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SELF-CONCEPT AND IMAGE CONGRUENCE: SOME RESEARCH AND MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS

Sak Onkvisit John Shaw Self-concept, despite its marketing relevance, an understanding of the self-concept and selfhas been overshadowed by other psychological image can provide the means for developing concepts. The self-concept is, however, significant more effective marketing programs. Consistency and congruence also play an important part in and relevant to the study of consumer behavior establishing the relationship between the selfbecause many purchases made by consumers concept, the individual's image, and final purare directly influenced by the image an individual has of himself. A fundamental question involves chase behavior. Other factors also play a part in the process of the formation of the self-concept. the process and, in some situations, misunderstandings about their importance can result in Several distinct qualities exist within the selfless than effective marketing efforts. Careful concept, and once the self-concept is established, research and analysis of the relevant factors these have a bearing upon the individual's affecting the self-concept and their effect on behavior and his relationship with his objective, purchase behavior can make for more effective subjective, social, and ideal self. For marketers,

Sak Onkvisit is an associate professor marketing in the College of Business Administration, San Jose State University. Dr. Onkvisit has published papers in the Columbia Journal of World Business, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Business Education, and Business Horizons. His teaching interests involve consumer behavior, international business and marketing research, and he has taught at the Pennsylvania State University, The University of Kentucky, and Northeastern Illinois University. Dr. Onkvisit is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the American Marketing Association, and the Academy of Marketing Science. Dr. Onkvisit received his Doctor of Business Administration from The University of Kentucky. John J. Shaw is an associate professor of marketing at Providence College. His teaching interests involve the marketing management, promotion, intenational marketing and consumer behavior areas within the marketing discipline. Dr. Shaw holds membership in the American Marketing Association, Southwestern Marketing Association, and the Academy of Marketing Science. Dr. Shaw's papers have been published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Business Horizons. Marketing News, and The Columbia Journal of World Business. Dr. Shaw received his Doctor of Business Administration from the University of Oklahoma.

Vol. 4 No. 1 Winter 1987

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In the process of learning about himself. The formation of the self-concept is a lifelong and evolving process. . certain goals. The modification of the person's ideas can be quite drastic when he is in his teens. and this examination includes an evaluation of himself as if he is just another object. while others are discarded. several important questions concerning its applicability within a market setting remain unanswered. since it permits more opportunity for social interaction. As a basis for behavior. and the identification of such properties can be useful for an understanding of how the self-concept operates and how it influences consumer behavior. An understanding of the self-concept and self-image can provide the means for developing more effective marketing programs. the young person chooses certain people to be his heroes or role models and will imitate them. With a fewexceptions29. are attained. The process picks up speed when he enters school. In this article we will examine the richness of the self-concept in terms of its marketing relevance and thereby justify its inclusion in the marketing plan. Self-Concept Formation 1 4 An individual always examines objects in his First. When compared with its many psychological "cousins. Self-concept is relevant to the study of consumer behavior because the image that a person has about himself frequently dictates specific behavior patterns.30any treatment of this meaningful topic that does not appear in consumer behavior textbooks is either brief or implicit. and competing brands. selfperception may explain why and/ or how consumers are motivated by revealing how they view reference groups. We will also discuss the research and strategic implications of the concept. the changes in his self-concept slow down. As a result. He sees himself through the eyes of other people and takes into account their behavior. even though his experiences still result in a continuous change in his ideas about himself. the self-concept involves ideas and feelings that he has about himself in relation to others in a socially determined frame of reference. he realizes a set of available possibilities based on his strengths and shortcomings. and approval. As he grows older. understanding the influence of self-perception on behavior could provide an effective means of appealing to target markets effectively. During that time. it is surprising that it has not received more widespread attention from marketing scholars. after being evaluated. A study of this nature could be useful in probing consumers' mental and covert states. As a result. Sell-Concept: Significance and Neglect environment. his self-perception is based on an interplay between what he thinks of himself and what others think of him. The Nature of The Self-Concept The self-concept has several distinctive properties. the individual is often frustrated with attempts to establish his own identity. This learning is a continuous. self-concept is not innate — it has to be learned. among other things. By determining the facts about himself. as well as how they choose to interact with these objects. As he matures and comes to terms with himself. attitudes. The formation of a child's self-concept begins rather slowly and is largely unconscious at the onset. he outgrows some of these fantasies because he learns about capabilities that he cannot achieve as well as skills he is capable of attaining. This article examines the various issues related to the marketing applicability of the self-concept and discusses its implications in terms of research and market strategic planning. active process through which a person determines who he is and on what basis he should formulate his ideas and those of others. Subsequently. salespeople." the self-concept is a concept that has been underutilized in the area of marketing. because he does not know exactly what he wants.THE JOURNAL OF CONSUMER MARKETING market strategic planning. From the marketing standpoint. Given the fact that marketing practitioners seem to be enthusiastic about self-concept. Thus.

