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Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK
Abstract Purpose – This paper sets out to address the issue of conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers (40-60), focusing on the psychological and brand antecedents, using the context of automobile buying behaviour. Existing literature does not clearly conceptualise psychological and brand antecedent and their effect on conspicuous consumption due to usage of inconsistent measurement techniques and being largely targeted at the youth segment. Design/methodology/approach – Two scales of measurement (psychological antecedent scale, brand antecedent scale) were employed to measure the impact. The study involved a quantitative research methodology employing a structured questionnaire and quota sampling with a total sample of 302 within the region of the South-East of the UK. Findings – The ﬁndings suggest that psychological and brand antecedents are of crucial importance among middle-aged consumers in inﬂuencing their conspicuous consumption. Practical implications – Using the examples of present communication strategies adopted by conspicuous product marketers, the paper argues how they are missing an opportunity and provides them with a novel way to market their brands, focusing on how consumers associate themselves with these brands. Originality/value – The paper is the ﬁrst of its kind to explicitly investigate the impact of brand and psychological antecedents among middle-aged consumers – one of the most signiﬁcant segments for conspicuous marketers, yet so far understudied. Keywords Consumption, Buying behaviour, Automotive industry Paper type Research paper
An executive summary for managers and executive readers can be found at the end of this article.
Since the publication of Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class just over one hundred years ago the theory of conspicuous consumption represents a powerful critique of the neoclassical theory of consumption (Trigg, 2001). Veblen (1994) developed an evolutionary framework of conspicuous consumption in which preferences are determined socially in relation to the positions of individuals in the social hierarchy in contrast to the neoclassical approach which focuses on individual’s static maximization of utility according to exogenous preferences. Conspicuous goods differ from many frequently purchased goods as they satisfy not just material needs but also social needs such as prestige (Belk, 1988; Grubb and Grathwohl, 1967) and the trend of consuming conspicuous goods is making a strong comeback across the world (Wong and Ahuvia, 1998). However, it may be said that only recently researchers have started paying further attention towards the phenomenon of consumption conspicuous (Mason, 1984).
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Journal of Product & Brand Management 17/1 (2008) 25– 36 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 1061-0421] [DOI 10.1108/10610420810856495]
Researchers have explored how consumers use conspicuous brands in their life and how they display their personality and status through brand image (Chao and Schor, 1998; Langer, 1997). However, the focus of behavioural research, which has examined the role of products as a means of self expression, has been to describe the social and psychological underpinnings of consumer behaviour, not ﬁrm behaviour (Amaldoss and Jain, 2005). The phenomenon of conspicuous consumption has signiﬁcant strategic implications for ﬁrm behaviour and raises some notable research questions with regard to consumers’ psychological and brand antecedents with the conspicuous brands. However, the earlier studies do not conceptualise psychological and brand antecedents due to inconsistent measurement techniques when investigating and discussing the relationship and effect between brands and conspicuous consumption, and therefore their results are not comparable. Furthermore, it has been noted that consumers usually choose different products and services over a lifetime and the preference in clothes, furniture, and activity is also age-related (Leventhal, 1997; Solomon et al., 2002). Previous studies in the area of conspicuous consumption have been found to be targeted to categories like fashion accessories, mobile phones and other personal accessories for the youth segment (O’Cass and Frost, 2002; Chao and Schor, 1998) but the middle-aged consumers and their behaviour related to conspicuous products and brands is seldom researched. According to Spero and Stone (2004) middle-aged consumers possess higher incomes, stable career and associated higher access to credit and debit which makes them a lucrative untapped segment in the area of conspicuous consumption. As observed 25
tend to have their own career and are found to be spending more on housing. 1995. Conspicuous consumption and need for a separate construct Conspicuous consumption can be deﬁned as “the act of buying a lot of things. 1998). Automobiles as a category is used for this research as it represents strong association with conspicuous consumption habits of middle-aged consumers. Chao and Gupta (1998) found that for a product such as a car. Much attention within the academic and practitioner communities in recent years has been paid to issues concerning the practice of marketing and advertising to young people (Lindstrom and Seybold. personal satisfaction. Richins (1994) found that due to the consensual nature of public meanings related to conspicuous products. 1997. Duesenberry (1949) argued that an individual’s conspicuous consumption depends not only on the actual level of spending but also spending compared with that of others. Rauscher. particularly given their relatively high levels of disposable income. It can be observed that with regard to big ticket conspicuous items such as automobiles (Sudhir.g. Solomon et al. Finally. internet. whereas young consumers may spend mainly on clothing. Congleton. 