Envy is one of the seven deadly sins (the others being pride, avarice, lust, gluttony, wrath and sloth), the opposite of kindness. In the Divine Comedy, Dante considers envy as the feeling that comes from considering the good of others as being detrimental to one’s own good. For this reason, envy belongs to the group of sins that originate from badly directed love and that are exiled to Purgatory, a mountain where already-saved souls purify themselves from their sins. As punishment, the envious souls have their eyelids sewn shut with wire. One of these souls is Guido del Duca, a Roman gentleman who confesses: Fu il sangue mio d’invidia sì riarso, / che se veduto avesse uom farsi lieto, / visto m’avresti di livore sparso («My blood was so afire with envy that, when I had seen a man becoming happy, the lividness in me was plain to see»).
Even in common opinion, the consensus is that envy is considered one of the more deplorable vices. Envious individuals are, in fact, unhappy because they are torn apart by their desire to take riches and success from others and make them their own for their own enjoyment – a desire that is ostensibly validated by the belief that the envied individual does not deserve what he has.
However, envy can be of value in marketing, as proved by Simona Romani, Silvia Grappi and Richard Bagozzi in the article The Bittersweet Experience of Being Envied in a Consumption Context («European Journal of Marketing», 2016). The study focuses on the envied consumer and on his satisfaction and reactions.
The results of the analysis show that envy produces both negative responses (like guilt and anxiety) and positive ones (like feelings of well-being and prestige) in the envied. These responses depend on factors such as the type of relationship between the envious and the envied, and the object of desire. At the consumer experience level, the combination of negative and positive effects and how these are handled by the envied individual influence this person’s satisfaction (negative effects diminish satisfaction while positive ones increase it). This shows that in a consumer society, marketing and communications must confront the factor of envy to build emotions and structure consumers’ emotional responses in order to steer them in the intended direction.