Flagships remain a key approach for motivating and mobilizing conservation actions and interests. This study quantified attitudes towards two endemic globally threatened Amazona parrots, one of which was developed as a popular flagship in the 1980s. We used a mixed methods approach that included qualitative and quantitative interviewing and a newspaper content analysis to provide empirical evidence that the process of creating this conservation flagship inadvertently fostered negative attitudes and behaviors towards its non-flagship congener. We argue that, similar to other commercially branded goods and services, popular conservation flagships can produce powerful standards of comparison that may decrease the attractiveness and public acceptance of non-flagship species. These results parallel findings from the fields of consumer research and marketing psychology showing that “top-of-the-line” products may hurt sibling models. We therefore suggest that this is an important unintended consequence of the flagship approach and encourage the conservation community to learn from commercial brand developers who have been wary of the potential for exclusionary contrast effects of flagship brand deployment.
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