When people wear clothes that they do not like. forms some perceptions about it. but the self-concept. not of the self.14 whose behavior changed after she actively dated five men. he feels that the product enhances his own self-image. The individual next transfers the positive meanings of symbol X to himself for self-fulfillment.S. brand. the self-concept tends to be relatively stable."16 Since a person's self-concept is a valuable possession.10 Self-Enhancement Image As A Strategic Tool An image is "the total set of attitudes. Like a person's self-concept. they feel and act attractive and active. As was explained by one well-known marketing scientist. and it promotes individualism. he enhances himself in two ways: first by his own transfer of the symbolic meanings to himself. the individual becomes defensive and perhaps angered. he will actively promote it by directing his behavior toward the enhancement of this concept. and it can also be either vague or clear. Naturally. the indelibly written esthetic messages over and above bare physical qualities. One widely used explanation of self-enhancement states that an individual A examines a symbol X which may be a product. It exists for the purpose of both protecting and enhancing a person's ego. but the self-concept. resent being reduced to mere numbers. Evidently. compares these perceptions with his own value system in order to estimate the likelihood that such characteristics will satisfy his needs. the associations of feeling. This phenomenon is confirmed by a classic study involving an unpopular girl. and identification numbers contribute greatly to the movement of U. People. they feel dull and inactive and will act that way. or symbolic self. While it is true that self-perception is subject to change with time and experience. or store. but also because of its personal and social meanings inferred by him. product and store provide two important means for self-enhancement. Because of the increase in social activity and attention. however. the maintenance. The basic purpose of all human activity is the protection. and the gradual change explains why a consumer may be loyal to a particular brand for a long period of time. Automation. "The basic purpose of all human activity is the protection." Fragrances. computers. In the marketing context.SELF-CONCEPT AND IMAGE CONGRUENCE Self-concept is stable and consistent. but when they wear attractive clothes. Similarly. he strives for more gratification by attempting to gain the audience's approval. and second by the transfer made by his reference group. a consumer may decide not to buy a product or not to shop at a particular store if he feels that these actions are not consistent with his own perceptions of himself. provide for individualism by allowing the perfume smell to change from woman to woman. the maintenance. if not consciously. In order to counter depersonalization. she viewed herself as a more social and attractive person."4 The consumer evaluates the appropriateness of a product or store for self-enhancement by developing some beliefs about its specific characteristics through some direct experience or second-hand information. Any change will not be abrupt. Consequently.39 Apparently." The image can be weak or strong. and intuitively. or symbolic self. Self-concept is unique. among other factors. The effect of self-concept can be either positive or negative. society toward depersonalization. not of the self. and the enhancement. selfconcept can exert its influence on behavior in either direction: a negative self-concept affects behavior adversely. By assuming that symbol X is also socially meaningful to an audience B. and the enhancement. whereas a positive selfconcept serves as a positive reinforcer. especially during the entire decision-making process for a particular purchase. it is not a good idea for an advertisement or a salesperson to attack a person's beliefs directly. consumers used branded products to promote their own self-concepts because distinctive brands can be used to represent "who they are and where they are at. He looks beyond the object's immediate utility. the halo of psychological meanings. he goes to a store to buy a product not only because of the product's primary functions. "a consumer may buy a product because. When his self-image is threatened by others' criticisms. like Cie. 1 5 . for example. Self-concept is purposeful. and the effect on her life and attitude were significant.

