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The Behavior of the Young Toward Luxury Brand

Introduction

The consumption process is a learning experience that affects and is affected by perception. Perception influences the selection and interpretation of marketing information, symbols, and products. Because it affects the expectations of potential results from various customer choices, it is a significant factor in individual and group reaction. In essence, perception determines how marketing reality is interpreted and thereby influences the consumer. Buying runs the gamut from habitual, routine purchases, which involve little planning, to such purchases as houses and automobiles, which require deliberation and evaluation over a considerable period of time; from purchases initiated by the buyer to those initiated by the seller; from purchases where powerful, logical, and rational motives exist as in some industrial situations, to purchases where more emotional motives are the dominant force, as in such consumer goods as perfumes. The reasons for making purchases vary among buyers. Such features as status symbols, prestige, utility, economy, price, service, and warranties may appeal to different segments of the market. When the physiological and safety needs are well gratified, the love needs, including affection and belongingness, emerge (Hilliard, 2003). These needs will be keenly felt as never before. People will hunger for affectionate relations with other people — for a place in various societal groups. As a result, different status groups and symbols emerge as a means of satisfying such needs

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Case Summary

The case study suggests that all behavior related to luxury items is deemed to be directly or indirectly motivated by such needs as sex, hunger, and thirst. This approach was taken by critics (Kotler and Armstrong 2005) when buyer behavior was viewed in a problem-solving context. Here the buyer is analyzed on the basis of the specific needs he wishes to satisfy. These needs generate tensions within the individual, which can be reduced through the consumption of goods and services. Needs satisfaction constructs, vector analysis, and cognitive dissonance typify the psychological approaches developed to explain this aspect of buyer behavior. According to behavior-primacy theory, the primacy drive is the tendency to deal with the environment. The case study shows that general behavior is determined by the environmental opportunities, and the interaction of a consumer’s or company’s capacity with the environment will generate specific interests. People become absorbed in and motivated by dealing with environments. In marketing, this theory has received considerable emphasis, as in the marketing concept and the systems approach, which stress adaptation to environments so that company goals may be achieved. (Gale, 2002).

Physiological needs are considered the most prepotent of all. For instance, people who are hungry will be dominated by physiological needs and will not be concerned with other needs (Gale, 2002). All other needs are either pushed into the background or become nonexistent. After seeking physiological satisfaction, the buyer becomes a safety-seeking mechanism. Modern society makes people feel secure from criminals, assault, tyranny, fire, and animals. People satisfy safety needs through such devices as savings accounts, insurance of various types, pension plans, healthful foods, proper refrigeration, automobile accessories, and packaging (Gale, 2002; Hollensen, 2007). Linking this approach with economic theory, critics see that price changes or advertising might not bring about the same response from all consumers. Consumers would react in accordance with their perception of the change. Thus, the concept of intervening variables explains that marketing action does not affect all consumers in a simple or direct manner. The nature and makeup of intervening variables change through time because individuals expand their experiences and learn. Given the same stimuli, individual consumers may react differently at different periods of time. The manner in which consumers perceive, understand, and interpret various stimuli and react to them differs in each individual (Solomon and Bamossy, 2001). The case study shows that buyers of luxury items are perpetually in want. The average buyer is only partially satisfied with respect to his vast and continuous array of needs. Usually multiple motivations exist for behavior, and the satisfaction of one need to the exclusion of others is the exceptional situation. In an economy of abundance, furthermore, other determinants besides motives influence behavior of young consumers.

