Using Status to Market Brand and Product Value
Conspicuous consumption explains the increase in the number and the types of the goods and services that people consider necessary to and for their lives in a developed economy and the psychological mechanics of a consumer society. The practitioner derives the honor of superior social status through Conspicuous consumption which is a psychological end in itself. To explain this concept further we can use the Relative income hypothesis as an explanation. It says that the savings rate increases with income across the income distribution, but not over time. Thus the incomes of one’s peers play a role in setting consumption standards of others. As a society becomes wealthier, the propensity to consume does not diminish and thus the consumption standards rise along with income.
These aspects are used by marketers to advertise their products as lifestyle products or status symbols in the society. Their application is not limited to a particular consumer set or is not bound by any country’s boundary. It can be applied to clothing in Australia, cosmetics in US, automobiles and other luxury in developed and developing countries, etc.
A Status Consumption model can be studied which is common across various countries. There are three main antecedents focused in this model:
(a) Socio-psychological Antecedents – comprising of:
- Social gains
a2. Esteem indication
a3. Ostentation behaviour
(b) Brand Antecedents
b1. Management controlled brand features
b2. Market controlled brand features
(c) Situational Antecedents
Status Consumption model
The model would be fitting is most countries with different set of findings. In some countries the socio-psychological antecedents are social gains and indicating esteem, in some it is esteem indication and ostentation behaviour and in some it is only ostentation behaviour. With Brand antecedents it was observed that both market and management controlled brand features have a significant impact on status consumption. This may also vary from geography to geography as some markets would be developed and exposed to the luxury products and status symbolization for a longer period, while others would be exposed more recently and thus it would take some time for these factors to build social presence. Also the status consumption is highly dependent on the situational antecedent as these purchases are made only to display in front of the society and thus it highly depend on any festival or social gathering occasion.
It is widely accepted that people make judgements or inferences about others in their surroundings by their possessions. Status goods are thus highly associated with highly visible categories like clothing, jewellery, automobiles, etc. Marketers understand a common way to add “snob appeal” to an otherwise average product is to attach a high price tag. Consumers pay a marginally higher price for a functionally equivalent good because they crave the status brought about by such material displays of wealth.
Though price indicates status, but price itself does not determine the desirability of a brand or its treatment as a status symbol. Brand used sends a social signal to other consumers about the type of person using that brand. The association between the brand its user type determines symbolic meaning consumers derive from that brand. Consumers are influenced by their own group and those with whom the individual wishes to avoid being associated. In other words, the consumer attraction or shying away from a brand can be explained by tracking who uses a brand.
These concepts are then used by the marketers to exploit the opportunity to increase the market share by making celebrities endorse their products. Since celebrity from different walks of life inspire the present generations in their sense of living, lifestyle, gestures and habits, they are perfect for endorsing a product that is not a necessity for life but would become necessary if they press upon it.
There are two more factors that impact the conspicuous consumption. These are price and counterfeit products. Price is negatively correlated with brand preference. As the price goes up the brand preference experiences a negative impact and the conspicuous consumption of that brand goes down. Thus these goods which symbolize status are over-priced but marginally. Also to promote such goods, marketers may slash their price and portray them as discounted to motivate people even further to buy these products.
Counterfeit products allow the consumer to unbundle the status and quality attributes of luxury goods and pay less to acquire the status and not acquire the quality. These serve those customers who cannot afford to buy luxury goods but aspire for those.
Thus the marketers while earlier used to recommend firms to focus more on advertising the product to the target group, in case of product that symbolize status, the marketers would need to change this strategy. A status symbol would have to be advertised for the complete audience i.e. everybody. If the brand were unknown to the general public, it would not serve as a dissociative signal or a status symbol. Also, when advertising to the masses, the message must not be functional, instead it should be aspirational.
Also the theory that the luxury goods are for the higher upper class should be reframed for these products as the concept suggests that people from all classes of society show the urge for conspicuous consumption and would go ahead and buy an expensive product even if it has no functional utility.
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