Purpose: Drawing from social comparison theory, this study investigates the factors influencing benign or malicious envy toward influencers and the effects of envy on social media users' choice of endorsed or rival brands. Design/methodology/approach: A sample of 453 social media users was obtained to examine the research model. Findings: Homophily and symbolism positively affect both benign and malicious envy. Credibility affects benign envy positively but malicious envy negatively. Deservingness affects malicious envy negatively but exerts no effect on benign envy. Benign envy has a greater influence on choosing brands endorsed by influencers than it does on choosing rival brands; these effects are more substantial under conditions of high perceived control. By contrast, malicious envy significantly affects the choice of purchasing rival brands; however, this effect is not influenced by perceived control. Originality/value: This study unveils a key aspect of the endorser–follower relationship by analyzing the effect of envy toward social media influencers on followers' intention to purchase endorsed or rival brands. This study identifies the differential effects of two types of envy on brand choice.
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