Theories of Buyer Behavior

Motivation as a part of Buyer Behavior

Motivation, though important to luxury items consumption and helpful in explaining consumer reactions, need not be the only governing force. refers to only one means by which behavior is initiated or aroused. Some behavioral reactions are not motivated in the ordinary sense of seeking need gratifications. Motivation may be described as the stimulus, inducement, purpose, or want behind an action. The research data shows that rationality depends on what a buyer thinks and feels. If he acts to achieve his objectives effectively, his behavior is rational regardless of what manufacturers, retailers, or social critics might believe (Drejer, 2002). Rationality applies self-approved reasons for purchasing or not purchasing — those that the buyer feels to be right and reasonable because they are in line with his own expectations and image of himself. Not all rational motives are economic, utilitarian, or tangible. For example, the desire to have well-styled clothing, good design in furniture, or tasty food may not be economic or utilitarian. Such a desire may, however, be rational. Therefore, what might appear to a market analyst to be an irrational purchase motive because the purchase is psychologically based may be a perfectly rational motive to the consumers concerned. Buying behavior is rational if the purchases have been approved by the buyer, who acts to satisfy his physical or psychological needs, even are not readily apparent to researchers. Purchase reaction that is geared to satisfy such needs as the need for affiliation, the need (Bearden et al 2004).

Theories of motivation should take environmental and situational aspects into account. Cultural situations vary greatly, as does related buyer behavior. Yet, findings of anthropological research indicate that the fundamental or ultimate desires of human beings, regardless of their cultures, do not differ as much as their conscious everyday desires. Different cultures, of course, have varying ways of satisfying a particular desire. For instance, self-esteem is probably a universal drive or motivating force, but the method of achieving self-esteem will vary among cultures and will be reflected in buyer and consumer behavior. From motivation research, People have learned that there are methods to help find out why a customer buys, and to uncover the hidden motives and drives that impel him to act. Such techniques shed light on the impact of psychology and psychoanalysis on marketing activity. Motivation research tends to disclose the psychological basis for her choice, which is certainly not the most economic course (Fill, 1999).

Maslow has postulated a theory of meta motives. It states that self-actualizing people, having gratified their basic needs, are motivated in other ways. They become devoted to tasks “outside themselves,” to tasks that embody intrinsic values. At this level the self is enlarged to include other aspects of the world, “pay” requires a higher level of definition, and inner requiredness corresponds with external requiredness (Kotler and Armstrong 2005). Buyers of luxury items do not react automatically to marketing stimuli. Because an individual has been exposed to advertising does not mean that he will purchase the advertised product. The mechanistic stimulus-response model does not account for a buyer’s behavior. In buying luxury products and brands, stimulus-response theory, in which the cause for action arises from stimuli in the external environment, has been modified by theories of intervening variables. The latter introduce intermediate organizing variables between stimuli and responses. In the behavioristic school of psychology, consumer behavior is seen as a function of how an individual perceives external stimuli, and the concept of intervening variables, that something intervenes between a stimulus and a response, assumes importance (Woodruff and Gardial 1996). Part of the psychological experience of the buyer’s intervening variables provides a frame of reference for interpreting stimuli and acts as internal organizing processes. Hence researchers see stimuli reacting on assumptions, prejudices, attitudes, beliefs, motivations, and emotions. From this process, overt behavior results. Although the stimulus may be the same for various consumers, overt behavior varies because of the intervening variables that differentially affect each consumer’s internal psychological frame of reference (Valadkhani, 2006).

Economic and Social Environment

Aspirations and expectations are linked directly to consumer motivation, behavior, and achievement. Indeed, the desire to achieve is a strong factor in economic accomplishment. The desire for achievement does not wane. Needs and wants proliferate continuously. The major portion of this increase may arise from learned as distinguished from biophysical needs. Markets are dynamic, and saturation does not automatically occur. When consumers achieve their purchase goals such as two automobiles, a color television set, and a washer-dryer, they are confronted with new sets of learned needs (Schaefer, 2006).

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Applied to young consumers, aspirations are affected by the probability or possibility of attaining an objective. They consciously strive to do only that which might conceivably be attained. If attainment is impossible, little or no motivation exists of living, for example, swimming pools, television sets, automobiles, refrigerators, and freezers are desired by most Americans since they are attainable. Consumers become motivated to amass the resources to make such purchases. On the other hand, helicopters and yachts, since they are still financially out of reach of most, are really not “wanted” by most. In marketing situations consumers appear to adjust their levels of aspiration. With an increase in income and achievement of certain objectives, they seem desirous of moving up to higher levels of consumption. Often they exceed the income levels they had originally anticipated. Then, having shifted their levels of aspiration upward, they become dissatisfied with their products and environments. New learned needs become important, and an upward adjustment in goals occurs that continues as higher incomes are realized (Perreault et al 2003).