Carsons has been using its "Carsons Chicago" campaign to shed its image as "that other Chicago department store. and retailer. High-tar cigarettes such as Winston and Camel are avoided by the intellectual type and attempt to attract rural smokers. in contrast. granola bars are more or less candy bars in disguise. Department stores can be broken down further into two subcategories: regular department stores such as Macy's and Sakowitz are viewed as being different from 1 6 national chain department stores such as Sears and Montgomery Ward. retail stores can have two types of image and each retail category can assume its own distinct personality. Shillito's. Each of these stores has its own image and local affiliation in spite of the fact that they are all department stores and that they are all owned and operated by Federated Department Stores. Furthermore. We may take the granola bar and candy bar as examples. While brand image is the more obvious. and Main Street. not all brands in the 120mm category have the same appeal. As far as consumer perceptions and stores' strategies are concerned. Magnin. Foley's. Field's. attracts a larger proportion of blue-collar workers. The extra-long cigarette is aimed at the fashion conscious. on the other hand. The kind of behavior described in the model is the basis for the image congruence hypothesis. and retailers have their own personalities or images. The self-concept is a concept that has been underutilized in the area of marketing. The Gap retail stores. for instance. is the prestigious one. a product category itself is also capable of assuming a unique personality. Thus. Carson Pirie Scott. and company to company. As a result. they provide an incentive for him to attain them. Filene's. these three local department stores are significantly different from each other. are often associated with Levi's apparel in the mind of many consumers. the one most likely to be associated with Chicago. According to this model. More has a riverboat-gambler look for big-city sophisticates. young-in-spirit image. are more appealing to better educated and wealthier people. Perception is a dynamic process. When compared with Max. It should be noted that each kind of image is not viewed in isolation. and audience. self-concept. the granola product is still able to maintain its healthful and wholesome image. Rich's. a product with a strong image. Theoretically. the hypothesis derives some of its support from cognitive dissonance theory. Sanger Harris. In spite of the fact that these two product categories have become more physically alike and that most. I. product to product. and there is a significant interaction among the different types of images. Images of individual stores of the same retail type tend to vary as well. products. the consumer will evaluate these images in terms of their symbolic meanings. Bullock's. Another example is the three prominent department stores in Chicago: Marshall Field's. Therefore. the consumer must achieve a consistent self-image by buying the right products from the right manufacturers at the right stores. These images provide consumers with the psychological tools to enhance their self-concept. Much like products. discount stores and department stores are perceived quite differently even though they carry similar merchandise. One good example is the case of Abraham & Straus. The Now brand cigarettes use middle-aged models posing as wealthy horse breeders. if not all. Goldsmith's. and Wieboldt's." Wieboldt's. product image can vary from one product form to another as well as from brand to brand within the same product form. Bloomingdale's. Such images will differ from person to person. while the Merit brand projects a flamboyant. Cigarettes. To minimize a dissonance associated with a purchase. make a clear distinction in how two product levels can differ. Lowtar brands. When they are viewed as being highly credible and desirable. which states that a consumer tends to select products and stores that correspond to his selfconcept. Burdine's.THE JOURNAL OF CONSUMER MARKETING corporations. Figure 1 shows a conceptual model of the relationship between a consumer's self-concept and his images of the manufacturer. which is a cosmetic product for women. product. But such brands are not necessarily alike. It should be pointed out that there are two distinct types of product image. "The variety of goods available permits more Image Congruence .