2003. 2004). consumers are usually affected by a product’s symbolic meaning and then make an affective judgment on the choice of product (Elliott and Wattanasuwan. The proposed model is presented after that followed by the methodology in the third section which is followed by the results and their implications. 2001) middle-age consumers are one of the most important segments. youthful self-concepts and identity. a clearer meaning provided by Trigg (2001) suggests that conspicuous consumption is behaviour whereby an individual can display wealth through extensive leisure activities and luxury expenditure on consumption and services. which pressurises consumers to remain ever young (Thompson and Hirschman. being aesthetically pleasing. scant attention has been paid to the segment and its behaviour (Goulding and Shankar. 2000.. 2004). p. product satisfaction is derived from audience reaction rather their utility in use. especially expensive things that are not necessary. Assael (1987) as well as Kotler (2003) state that purchasing a car is a complex buying behaviour since the product is usually expensive. Farrell et al. one basic factor has remained relatively constant: the relative youth of overall culture. p. people communicate with others and display their status. the consumption behaviours of this age group warrants greater attention. across the globe. risky. in a way that people notice” (Longman American Dictionary. Sudhir (2001) found that middle-aged consumers tend to be the largest segment of conspicuous automobile purchasers. In the present society where the idealization of youthfulness. the results are summarized and the future directions are outlined. In the next section prior research carried out in the area of conspicuous consumption. for the ﬁrst time. Dychtwald. 2000. Goulding and Shankar (2004) comment that the middle-aged consumers have the potential to be of interest to marketers. conspicuous consumption with regard to psychological and brand antecedents and secondly. 1989. internet. 296). 2004) but the middle-aged consumers and their behaviour related to conspicuous products and brands is seldom researched. middle age consumers and their conspicuous consumption habits. and mobile phones (Spero and Stone. Moreover. political and technological shifts. They have higher incomes. concluded that people usually choose different products and services over a lifetime and their purchasing behaviour is also age-related. However as observed by many researchers (Szmigin and Carrigan. However. But underlying all these changes. Furthermore. This means that the studies conducted in the area of conspicuous consumption targeting the youth segment (aged 18-35) relating to the categories (e. Middle-aged consumers are usually described as people within a 40-60 year old age bracket (Cavanaugh. cars and other big ticket conspicuous products. psychological and brand antecedents and middle-aged consumers’ buying behaviour is discussed.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 by Underhill and Cadwell (1983) these consumers feel on an average eight to nine years younger then their actual age and so there is a difference between their chronological age and cognitive age as well as their spending habits. and the link between consumption. this axis has begun to twist and tip as we shift from a youth-oriented to a middle-aged and mature society. and mobile phones largely) would not provide a reliable indication of the behaviour of conspicuous consumption in the middle-aged consumers. Blackwell et al. 213). (2001) argue that middle-aged consumers usually purchase products or services with the aim of satisfying their wants such as quality. personality and self-image not only by what they wear but also by what they possess including their cars. 2005). and highly self-expressive. Goulding. The viewpoint is further substantiated by Wong (1997) who observes that with conspicuous consumption. . personality and self-image by the automobile they purchase which is also reﬂected in the study by Amaldoss and Jain (2005). even in the context of conspicuous consumption. and being natural. (2002. Nonetheless. 1985). bought infrequently. This shows that the middle-aged consumers actually are a potent market 26 for consumption of conspicuous items however this segment has not been studied with conspicuous consumption in mind. inﬂuential factors on conspicuous consumption. clothing. 1993). Theoretical background and hypotheses Middle-aged consumers: the segment of importance Throughout history. 1999. they inﬂuence the type of possessions people choose to communicate – aspects of themselves – to others. He emphasised on the importance and effects of an individual’s reference groups to their consumption patterns which has been supported by various researchers (Easterlin. interest in leisure and hedonistic consumption. According to Mason (1981). growth and development have been inﬂuenced by a variety of social. One of the reasons that this segment is understudied could be marketers’ perception that this age group do not present the challenges of either young or senior markets. The brief discussion above suggests that there lies a clear gap in our understanding of ﬁrstly. The rest of the paper is organized as follows. despite the market dominance and spending habits related to conspicuous brands of the customers in the middle age segment (Barak and Gould. According to Mason (1981) people can communicate with others and display their status. 1995). Additionally. Hupfer and Gardner (1971) found that products vary in their perceived importance to consumers. Grant. 1990). with cars perceived as one of the most important possessions.