Luxury products consumers readily aspire to new products and replace those that are still functioning properly. Their dissatisfaction has nothing to do with the product’s utility; it is simply socially and psychologically engendered. Often design, color, or styling may be sufficient to prompt the desire to change products. Consumer optimism and pessimism have an impact on aspirations, expectations, and consumption. Consumers plan their purchases on the basis of an expected environment. Any perception of change in the environment has a significant impact on purchase decisions If consumer expectations are negative and decreasing income is anticipated, or if unexpected adverse conditions prevail, sharp changes may occur in expenditure patterns. Expectations of strikes, changes in tax patterns, and salary or wage raises have a significant role in the allocation of discretionary income (Saxen et al. 2002).

Luxury brands consumers (both females and males) develop images of products, brands, stores, prices, and advertisements, which directly influence purchase behavior and consumption. The image is a representation in the brain of some sensory experience received from a variety of sources, including advertising, salesmen, packaging, price, retailers, and opinions. The impact of brand images on consumption has been investigated. Consumers of a brand perceive themselves differently from nonconsumers, and also perceive their brand as different from others Product imagery is closely related to brand imagery, and brand names are often chosen to help elicit a desired product image (Quester et al 2007). Research has shown that prunes carry the image of being dried out, worn out, wrinkled, ugly, old-aged things used only as laxatives, and are a plebeian symbol without prestige Consumers also hold images of institutions. Images of retail-store characteristics or personalities affect shopping behavior. Sensory impressions result in consumers’ attributing distinct personality characteristics to retail units. Some stores reflect the bargain basement, discount atmosphere, whereas others reflect an atmosphere of elegance, luxury, affluence, and sophistication. The store image stems from such diverse factors as advertisements, sales personnel, merchandise, services, pricing strategies, physical plant, and layout. Research findings seem to indicate that consumers choose to shop at stores and purchase brands consistent with their own personalities (Parker, 2000).

Even where consumers have no contact with retail units, they can project an image of the store based on the store’s advertising. Luxury brands consumers visualize the type of treatment they will receive in various retail stores and attribute positive or negative personalities to the outlet. Customers try to determine whether they belong in a store or not, and this relates directly to their store image. Consumers hold different images of institutions in allied areas. Banks are viewed as conservative, reputable, respectable, solid, and trustworthy. They are tied to the image of the wealthier members of the community. Savings and loan associations appear to have a different image. They are associated with people in the lower classes who refer to them as friendly institutions. This image may be closer to their identification and life styles than the staid, conservative bank (Kozup et al 2008).

Self-Image and Luxury Brands

There are four perceptions related to the concept of self — the person as he actually is, as he thinks he is, as others think he is, and as he thinks others think he is. In understanding buyer behavior, the most important perception is the image of what is, the image of reality, rather than what actually is. A direct link exists between corporate concern with company and brand images and consumer concern with the self. Whereas corporations react to enhance the former, consumers act in an effort to embellish the self. Therefore, the greater the consistency and parallelism are among product image, store image, and desired consumer self-image, the more likely it is that favorable purchase reaction will occur. Maintenance of the self is a basic preoccupation of consumers. The self-image concept refers to what each individual sees in himself — his perceptions. The consumer perceives his “true environment” as affording opportunities or restricting his actions and development, either of which affects his self-image. Within his phenomenal field, he attempts to satisfy his needs and achieve his goals, including the important goal of maintaining and extending a favorable self-image. The consumer seems to accept those experiences and opportunities that are deemed favorable to his self-image and to reject, alter, and ignore those that are not (Kotler and Keller 2005). Man’s vital energies are directed to enhancing the phenomenal self rather than the physical self. Self-image is a function of societal norms. Group membership and group belonging relate directly to self-esteem and favorable self-image; acceptance and the grant of status by various organizations embellish the phenomenal self. The ability of groups to foster the development of more favorable self-images encourages belonging; the ability of products, symbols, services, communications, and other aspects of the marketing program to enhance the self-image encourages consumption behavior (Deci, 2000). One of the bases for understanding consumer behavior in its psychological and sociological dimensions, the self-image concept adds an important perspective to economic theories of consumption and is directly related to motivation. Three components of the self-image may be distinguished: the ideal self, the actual self, the believed self. The ideal self-image refers to the image an individual would like to have. The actual self-image refers to the real image that exists; this image involves the assessment of others. The believed self-image is the image that the individual has of himself. Marketing programs should take into account a person’s ideal and believed self-images, and help him move from the latter to the former through such factors as product, brand, and advertising (Solomon and Bamossy 2003).