and wine (an exclusive sip-and. self-concepts were found to differ significantly between owners of the Volkswagen 1200-1300 and those of the Pontiac GTO. This is true regardless of whether the self-concept is based on how consumers view themselves or whether it is related to the way they would like to be. interest in the opposite sex. self. At least four components have been identified: (1) real self (actual or objective self) —the way a person actually is. pink squirrels. may not be aware of how they are sometimes rated by bartenders. several studies also support the contention that the selection of retail stores is significantly influenced by the self-concept. and highballs.20In one study. bourbon (a good strong drink with a good strong tip).2. product ownership. rum (a traveler and innovator with money to tip). Overall.8 While most people may not consciously make a distinction among these four dimensions. beer (an old reliable). for example.30. and (4) looking-glass self (social self) — the way he thinks others regard him."22 Empirically. Because of the multiplicity of self-concept. Consumers tend to patronize those stores whose characteristics are seen as congruent with their self-concepts. purchase intention. Empirical studies indicate that congruence between product image and self-concept is a fairly common phenomenon. and pleasure seeking.26. product usage.35 ways of living than was ever the case. 24. while staying away from stores that are perceived to be different from their self-perceptions.12 Volkswagen owners rated themselves substantially lower than Pontiac owners on such traits as status consciousness.13.SELF-CONCEPT AND IMAGE CONGRUENCE In addition to product image and self-concept congruence. cognac (a class act with a class tip). such components do exist. grasshoppers. (3) ideal self (self-actualization) —the way he would like to be. fashionableness. cigarettes. At another extreme are the "stiff seven" or those who drink sours. consumer goods can be chosen with less conflict or indecision than would otherwise be the case. They usually overlap at least partially.32 The congruity subsequently affects product preference. vodka (no games here in what he drinks or tips)." In another study. bar soap. frozen drinks.spend clientele). several studies covering such consumer products as beer. These varying dimensions can all exist simultaneously. style consciousness. (2) self-image (subjective self) —the way a person sees himself. and product loyalty. and the 1 7 . it should be apparent that the way a person actually is can differ significantly from the way he perceives himself and that this actual self in turn can also depart greatly from the way he would like to be or the way others regard him.34. Alcoholic beverage drinkers. active process through which a person determines who he is. automobiles. Self-concept is a multidimensional concept. adventurousness. Dimensions of Self-Concept Learning is a continuous. sportiness. sloe gin fizzes. but they are not mutually exclusive. brandy alexanders. Because of their symbolic nature.concepts tend to be similar among owners of the same product brand but will differ across owners of the same product with different brands.8. 247 coeds were asked to rate themselves and "the kind of girl who would most prefer" to read six magazines or to own seven automobiles.6 The "magnificent seven" in order of tip generosity are those who drink Scotch (a sophisticated and steady drinker and tipper).10. and toothpaste support the claim of the consistency between product image and self-concept. These drinkers are perceived to be inexperienced amateurs at both drinking and tipping.28 The results showed a strong relationship between self-concept and brand preference because the "similarity between self-image and the user image of preferred brands was much greater than the similarity between self-image and user image of nonpreferred brands.