indicates wealth. And as conspicuous consumption is predominantly “psychological” in its motivation and expression there is a need for a separate construct focusing on the “psychological” elements. O’Cass and Frost (2002) noted that researchers have often used status consumption and conspicuous consumption interchangeably however in a later study they found that both construct are different (O’Cass and McEwen. 2001) which provides one of the bases for conspicuous consumption. indicates achievement. According to them as well as Park et al. Conspicuous consumption provides that symbolic representation of prestigious position within the social network providing the psychological advantage to the individual in the process of consumption. In other words. gain respect. Heath and Scott. Brand antecedents and their importance in conspicuous consumption A study done by O’Cass and Frost (2002) examined brand associations in the context of conspicuous consumption tendencies. a study done by Solomon et al. The occurrence of a bandwagon or a snob effect depends on how social norms allocate status (Corneo and Jeanne. the rational element has been considered dominant by researchers and marketers alike. Middle-aged consumers’ conspicuous consumption will be signiﬁcantly affected by the psychological antecedents such as: gaining respect. These are necessary assumptions for a general theory of brand selection and purchase. indicates achievement. public demonstration and communicating afﬂuence to others. is that the resultant theoretical models tend to misunderstand or even ignore the “irrational” consumer behaviour. interested in status. Nagel and Holden (2002. they learn the responses and attitudes of others towards the symbolic meaning of brands. 1991. 2004). brand symbolism is what the brand means to consumers and the broad spectrum of feelings they experience in purchasing and using it. popularity. Several researchers suggest that the need for uniqueness is an individual-level trait (Brewer. gaining popularity. security. interested in status and enhances my image (Wong and Ahuvia. warm relationships with others. Firstly. symbol of prestige. The study further classiﬁed these indescribable values as self-fulﬁlment. that product utility in use has been seen as the consumers’ prime consideration in product evaluation and purchase. The problem. p. The factors representing the intangible values were identiﬁed as symbol of success. In addition. however. b). 2002). 131) suggest that when an individual interacts with other members of society. To some extent the literature appears to lack clarity and possesses signiﬁcant overlap in the deﬁnitions of status consumption and conspicuous consumption. symbol of success. Furthermore. and thus their consuming behaviour of brand is inﬂuenced by other people. 1997a. 27 Leibenstein (1950) highlighted that the bandwagon and snob effects can also be essential factors inﬂuencing conspicuous consumption. being well respected.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 Eastman et al. Duesenberry (1949) pointed out that income and conspicuous consumption are correlated. and enhance my image. Dubois and Duquesne (1993) state that since conspicuous consumption is related to social mode. 1996. In contrast. This leads us to the following hypothesis. noticed by others. 1997). symbol of prestige. the value of the product increases as its perceived uniqueness increases. Whilst there is considerable recognition of the importance of the consumers’ social psychological environment. the difference of social values among people may also be a crucial issue when exploring the factors inﬂuencing conspicuous consumption. 1998. H1. Fromkin and Snyder. showing who I am. 1998. if possessing expensive and ostentatious products or services is viewed as socially appropriate.. p. In other words. that while both “rational” (economic) and “irrational” (psychological) elements of consumer decision making often inﬂuence particular purchase decisions. Tian et al. (Bagwell and Bernheim. In addition. (1999) stated that status consumption is based on conspicuous consumption (among other contributions). indicates wealth. studies by Elliott (1997) as well as Elliott and Wattanasuwan (1998) also found that when the whole system . The bandwagon effect describes a situation where consumers purchase products because others are buying the same goods. being noticed by others. 92) argue that when consumers purchase products to satisfy their need for uniqueness. show who I am in the presence of others.. (2002) suggests that consumers may purchase products or brands in order to obtain their intangible values. which can be achieved through signalling wealth. Chernatony and McDonald (1998. From the above discussion it can be observed that there exists an ambiguity and general consensus among researchers with regard to conspicuous consumption construct. and sense of accomplishment arguing that conspicuous consumption is a consequence of consumers’ desire to signal wealth. relevant literature provided by Congleton (1989) and Rauscher (1993) suggest that income factors exert an ampliﬁcation effect and a discouragement effect affecting conspicuous buying behaviour. Trigg (2001) supported this idea as it was found in his study that one of the signiﬁcant factors inﬂuencing conspicuous consumption is a form of individual emulation of the social group situated in a higher position in the hierarchy. Secondly. consumers could value a product less when more consumers own it. (1986). Marcoux et al. 1980). an individual as a good member of the society may have to subscribe to ﬁt in with this behaviour. the snob effect means that the market demand for a particular product decreases because others are purchasing the product. As observed by Mason (1984) there is no doubt that the classical general theories of consumer decision processes do not happily accommodate conspicuous consumption – a fact which cannot be considered surprising in view of the exceptional atypical nature of such behaviour. O’Cass and Frost (2002) further supported this argument with their observation that conspicuous consumption is undertaken or pursued in order to enhance one’s position in society. 1991. self-respect. Several researchers provide various inﬂuential psychological factors of status consumption and conspicuous consumption such as. sense of belonging. Psychological antecedents Prior research has identiﬁed the existence of two competing social needs among consumers: a need for uniqueness and a countervailing need for conformity (Brewer. status-directed consumption has been neglected primarily because of the necessity to accept two fundamental assumptions when developing a general theory. O’Cass and Frost.