Psychological Influences and Social Status

Since most luxury brands consumers lack inherited social status, they endeavor to acquire it through purchasing power. They purchase items that portray the proper symbols. Whereas most appropriate symbols are those that coincide with the ideal self-image, symbolism is related to the self-image concept. Symbols of dress, taste, and general life style are highly prized. Not copious consumption, therefore, but the manner of consumption confers prestige and status. As concepts, conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure become symbols of the quality of life. Cognitive dissonance refers to this relationship among an individual’s cognitions. The theory of cognitive dissonance postulates that people are confronted with dissonance when they know of some idea or product advantage while having cognitive preference for another idea or product (Saxen et al. 2002). A consumer may realize, for instance, that she is very wealthy and a member of the upper social stratum, but that she is among the last to adopt new styles. In general, these two cognitions do not fit — they are dissonant. For some young people, purchases may be regarded as a means of overcoming dissonance or reducing tensions. Consider the situation in which the male head of a large family wishes to purchase a sports car. He recognizes the status accorded sports car owners — the image of the sportsman and bon vivant. At the same time, he realizes that, for a family man, the purchase of a sports car may be a rather selfish, self-indulgent act. Hence, cognitive dissonance exists. Perhaps by stressing rational appeals and furnishing “the logic for purchasing sports cars,” advertising and selling can help the consumer overcome the dissonance and provide a sale. Among the factors that affected dissonance are attractiveness of rejected alternatives, negative factors in chosen alternatives, a large number of alternatives, similarity of choices, action discrepant with previous purchasing patterns, and lack of product knowledge. Consumption experience is itself a learning process. Past buying decisions and choices give an individual good information on possible outcomes. Even the perceptions of various goods are subjected to change on the basis of experience and influence future actions and concepts. Most psychological theories concerned with learning, however, focus on rather simple situations. Many deal with rats and learning in a maze. Consumer behavior is more complex (Solomon and Bamossy 001).

For luxury brands, psychological influences play an important role in purchase decisions, because willingness to buy — a significant component of demand — is dependent on more than income. While research findings may not establish unequivocally why purchasers react as they do, the insights, tendencies, and perspectives offered by behavioral scientists are helpful. Particularly valuable are the psychological theories and concepts relevant to personalities, wants, needs, motivations, perceptions, attitudes, opinions, expectations, aspirations, security levels, and images. Buyer motivation, a key component of consumption, is the stimulus inducement or purpose in a certain desire. Its energizers are drives, including the visceral, activity, aesthetic, and emotional drives. Two different theories of human motivation are need primacy and behavior primacy. The hierarchy of motives (needs), a positive theory of human motivation, explains motivation in terms of prepotency of motives -psychological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualization. Mechanistic stimulus-response theory should take into consideration the significant impact of intervening variables (Woodruff and Gardial 1996). Concepts of aspiration levels, images, cognition, and vector analysis add to our understanding of human behavior. People seem to aspire to goals that might be attained — that are just outside their immediate grasp. Once goals are achieved, higher aspiration levels spring up. Purchasers experience brand, product, price, quality, company, and store images. They are particularly concerned with their own self-images — actual and desired. Cognitive dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, can be a powerful motivating force. Some purchase behavior, particularly post-decisional activities, may be explained in terms of reducing dissonance. Vector psychology accounts for behavior on the basis of balancing positive and negative valences, and changes in demand are seen as the result of shifts in vectors (Valadkhani, 2006).