But these implied traits. for instance. instead of attracting buyers.. and their real self and ideal self should be quite similar. However. have shown an opposite relationship: consumers seeing themselves as conservative. Theoretically.THE JOURNAL OF CONSUMER MARKETING extent of the overlap will vary from person to person.21 confirmed the benefits of differentiation because they show that some purchase intentions are correlated with selfimage while others are more related to ideal self. sensibility. the small-car product form may simply . the differentiation can be justified if the person's behavior is affected differently by what he is.17 The self-concept tends to be decision-making process for a particular purchase. Consumers' fantasy level may provide an answer. if one takes upward mobility into account. may imply thrift. The study classified consumers as low-. high-fantasy people are unhappy with their lives but are not realistic about their chances for improvement. real self and ideal self are simply too far apart. what he has been. the lack of evidence for the superiority of ideal self may be attributed to too crude a classification rather than too fine a distinction. however. since a product may be used as a means to represent his aspiration. and ideal self cannot predict product purchases. Japanese imports may imply innovativeness and prestige. This unexpected finding may not be so illogical as it might first appear. present. and practicality and is thus relevant for saying something about its owner. 1 8 a hypothesis regarding the impact of fantasy level on the extent of overlap of self-components has never been tested. Two studies addressing this issue showed that neither self. One researcher conducted a study38 which.18 however. Unfortunately. Volkswagen. The above discussion may explain the difficulty in improving a direct relationship between consumers' perceptions of themselves as innovative and their attitude toward small cars. and they must be examined in terms of their relevance and potency. In conclusion. Some scholars question the necessity and practicality of making a distinction among the aspects of self-concept.15 As a result. the differences among the varying dimensions of self-concept should be respected. and future self).e. The middle-fantasy group are somewhat dissatisfied with their current selfimage and want to do something about the image in a realistic way. or the so-called yuppies. and high-fantasy people and found that the middlefantasy group was best in predicting product purchases. when compared with their innovative counterparts. his past. From the marketing standpoint. the term "self-image" is too often used as an all-inclusive term to include all kinds of self-concept.image nor ideal self was dominant in predicting brand preferences. middle-. which may be meaningful to young urban professionals. This may explain why Japanese cars are able to take away market share from Volkswagen. Future studies should explicitly specify which self-component is to be used and should take the extent of fantasy into account. Low fantasy consumers are satisfied with their situations. ideal self may be the best predictor of buying behavior.8. First. The question then is not whether the distinction is useful.21 The findings were interpreted by some scholars as evidence of a futile attempt to distinguish the self-concept components. for two reasons. because the desired products are not attainable. The relationship is logical. in this case. but rather under what circumstances a particular aspect of self-concept is employed by consumers in their buying decisions. Some studies8. although not dealing directly with the selfconcept. Some studies. Therefore. and expressing a more positive attitude toward small cars. The level of consumers' fantasy may explain why one self-component may or may not be superior to others in predicting purchasing behavior. provides some insights with regard to the effect of fantasy on self-perception. and what he hopes to be (i. it is thus possible that they use products as a means of improving their lifestyle or ideal self accordingly. not all products are capable of being tools for selfenhancement. In contrast. Perceived Instrumentality and Value Importance Image congruence can be expected only when brands or stores are associated with the consumer's important values. may turn some of them away because they may not express the kind of image desired by these users.

e. assuming that this goal can be achieved. The significance of this phenomenon is that the interaction of the person's self-concept and role may exert some influence on his purchasing behavior. small cars as a group may be neither relevant nor potent enough as vehicles to deliver the innovative image. unique.. At the onset. some are more relevant than others in being image makers. and product value expressiveness. for instance. "A person's self-image can vary with the particular role being assumed at the moment. Therefore.. One research technique advocates the use of the situational self-image which is the result of a person's repertoire of self-image and perception of others in a specific situation. may explain why image congruence does not always materialize. it is still important to determine the importance of this goal or value in terms of its ability to provide the satisfaction expected. consumer involvement. and the attitude at the product form level may differ significantly from the more specific attitude at the brand level. A Camaro. He chooses a Camaro when he has an important date. Price and income. The application of the self-concept to marketing should include a consideration of the importance of a distinct 1 9 . it may be useful to study how the influence of such situational variables may vary across products. value importance) such as those who view themselves as swingers or young-at-heart adventurers. It is thus not surprising that it attracts a disproportionate number of female buyers. a big car when his sister-inlaw's large family is in town. Let us take General Motors cars as an example. does not have the Chevette's diffused image. since it is not their desired image in the first place. and it is more suitable as an image vehicle. a Chevette when he visits his folks. To determine the relevance and potency of a product. whereas imported small cars may be perceived as being more likely to do so. Influence of Intervening Variables The self-concept does not operate in isolation. does not stand for something strong.SELF-CONCEPT AND IMAGE CONGRUENCE imply conservatism rather than an innovative image. The selfconcept can be useful in the search for a differential advantage."25 This point is well illustrated by National's rent-a-car