question order and item repetitiveness. educational background. 45 to 49. education (high school. The pilot test assisted on content. Mercedes Benz and Lexus in the East Sussex county of UK. 2001).999. According to Mackintosh (2004) and Grant and Mackintosh (2004). Middle-aged consumers’ conspicuous consumption will be signiﬁcantly affected by their brand familiarity. Quota sampling. showing an interactive effect between consumers’ self-image and product image. the higher the quantity of response and memory towards the brand they have. The third part contained questions that highlighted the respondents’ demographic information such as gender. Middle-aged consumers’ conspicuous consumption will be signiﬁcantly affected by their brand-aroused feelings. £200. Looking through the above discussion the following hypotheses are proposed: H2c.000-199. others) and income (£25. This leads us to the following hypothesis: H2b. Results The results of the study are structured as following. The main questionnaire was divided in three major parts. factor such as self-concept. 1986. 2005. The second part probed into consumers’ psychological association towards conspicuous consumption by using various psychological items mentioned above in hypotheses as independent variables. Based on the above discussion the following hypothesis is proposed: H2a. Feelings can also be signiﬁcant factors contributing to consumers’ attitudes towards brands. £40. Since this study aims to investigate the 40-60 year old consumer segment. the respondent proﬁle is provided which is followed by results obtained using the conﬁrmatory factor analysis through LISREL. leading to development of the ﬁnal version of the instrument (Converse and Presser. Middle-aged consumers’ conspicuous consumption will be signiﬁcantly affected by their self-concept and brand-image congruency. More speciﬁcally. 1987. Brand familiarity is generally viewed as a reﬂection of the extent of a consumer’s direct and indirect experience with a brand (Alba and Hutchinson. BMW. gender.999. 50 to 54. 1994). the most reﬁned form of non-probability sampling (Bryman.000. The ﬁrst part examined consumers’ attitudes on the issue of the interactive effect between brand antecedent and conspicuous consumption. 45-49. H2d.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 of consumption is an unconscious expression of self. 55 to 60).000-125. £75. In other words. Onkvisit and Shaw (1987) found that people generally associate their individual image with purchasing behaviour patterns. and Lexus companies have large volume of sales in the luxury car market and they are generally perceived as a typical representation of .999. the consumption of the symbolic meaning of brands is a social process that helps an individual to construct and maintain an identity. These scales were evaluated for content and face validity by a panel of expert judges in marketing. as recommended by Converse and Presser (1986) and Zaichkowsky (1985). the Mercedes-Benz. Kent and Allen. Heath and Scott. and 55-59. graduation. Lim and O’Cass. income and social class. and family income per annum. 1998).000 or above). Considering the repeat purchase and loyalty factor involved the respondents were ﬁltered on the basis of their age group as well as the automobile they owned and their future preference for buying an automobile. was used as a survey basis in order to produce a sample that reﬂects a population in terms of the relative proportion of people in different classiﬁcations such as age. An average of 47 per cent of the respondents who were approached participated. luxury cars and conspicuous consumption in the minds of consumers. 50-54. Rosenberg (1979. Gardner (1985) describes brand feelings as a phenomenological property of an individual’s perception aroused by brands. 1997.000-74. becomes an essential factor inﬂuencing it (Sirgy et al. The questionnaire was pilot tested by twelve middle-aged respondents in order to expose questions which were unclear. Respondents were asked to rank a list of items corresponding to the likert scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. 1997). Chaudhuri. p. (2005) observe that middle-aged and old consumers have a tendency to repeat purchase and to limit their purchase process to a few brands in case of automobiles. and inﬂuence their perceptions about brands (Agarwal and Malhotra.999 or lower. The items were developed from the existing literature. Kent and Allen (1994) found that the more consumers are familiar with a brand. 7) deﬁnes self concept as “the totality of an individual’s thoughts and feelings having reference to him as an object”. The ﬁnal workable sample obtained was 277. ambiguous or impolite. The respondents were ﬁrstly asked about the age group they belonged to as well as the automobile they owned.. moods and emotions to the target product or service. it can be described as what customers think and know about a product or service as well as brand. Samples were drawn to obtain coverage on age (40 to 44 years. The 28 Research methodology Lambert-Pandraud et al. post-graduation. The study involved a quantitative research methodology employing a structured questionnaire and quota sampling with a total sample of 302 within the region of the South-East of the UK. Twenty-ﬁve responses were removed from the dataset due to the respondents not qualifying through the ﬁlters set for the study. The theoretical model has been presented in Figure 1. The population was divided into eight segments: male and female aged 40-44. gender. Malhotra (2003) suggests that people usually perform evaluations by monitoring their subjective affective response such as feelings. census data of the UK as a reference was used to obtain a representative sample and the population of England was divided into strata in terms of age and gender and the number of people who should be in each group were identiﬁed.000-39. The questionnaires were personally delivered at the car dealerships of BMW. According to Belk (1988) conspicuous consumption is behaviour of acquisition and possession that people tend to view as an extension of themselves and how they want others to perceive them. 2001). and their choices of products and brands are frequently inﬂuenced by their individual image. At ﬁrst. since conspicuous consumption is behaviour whereby an individual can display wealth through expenditure and acquisition in order to express self. £125. £26. Middle-aged consumers’ conspicuous consumption will be signiﬁcantly affected by brand symbolism. Flynn and Goldsmith (1999) suggest that brand familiarity is the subjective knowledge of a consumer.
* *the male actual and female actual sample does not add up to 302 because 25 responses were found to be inadequate for the survey 29 .88 13.14 49.21 13.uk/census2001/pyramids/pages/UK.60 11.44 per cent. 45-49 representing 27.80 05.01 Notes: *Data available from UK Census web site available at: www.87 per cent.17 11.29 11.00 14.asp. 48 per cent female and 52 per Table I The respondent proﬁle age in comparison with population Age group 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 Male desired sample * 40 36 40 34 150 Male actual sample 44 36 39 25 144 * * P1/P (%) desired 13. From Table I it can be observed that there is no signiﬁcant deviation among the census from which the desired strata were derived and the overall quota sample considering the factor or age and gender.99 cent male.46 per cent respectively.03 52.statistics.46 per cent. 24. The demographic proﬁle of the respondents indicated that gender of the respondents was almost evenly distributed with. The age proﬁle also seemed balanced with people aged 40-44 representing 28.81 per cent in comparison with the desired quota of 26. 50-54 representing 28.42 P1/P (%) actual 12.29 12. The education proﬁle Female desired sample * 40 37 41 34 152 Female actual sample 36 40 41 16 133 * * P1/P (%) desired 13.gov.58 P1/P (%) actual 15.78 48.88 per cent and 55-59 representing 14.18 per cent. 26.32 50.44 14.97 13.08 09.99 14. The quota sampling method and ﬁltering of respondents assisted in bringing the actual sample proﬁle nearer to the desired sample.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 Figure 1 Model overview required number in each sample stratum was calculated as shown in Table I as per the ﬁnal sample size of 277.89 per cent and 22.
