • Brand addiction’s mediation of brand love and loyalty’s effect on compulsive buying: the case of human brands. Journal of Brand Management, pp.1-19.
  • Brand love and brand addiction and their effects on consumers’ negative behaviors. European Journal of Marketing, 56(12), pp.3227-3248.
  • Brand addiction: Brand characteristics and psychological outcomes. Journal of Consumer Marketing38(2), pp.125-136.

About Dr. Junaid

Dr. Muhammad Junaid is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and the Faculty Director for the PhD Program at the School of Management (SOM) at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). Dr. Junaid earned his Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering (Marketing) from the School of Management and Economics (AACSB, EQUIS, AMBA) at the Beijing Institute of Technology, China. Dr. Junaid’s research interests include consumer brand relationships, brand love, brand addiction, brand compassion, responsible brand leadership, consumer alienation, consumer well-being, and consumer wisdom. His work has been published in several prestigious journals, such as the European Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, the Journal of Brand Management, and the International Journal of Market Research.