commercial. designed for a mass market containing all types of people. Of course. image). on the other hand. but also that strong statement appeals to particular groups of people (i. a Corvette or a Camaro. The approach just mentioned should be helpful in isolating products that are appropriate for self-enhancement from those that are not. not all small cars are alike. consumers used branded products to promote their own self-concepts.. this type of consumer is not interested in the Corvette no matter how instrumental it can be in delivering that image.33 A consumer tends to select products and stores that correspond to his selfconcept. While automobiles are highly conspicuous products without a doubt.e. Finally. Implications for Marketing Practitioners There are several aspects of the self-concept that marketing practitioners should consider in preparing their strategic plans. One young man rents different kinds of cars according to his varying situations and roles. researchers should take both the perceived instrumentality and the value importance of each product attribute into consideration. Not only is the Corvette capable of making a strong statement (i. Relatively speaking. In order to counter depersonalization. specifically designed to appeal to a particular type of buyer.e. other variables can moderate its impact. Some researchers believe that the predictive power of the congruity models is a function of product life cycle. or definite. and a Cadillac for his class reunion.31 Likewise. has a more definite image. a study of role and its impact may also shed some light on why self-concept varies from one situation to another. product utilitarianism. Second. it is necessary to investigate whether a particular object is perceived as being capable of helping an individual to attain his desired goal (i. Next. A Chevette. Another important intervening variable which can affect the final outcome is role. for the more conservative type. Since there is evidence that consumers change their self-image with different situations. perceived instrumentality). it is desirable to determine these situations.

and the effect of public and private product image on consumption behavior. 'Body Odor. Dodge (a division of Chrysler) is a prime example. Camel is for one-of-a-kind males. The lesson in these advertisements is that ads should reflect consumers' self-concepts in a more positive manner. He is emotionally attached to 'my brand. resulting in a constant switch in themes for diverse segments. such as salt. lacking in taste. and other neurotic selfconceptions. and (4) a promotional effort to change a strong image. and any advertising effort to create images for such products are likely to be futile and wasteful. after all these years. has finally decided to drop its controversial campaign theme. The consumer wants a product that gives the illusion that it was made exclusively for him. shoelaces. It is often assumed that the self-concept is created mainly through interactions with other people and that an individual plays only a negligible role in shaping his self-concept. anxiety. when it replaced Winston. According to these assumptions. (3) an attempt to be all things to all people. the old Lifebuoy ads shouted. and that it responds to his needs. Surprisingly. Virginia Slims for women who have "come a long way. They buy the product not because of tobacco grade but rather because the product conveys an image with which they like to identify. and the psychologically insecure and inadequate became uncomfortable and apprehensive."27 and as the unresisting victim of external stimuli such as products and ads on the other hand. It is this image that has kept Marlboro on top since 1976. A marketer should avoid making wrong assumptions about his customers. smokers are self-image buyers. women were urged to dream "of appearing in public without their blouses— an embarrassment from which a Maidenform Bra stands ready to rescue them with glory. self-doubt. the individual is basically passive and simply accepts the ideas of other people. In such cases. Because of a consumer's insistence on a differentiated brand. While manufacturers. this consumer is viewed as a puppet which can be easily aroused and controlled by business firms. Some products. debasing. many products that can be differentiated do not have distinct images.THE JOURNAL O F CONSUMER MARKETING image. whose image was not as distinct nor strong.7"Rare indeed is the smoker who will accept any brand. Two products that have been heavily promoted provide good examples of this view. valid or negative. As was demonstrated by the tobacco industry. because the underlying assumptions of these advertisements are either in- The Significance of Image Congruence 20 ." It is interesting to note that Maidenform. and other commodity items. there is a need to revise the advertiser's image of the consumer. have no significant meaning to consumers. products. a strong and distinct image is essential." and Eve for the feminine type. and insulting to the dignity of man" based on a wrong assumption of a person as "a fundamentally irrational creature. Product image can serve to explain why a purchase is not a random process. not all brands have an equal preference for being purchased. resulting in public confusion. A "diffused image" may be caused by (1) poor creative advertising. (2) frequent changes in a brand's advertising theme and/ or media pattern. by their nature."3 Whenever possible. Marlboro was able to change its original feminine image by using ads featuring the most ruggedlooking men and cowboys "who came up the hard way. Market planners should also be sensitive to the possibility that there may be sometimes erroneous assumptions made regarding the relationship between the consumer's self-concept and the product that image marketers are projecting. sugar. and/ or stores may be similar. When being marketed to." This unique image of virile men and their he-man lives allows an individual to project himself through the cigarettes he smokes. the part that image congruence plays in purchase behavior. According to some researchers. that it matches his personality. "the image is blurry and stands for nothing definite. it is time to abandon an advertising style that is "exploitative.' Like a sparrow The Necessity of A Distinct Image Erroneous Assumptions Self-concepts tend to be similar among owners of the same product brand but will differ across owners of the same product with different brands. These unfortunate assumptions often result in advertisements that degrade consumers. Apparently. helplessly pushed around on the one hand by guilt. their images are not and can be shaped by marketers." In the other advertisement.