Furthermore. and structural models.94. Contribution of psychological and brand antecedents towards conspicuous consumption This study initially examined the extent of positive relationships between psychological and brand antecedents with conspicuous consumption among the middle-aged consumers. The composite reliability. it validates the strong contribution of psychological antecedent and brand antecedent as determinants of conspicuous consumption.6 per cent of the respondents reported their annual income between £26. 2 Evaluation of the measurement part of the model. The assessment of the structural part of the model focused on the linkages between the exogenous variable “conspicuous consumption” and endogenous variables “psychological antecedents” and “brand antecedents. Brieﬂy reported here are the modelling results of the overall. and the maximum likelihood (ML) method of estimation was also adopted. The method suggests that the average variance extracted for each construct should be higher than the squared correlation between that construct and any other construct. the method suggested by Fornell and Larcker (1981) was employed. 28.81 to 0.971 for the variable “symbol of prestige”. all indicator loadings were signiﬁcant with a minimum factor loading of 0. the estimates of both GFI (GFI ¼ 0:95) and AGFI (AGFI ¼ 0:91) are greater than the corresponding critical value 0. Using the aforementioned goodness-of-ﬁt tests. The TuckerLewis index at 0. assessment of the measurement part of the model and secondly.99 also indicates that the model ﬁt is acceptable. Correspondingly.” was found to be positively signiﬁcant (factor loading 0. Several tests were performed to determine how well the model ﬁts the data. as calculated with LISREL estimates.87 90 0. Thus.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 revealed a mix bag of results with 46. According to the assessment criteria Table II Results of goodness-of-ﬁt tests Assessment measure Goodness-of-ﬁt index (GFI) Adjusted goodness-of-ﬁt index (AGFI) Root-mean-square residual (RMR) Standard root-mean-square residual (SMRM) Chi-square Degrees of freedom Root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) Normed ﬁt index (NFI) Non-normed ﬁt index (NNFI) Critical N (CN) Estimate Indication 0. Figure 2 provides the details of standardized estimates of the relationships among the constructs and their respective t-values. a conﬁrmatory measurement model that speciﬁes the posited relations of the observed variables to the underlying constructs with the construct allowed to intercorrelate freely was tested as recommended by Sethi and King (1994). all the assessment measures indicate that the proposed conceptual framework exhibits a very good ﬁt to collected data (see Tables III and IV).000 and £40. and secondly. In an overall measurement model. This test held. Looking through the above results hypotheses H1 to H2a-d are accepted. For the measurement model. because the largest squared correlation between any two constructs was 0. goodness-of-ﬁt measures).000 or more out of which 8. The average variance extracted of 0. corresponding results summarized in Table II show that the entire structure of the proposed conceptual framework is appropriate to characterize the interrelationships of these latent variables.5 per cent of respondents educated up to high school.807 for brand antecedent are considerably high against the reliability level of 0. 3 Evaluation of the structural part of the model for the purpose of determining whether the conceptual relationships speciﬁed were indeed supported by the data. it integrates multiple standards of comparison into a single framework and ignites discussion on the middle-aged consumers’ conspicuous consumption. focusing on the relationships between the latent variables and their indicators for the purpose of determining validity of the measures used to represent the constructs of interest.5 per cent respondents with postgraduate degrees and 14.91 0. 10. The chisquare test (128. psychological antecedents and 30 Good ﬁt Good ﬁt Good ﬁt Good ﬁt . is analogous to coefﬁcient alpha and is calculated by the formula provided by Fornell and Larcker (1981).95 0. which has not been studied previously in details. relationships between the latent variables and their indicators were reviewed. three steps were undertaken: 1 Assessment of the whole model (i.026 128. Maximum likelihood estimation structural equations models (SEM) were applied to the covariance matrices. as evidenced by t-values in excess of 3.938 for psychological antecedent and 0. the indicators used to represent the latent variables of psychological antecedents and brand antecedents were considered valid.000. 1993).55 Good Good Good Good ﬁt ﬁt ﬁt ﬁt suggested by Anderson and Gerbing (1988).35).27) and root mean squared error of approximation (RMSEA) at 0. To test H1 to H2a-d two assessments of ﬁt were conducted: ﬁrstly. likewise. 54.050. Signiﬁcant relationships were discovered.99 255. both RMR (RMR ¼ 0:041) and SRMR (SRMR ¼ 0:026) are less than the corresponding critical value 0. measurement.72. For the purpose of testing these hypotheses. The properties of the variables in the proposed model were tested with a LISREL procedure (Joreskog and Sorbom.405 for the variable “interested in status” to 0. Discussion and implications Overall this study makes two major contributions to the literature related to conspicuous consumption: ﬁrstly.5 suggested by Fornell and Larcker (1981).865 and t-value 32.e.99 0.041 0.1 per cent respondents with graduate degrees.9 per cent respondents with professional degrees. assessment of the structural part of the model. The study was conducted to determine the relationships between conspicuous consumption. To assess the measurement model.8 per cent of the respondents had annual income of more than £75.040 0. First. the adequacy of the individual items and the composites were assessed by measures of reliability and validity.88. As a test of discriminant validity. More than 33 per cent of the respondents reported an annual income of £40. whereas the AVE ranged from 0.040 indicate that the overall model provides evidence of a reasonable ﬁt.000.90.