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The tendency toward other-direction and conformity by societies as they progress and develop into industrial, urban complexes has profound implications for marketing. Marketing programs, and promotional activities in particular, become more concerned with affecting group leaders, and with understanding groups and their values, to shape the direction of consumers. This does not mean that advertising, merchandising, sales promotion, and selling will be able to mold consumers and automatically induce favorable reactions. It does mean that products and services should be brought into line with the other-directed influences. It does imply considerable consumption conformity. In one sense, ours is an age of mass conformity (Schaefer, 2006).

Conclusion

The research analysis of students who buy luxury items and brands shows that these consumers throughout our vast and varied country purchase similar products from similar companies and retail stores in the same manner. They read similar magazines and watch the same television programs. They live in similar types of houses located in similar urban and suburban communities. Their life styles from coast to for businesses trying to meet the demands of our pattern of life. Sociological factors coast and border to border are much the same. A feeling of group acceptance, belonging, and conformity, permanent. Society has a way of getting consumers to conform and make approved purchases. Group pressures are effective. Life style (the distinctive or characteristic mode of living), which is the result of such forces as culture, values, resources, symbols, license, sanction, mobility, leisure, social class, life cycle, status, conformity, mass, and the family, affects purchases. Luxury products are purchased not only for inherent functional benefits but also for social utilities. Items selected are usually similar to those bought by other members of “the group”, both physical and reference groups. Group leaders, influentials, and gatekeepers are often responsible for the acceptance of products by others.Social class, the classification of groups of consumers on the basis of class standing, helps achieve an understanding of buyer reactions. Social position depends on how income is derived, education, family lineage, and type of house and dwelling area — not on money alone. The orientation and life-style outlook of each of the classes differs from members of other strata. Societies engender conformity and shape social character in different ways. Some are tradition directed and others are inner directed, but ours is largely other directed. People pay close attention to the signals received from others, friends and mass media. Our society also has the permanent traits of innovation, change, mobility, and movement. As a result, the tendency to conformity is tempered by dynamism and change. Marketing analysts should be well aware of the significance of sociological factors; they have been described as sociographics. Predictions of them give indications of the dimensions of future markets.

List of References

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Drejer, A. 2002, Strategic Management and Core Competencies: Theory and Application. Quorum Books.

Fill, C. 1999, Marketing Communication: Contexts, Contents, and Strategies 2 edn. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Gale, Bradley T. 2002. Managing Customer Value: Creating Quality and Service That Customers Can See, New York: The Free Press.

Hilliard, A.L. 2003. The Forms of Value: The Extension of Hedonistic Axiology, New York: Columbia University Press.

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Hollensen, S. 2007, Global Marketing: A Decision-Oriented Approach. Financial Times/ Prentice Hall; 4 edition.

Kotler, Ph., Armstrong, G. 2005, Principles of Marketing. Prentice Hall; 11th edition.

Kotler, Ph, Keller, K. 2005, Marketing Management. Prentice Hall.

Kozup, J., Howlett, E. Pagano, M. 2008. The Effects of Summary Information on Consumer Perceptions of Mutual Fund Characteristics. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 42 (1), 37.

Parker, Dewitt H. 2000. The Philosophy of Value, Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Quester, P. G., Neal, C. M., Pettigrew, S., Grimmer, M., David, T. and Hawkins, D. 2007. Consumer behaviour: Implications for marketing strategy (5th Edition). Sydney: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Saxen, A. et al. 2002. Understanding Consumer Navigation Behaviour. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 11 (1), 403.

Perreault, W.D., Cannon, J.P., McCarthy, E.J. 2003, Marketing: Principles and Perspectives. McGraw-Hill/Irwin; 4 edition.

Schaefer, A. 2006. An Introduction to Marketing in Business. Open University Worldwide.

Solomon, M., Bamossy, G. 2001. Consumer behavior A European Perspective 2nd edition. FT Press

Valadkhani, A. 2006. Goods and Services Tax Effects on Goods and Services Included in the Consumer Price Index Basket. Economic Record, 81 (253-1), 104.

Woodruff, R. B. and Gardial, S. F. 1996. Know Your Customer: New Approaches to Understanding Customer Value and Satisfaction, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

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