. two dimensions of fragrances were studied. a marketer should bring his product out into the open in order to create more visibility and image.. Visibility. At the same time. consumers maynotbevery careful in their product selection. and Epris and Scoundrel (steamy and provocatives). he pieces together various rationalizations which permit him to justify fervently why he smokes 'my brand. The behavior engaged in during the search and before the purchase is also another means of achieving a positive self-concept. In one study. have high visibility and are often used as a means of upgrading consumers' self-concepts.SELF-CONCEPT AND IMAGE CONGRUENCE fixing a nest. Charlie (independent woman). the consumer is unlikely to repeat such a purchase. Any product information that is inconsistent with the consumer's selfconcept is unlikely to gain his attention. it is not enough just to have a distinct image for a product. and Public Consumption There is evidence of the existence of higher congruence between the self-concept and images of socially consumed products in contrast to a lower consistency of congruence that exists between the self-concept and images of privately consumed products such as soap. A person's self-image can vary with the particular role being assumed at the moment. By the same rationale. brand images. 2 1 . are seen as being more similar to a person's self-concept is not surprising since the self-concept encourages public consumption. while mass fragrances attempt to appeal to a large number of people. Enjoli (super woman who is all things to all people). has one advertisement with a man in his tuxedo rehearsing in front of a mirror in how to order Chivas Regal to please himself and to show himself off to his "audience. A perceptual map can also be generated for this purpose. and the other dimension was concerned with individual focus on couples. and retention.19 One dimension identified was a playful realism-dreamy fantasy." Chivas Regal. Where incongruence exists and a purchase does take place. for example.. I'll have a Chivas . when compared with Scoundrel's fantasy and overstatement. they are still positioned with a particular type of woman in mind— e." This advertisement demonstrates how the importance of the audience can be emphasized to the consumer. Enjoli.. please. the image should be distinctive from those of competitors in order to discourage any product/store switching. Some products such as soap and men's underwear are not publicly conspicuous or consumed.1 The fact that socially desirable products.. Automobiles and jeans. acceptance. One commercial by Hanes...8. and consumer preferences all onto a single map. Cachet. seems to be to attract the opposite kind of woman—those who want romance which is based on reality and those whose image of sex is being subtle. The mission of Whisper or Musk. A study of consumer perceptions of each brand can be useful in determining whether image congruence is likely. Chivas-on-the-rocks-please.Chivas Regal. and Cie are fragrances which fall under the playful realism/focus on individual category." The entire copy reads: "Chivas...I'll have a Chivas. when compared to those of low social desirability. As is illustrated by the fragrance industry. but it must also be a desirable image which is capable of enhancing the consumer's self-concept.. and sensitive. for example.. shows a well-dressed man on his motorcycle who is waylaid at a stop light by a young woman who unbuttons his shirt just to feel his undershirt. Therefore. sizzling. sophisticated. To remedy the situation.Let me have a." enabling a firm to monitor its advertising impact on its brand image. Vanderbilt and Le Jardin (floral romantics). This behavior includes the consumer's display of his selfconfidence and negotiation skills to impress his "audience. This particular technique is especially useful because it allows the mapping of "ad images.g.. A purchase is not likely to take place when there is a lack of congruence between product image and self-concept." It should be noted that social desirability does not apply only to purchase and consumption. please.. Joy makes its liquid detergent for dishes more conspicuous by claiming that it can "say something kind of nice about you" and that "your company may just sit up and notice how shiny your dishes are. long noted for its snob appeal..'23 Audience. slow. Consequently.