547 0. noticed by others.638 0. This coincides with the psychological antecedents where self concept related variables are seen to be highly inﬂuential.069 0. a LISREL model incorporating measurement and structural equation modelling was developed and tested. This phenomenon also provides an insight into how consumers want themselves to be seen while using conspicuous brands.719 Error variance 0.816 Indicator reliability 0. However. It can be inferred that consumers do 31 not want an explicit antecedent of status while consuming conspicuous brands. The data approve the hypotheses mentioned above. “symbol of success”. show who I am.281 Table IV Measurement for brand association and conspicuous consumption Constructs and indicators Brand symbolism Self-concept & brand-image congruency Brand familiarity Brand-aroused feelings Standardized loadings 0. symbol of success. It was conﬁrmed that conspicuous consumption is signiﬁcantly and positively inﬂuenced by psychological antecedents (gain respect. enhances my image (all H1)) and brand antecedents (brand symbolism (H2a).326 0.444 0. This will also assist in generating positive brand feelings and leading to strengthen the organizations’ share of market. Their communication targeted towards these consumers should strongly reﬂect the consumer’s psychological and brand antecedents. The strong inﬂuence of psychological antecedents is also reﬂected in brand antecedent scale.803 0.799 0.746 0. the ﬁndings related to brand familiarity appear to indicate that people do not have to be familiar with a brand in order to identify the brand as a status brand and to desire or be willing to conspicuously consume it. self-concept and brand-image congruency (H2b).943 0. Mercedes Benz M class.362 0. then status attributed and conspicuousness of consumption of the brand will not be affected. symbol of prestige. indicates achievements. From this ﬁnding we can predict that the consumer would have higher tendency to buy conspicuous brands which are targeted towards their actual self-concept rather than ideal or others self-concept.836 0.658 0.673 0. popularity. it is observed that the psychological antecedents and brand antecedents are a reliable contributor in inﬂuencing middle-aged consumers’ conspicuous consumption. achievement and conspicuous consumption.772 0.405 0. Looking through the above variables it can be argued that a product or brand is usually consumed by the middle-aged consumers as an instrument in improving self-concept and describes a particular image that represents how they wish to be perceived by others. It can also be observed that a consumer’s actual self-concept (how the consumer view him/herself) is a strong predictor for conspicuous consumption brands in comparison to others self-concept (how a consumer thinks others see him/her). It can be observed that self-concept and brand-image congruency as well as brand aroused feelings contribute highly towards brand antecedent for conspicuous consumption brands.971 0. It is suggested that automobile manufacturers should consider this in their branding strategy.334 brand antecedents. Therefore. The study also indicates that the consumers’ buying behaviour of conspicuous brands is affected strongly by personal factors (who am I. It was observed that the present communication strategy adopted by various automobile manufacturers of conspicuous brands focus on safety and security (BMW X5.821 0. enhance my image) instead of societal factors such as “gain respect” or “interested in status”.557 0. brand aroused feelings (H2d)).674 0.596 0.404 0.396 0. indicates wealth. mind and heart.164 0.848 Indicator reliability 0. The study also reveals that consumers associate conspicuous brands not only with wealth but also with achievement. (2002) and Trigg (2001) who theorised the relation between wealth.598 0.931 0.777 0.342 0. despite the lack of subjective knowledge held by a consumer towards a brand.634 0.811 0.443 0.453 0. to make such global evaluations. if they ﬁnd meaningful symbolic characteristics. “enhance my image”. brand familiarity (H2c).197 0.604 0. Lexus LS). In order to test the causal relationships between these variables. “Symbol of prestige”. and “who am I” are observed to be among the strongest contributors. car’s features and pleasure of . Consumers may recognise the brand name and image association but may not necessarily be familiar with or even consider other aspects of a brand. interested in status.402 0. if their self-concept is congruent with that of the brand’s image and if they have positive strong feelings towards the brand.965 0.666 Error variance 0.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 Table III Measurement for psychological association and conspicuous consumption Constructs and indicators Gain respect Popularity Noticed by others Who am I? Symbol of success Symbol of prestige Indicate wealth Indicate achievement Interested in status Enhance my image Standardized loadings 0. These ﬁndings provide empirical support to the discussion by Solomon et al.057 0. Moreover.
32 Integration of multiple standards of comparison into a single framework The second major contribution of the study is that it integrates multiple standards of comparisons namely psychological antecedent and brand antecedent into a single framework for an understudied context of middle-aged consumers’ conspicuous consumption behaviour. The study ﬁndings also provide further evidence on the “Bandwagon” and “Snob” effects where it can be observed that the uniqueness of a brand also affects the conspicuous consumption. Furthermore. the punchline of these brands: “The ultimate driving experience” for BMW. It is also observed that symbolic meaning of a brand and especially its attachment to prestige and success would provide the brand further leverage in the conspicuous consumption market.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 Figure 2 driving (Mercedes Benz E class and CLS. IS and LS). This also can be observed through brand familiarity as the least inﬂuencing variable among the brand antecedent scale variables. all reﬂect the technicalities of the products and did not focus on the psychological antecedents. Audi with its focus on “never follow” punchline provides some association through the overall communication strategy again focuses on the technicalities of the car. Mercedes M class. from the above ﬁndings of the study it can be suggested that if a company promotes its product or brand as a symbol of success or prestige and positions itself on the dimensions of achievement orientation it carries higher chances of convincing the middle-aged consumer in comparison to selling it on the proposition of status seeking behaviour. However. none of them clearly focused on the psychological antecedents that the consumers associate with these conspicuous brands. BMW 3 and 5 series. and “The Pursuit of Perfection” for Lexus. Lexus RX400h). For example. Recognition of impact of psychological and brand antecedent is important because it explains what factors a middle age consumer considers when purchasing conspicuous items. Lexus GS. Developing a meaningful symbolic emotional relationship of the product or brand . This shows that there is an interesting opportunity available for marketers of conspicuous brands to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. as well as technical superiority and performance (BMW Z3. “Unlike no other” for Mercedes Benz. S class and E class. However. none of the conspicuous brands really implement the same. As observed above.
(1987). Vol. pp. purchase intentions. 3. “Veblen effects in a theory of conspicuous consumption”.W.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 with the consumer would hold the key to their consumption of conspicuous items.K. M. Moreover. 4. The selected clients may be differentiated based on their own motivations by studying them further on the provided scale and identifying what factors would work most for them. For instance. (1987). and Malhotra. and Bernheim. E. practitioners would beneﬁt from instilling the core brand associations known to promote conspicuousness. N. B. 2. 58 No. D. Vol. The ﬁndings provide marketers an opportunity in differentiating their conspicuous brand in various market segments by ascertaining the consumer’s self-concept and developing brands that are consistent with the same. MI. these research ﬁndings provide reliable assistance to deal with the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption in the marketplace. L. it provides marketers of conspicuous brands with an interesting opportunity of marketing their brand in the middle-aged consumer segment which has high potential but is seldom studied. generalisations beyond this age group should be undertaken with some reservation.. J. 15 No. “Possessions and the extended self”. 3. prestige and the like.W. MA. The study can also be extended further to determine the variation in sales and other measurements of successful business practices by employing the above stated strategies. “Structural equation modeling in practice: a review and recommended two-step approach”. D. pp. “An integrated model of attitude and affect: theoretical foundation and an empirical investigation”. Vol. “Pricing of conspicuous goods: a competitive analysis of social effects”. References Agarwal. “Dimensions of consumer expertise”. Vol. and Gerbing. Amaldoss. and Hutchinson. 53-8. Journal of Consumer Research. Journal of Marketing Research. the ﬁndings should be approached with caution. R. “Alternative age measures: a research agenda”. (1988). 12. Based on these ﬁndings researchers and practitioners can predict psychological antecedents. S. (1985). the ﬁndings provide a new development in the area of researching into the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption as well as open discussion with regard to the middle-aged consumer segment and their consumption patterns. 1. From the study it can also be concluded that effects of psychological and brand antecedents on consumers’ conspicuous consumption will be different when examining different product and demographic target segments. 13 No. Association for Consumer Research.W. The ﬁndings are valuable from various viewpoints. As for automobile manufacturers the above stated variables could be employed to engage in the process of differentiation. 103 No. . The contribution of the study is important in the context of conspicuous consumption for several reasons. Assael. 86 No. Vol. Based on these limitations future research should extend this area of inquiry into other consumer segments. it also provides marketers with an insight into the speciﬁc category of automobiles in which psychological association variables contribute strongly to the cause of conspicuous consumption along with brand associations however has been underutilized in the present day communication strategy by the marketers. knowing that middle-aged consumers are driven by conspicuous consumption. 349-73. The automobile manufacturers can create a branding strategy which is based on brand’s symbolic meaning around prestige and success. 33 Limitations and future directions As the study was based on a single sector and single consumer segment. Communication efforts should accentuate value-expressive appeals and concepts such as achievement. and Holbrook. Ann Arbor. Vol. It also should be focused on personal rather than societal factors which would generate stronger brand associated feelings and would result in strengthening of brand’s as well organization’s position in the consumer minds as well as in the marketplace. brand preference and consumer attitudes for the conspicuous brands via the measure of self-concept and brand-image congruency. Anderson. J. Kent Publishing Co. 139-68. Journal of Consumer Research. Journal of Business Research. American Economic Review. H. (1988). and also focus on different cultures. different types of product categories and brands within them. W. rather than simply focusing on the brand’s utilitarian functions (O’Cass and Frost. (2005). 30-42. Focusing on consumer differences in relation to conspicuous consumption of speciﬁc brands could also beneﬁt by incorporating personality variables to help understand such behaviour in details. Belk. 42 No. In today’s ever changing marketplace. pp. 4. Vol. Barak. 411-23. (1996). Bagwell. and Gould. On the academic and research front. The strategy must also be providing a clear message which the consumers can strongly relate to with the brand image congruency. Rather than attempting to be all things to all consumer types. 411-54. Consumer Behavior and Marketing Action. The study of middle-aged consumers and their tendencies towards conspicuous consumption is relatively new and under-researched and therefore opportunities for future research are ample. (2005). pp. Organizations who deal with conspicuous consumption products/services would surely beneﬁt from such studies. pp. Boston. Alba. This study was limited to the South-East of the UK and could be replicated in other parts of the world to observe the similarities and differences among the consumers’ conspicuous consumption habits. the marketers may elect to meet the special needs of a select clientele. (Eds). Psychological Bulletin. 2002). Given the focus on middle-aged consumers. Advances in Consumer Research. in Hirschman. S. Ideally. On the managerial front. pp. and Jain. 483-93. J. J. One example of future research may include studying various other environments in terms of markets and industries that have already differentiated products offered for sale and/or selling environments along the identiﬁed dimensions of psychological and brand antecedents. the ﬁrst step automobile manufacturers (and even those organizations which are serving this segment) may want to take is to differentiate products offered for sale and/or selling environments along the identiﬁed dimensions of psychological and brand antecedents instead of the sheer focus on technically superior products or services. pp.