and Lawrence X... Jr. it is important to determine whether a product is relevant and significant to the selfconcept enhancement and. Chicago: American Marketing Association. G. 290-303. ed. Symbolism and Market Behavior: A Theoretical Approach. This need. L. "Consumer Self-Concept. ENDNOTES 1. New York: McGraw-Hill. derived from the desire to enhance himself.. A clear understanding of the influence of the self-concept on behavior can result in better marketing control and planning. Consumer Choice Behavior. A marketer can capitalize on this desire by creating a distinct product image that will fit the consumer's self-concept. E." Journal of Marketing Research. G. the consumer is seeking a great deal more: he also wants reputation. Ann Arbor. 1967. if relevant. ed. prestige. 31 (October 1967). Stern. A. (August. Douglas. 5.. 14 (May 1977). Flemming. 419-422. 5 (February 1968). Edward L. 1963. 11.THE JOURNAL OF CONSUMER MARKETING Conclusion It is a misjudgment to assume that a consumer is interested in a product because of some combination of basic ingredients. L. 8. 1982. 14. Chicago Tribune. "Discriminant Validity for a Product-Anchored Self-Concept Measure. E. The Psychology of Human Conflict. 1972. can be satisfied only by the social meanings associated with the image of the manufacturer. Hupp. 2. "On the Management of Self-Images in Social Situations: The Role of Public Self-Consciousness. Grubb. and Harrison L. self-concept offers a meaningful perspective to the understanding of consumer decision making. Guthrie. "Perception of Self. George A.." In Reflections on Progress in Marketing. Generalized Stereotypes and Brand Selection." July 12. Andrew Mitchell. 6 (February 1969). 452-455. Far from this being the case. Britt. whether it expresses the kind of self-concept desired by the consumer. Jr. I. pg. Any incongruence between product image and self-concept may unnecessarily preclude potential buyers by failing to motive them properly." In Advances in Consumer Research. Dolich. and other meaningful symbols. Grathwohl. ______ and G.. 22-27.. and Bruce L. Ohio: Charles E. 12. Page. 382-385. P. Handbook of Consumer Motivations." Journal of Marketing Research. Tarpey. 4. Burnkrant." Journal of Marketing Research. 15." Journal of Marketing Research. Columbus. D. and retailer."Consumer Perception of 'Self-Concept' and Its Relation to Brand Choice of Selected Product Types. 1966. E."Congruence Relationships Between Self-Images and Product Brands. Steuart H. J.. Mich: Association for Consumer Research.. and Thomas J. Edward L. 8. 7. 80-84. Kelley. 1938. NJ: Prentice-Hall. 1982. As one of the most fundamental concepts in the social sciences. Robert E. pp. 22 . Consumer Behavior and the Behavioral Sciences: Theories and Applications. "Influence of Image Congruence on Consumer Choice. 1965. pp. 10. R. Chicago: American Marketing Association. From the marketing standpoint. 1971). 252-256. 1964. Field. John. 58-63. and William T." Journal of Marketing. Human Behavior in Marketing. Bennett. 9. Englewood Cliffs. New York: John Wiley. Ernest. Merrill.. product."Rating the Tippers. The Management of Promotion: Consumer Behavior and Demand Stimulation. Belch. Smith. Hansen." In Marketing and Economic Development. Brink. New York: Harper and Row. ed. 13. Birdwell. and E. 1964. 3. 6. New York: Free Press. Dichter. "Self-Concept and Significant Others. Landon.

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