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It seems that making this statement crosses the generations. On this dimension. enhances my image. especially expensive things in a way that people notice. and . ´ (A precis of the article “Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers: psychological and brand antecedents”. Mercedes Benz and Lexus dealerships in East Sussex in the UK. . People may feel they need cars. However. brand symbolism. such as BMW. BMW’s “The ultimate driving experience” highlights performance. The big brands are spending a fortune on glossy promotion without hitting the spot in terms of the message. .g. A study conducted in the 1950s when language was simpler noticed the snobbishness effect and the need to jump on the bandwagon. Essentially if other people are getting them I want one too. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald. but something more signiﬁcant – an ongoing and sustainable pattern of purchasing behaviour. . When it comes to conspicuous consumption. buying behaviour is affected more by the personal factors – it says who I am. . until now. indicates wealth. the University of Brighton’s backyard. Understanding this is at the heart of addressing the missed opportunity. Bigger ticket items than a few clothes or a better mobile phone. although that has become contentious in this more environmentally aware age. gaining respect.) To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight. showing who I am. Well it’s mid-life. big ticket items. the greater the uniqueness of the product the higher the value ascribed to it – the more of them there are around the less they are deemed to be worth. and do better. It explains the factors that middle aged customers consider when making buying decisions for conspicuous products. It is an interesting and conﬂicting area to look at. the need to be different and the need to be the same once more. purchasing things. Yet to read the marketing literature you would hardly think so. The survey takes in customers of the BMW. young consumers are in a league of their own – or are they? For every youthful consumer there is a middle aged one with more money to spend who would rather like to be noticed too. brand aroused feelings. gaining respect. brand familiarity. . old fashioned status symbol the automobile. While their utility matters. Focusing on how consumers associate themselves with these brands holds the key to marketing them successfully. How we choose to make it is where there is room for difference. . self-concept and brand image congruency. noticed by others. . In western society a prestigious car bought by someone in middle age is often considered a “mid-life crisis”. With conspicuous consumption the drive for uniqueness is the key.Conspicuous consumption among middle age consumers Paurav Shukla Journal of Product & Brand Management Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2008 · 25 –36 abounds in examining their purchasing behaviour for items such as fashion accessories. The corresponding brand associations are: . They are out there spending their hard earned cash on big ticket items such as cars and houses. Lexus’ “The pursuit of perfection” reﬂects technical aspects of the vehicle.emeraldinsight. . Mercedes Benz and Lexus. Recognition of the impact of psychological and brand antecedent is important.com/reprints 36 . It leads us in to human emotions that pull in opposite directions – the need for uniqueness and the need for conformity. These are the factors to measure and the associations to stress. In a rare study by Dr Paurav Shukla of Brighton Business School in the UK examines consumer attitudes in relation to that good. The Irish management academic Ivor Kenny dubbed it “freedom and order”. It is emotion that will by and large determine the success of the sale. symbol of success. interested in status. There is a whole book in the subject. symbol of prestige. Big names not quite hitting the spot Automobiles are designed and built by engineers so perhaps we should not be too surprised when product and engineering features dominate the marketing messages. gaining popularity.com Or visit our web site for further details: www. But they also provide a great opportunity to say “this is who I am”. Those in the 40-60 age brackets are more likely to have a higher income and a better job – a career in fact. . the Shukla study reveals that there is more that they can do. big. Ivor Kenny wrote it. Marketing’s missed opportunity Coming to terms with conspicuous consumption among the middle aged is to begin to address marketing’s missed opportunity – although it’s tempting to assume that there are savvy car sales staff who know the emotions rather well already. mobile phones and other extensions of youthful statements of “this is who I am”. and . . The Brighton research integrates multiple standards into a single framework for comparison. and an opportunity to get the message right. The opportunity is there for the taking. automobiles also provide a great opportunity to display status. We are a contrary species! It does get slightly more straightforward however as with conspicuous brands. even for prestigious cars. personality and self-image. indicates achievement. opportunities that are being missed. it will enhance my image – than the societal factors – e. The psychological associations to measure are: .