«Access from the University of Nottingham repository: Copyright and reuse: The ...»
2.3.1 Fundamental motivation framework Conspicuous Consumption The consumption of luxuries has historically been seen as the preserve of a rich, selfindulgent, and small minority of individuals within society (Husic & Cicic, 2008). The earliest motivation for luxury consumption was discussed by Thorstein Veblen (1899) in his work ‘The Theory of the Leisure Class’. Veblen (1899) was writing in a period when extravagance in consumption was increasing rapidly in the US, particularly amongst the ‘noveau riche’ (Chaudhuri & Majumdar, 2006). He noted that in the late 19th century, status was viewed as a driving force in society, and that wealth was the primary indicator of status in the society. He pointed out that ‘it was not sufficient to possess wealth to acquire status, the wealth needed to be publicised’ (Veblen, 1899:5).
The consumption of luxury products was one mechanism for publicising wealth and status. Veblen (1899) described the phenomenon of ‘conspicuous consumption’: the ostentatious use of goods or services to indicate status to other societal members. The leisure class could obtain satisfaction from other people’s reactions and responses to the wealth that they displayed in consuming an expensive product conspicuously (Mason, 1981; Tynan et al., 2010). From this perspective, consumers are strongly motivated for creating/building a favourable social image through luxury purchases.
Godey et al., (2012) point out that under the meaning of ‘conspicuous consumption’ motivation, individuals use luxury brands to achieve two social strategies. Firstly, they use luxuries as ‘visible symbols’ to show their personal tastes (i.e. social salience);
secondly, luxuries products are also ‘icons’ representing specific social groups, therefore helping them to display or strengthen their membership of these groups (i.e.
social identification). On the other hand, Duesenberry (1949) recognises that an increasing in consumption may be necessary to maintain a social distance. Consumers might also purchase and use higher quality goods to join aspirational groups.
Although the notion of ‘conspicuous consumption’ is based on the U.S. consumer environment in 1900s, it is still relevant today as a starting-point and base for the modern literature on luxury (Corneo & Jeanne, 1997; Dittmar, 1994; O'Cass & Frost, 2002; Vigneron & Johnson, 1999, 2004), and might be applied to the Chinese market which is experiencing the rapid growth period similar to the American market environment during 1900s, upon which Veblen based his observation.
Veblen, Snob and Bandwagon Motivations The late half of the 1940s was a period of increasing wealth particularly in the US; this was also reflected in a Leibenstein’s (1950) influential article, which is still utilized as the basis for many discussions of luxury consumption in the modern context.
Liebenstein (1950) further developed Veblen’s concept of conspicuous consumption and status-seeking behaviour by labelling these as the 'Veblen' effect. He further identified two other effects called 'snob' and 'bandwagon' (Vigneron & Johnson, 1999;
Tynan et al., 2010).
Firstly, as addressed in the above sub-section, the ‘Veblen effect’ refers to the ostentatious use of goods or services to indicate status to other societal members (Veblen, 1899; Leibenstein, 1950), it implies a ‘status motivation’ that people try to symbolise their status through consumption. Secondly, ‘Snob’ buyers are motivated by the exclusivity, rarity and inaccessibility (to the mass) of luxury products (i.e.
uniqueness motivation). Consumers are usually motivated to buy luxury products based on wanting to feel superior and unique (Leibenstein, 1950; Mason, 1981, 1995;
Vigneron & Johnson, 1999). Thirdly, on the other hand, ‘Bandwagon’ effects occur as the individual’s motivation to fit in, or conform to the expectation of groups with whom he or she wishes to be associated (i.e. conformist motivation). The ‘bandwagon’ buyers are motivated to buy luxury products based on their willingness to feel accepted and belongings (Leibenstein, 1950; Mason, 1981, 1995). Leibenstein (1950) notes that the ‘Veblen’, ‘Snob’ and ‘Bandwagon’ motivations are non-functional and rely on luxuries’ external effects for utility. The three forms of motivation identified by Leibenstein (1950) came to dominate how motivation for the consumption of luxury products was conceptualized until the 1990s (Shukla and Purani, 2011).
It should be noted that Levy (1959) suggests the notion of ‘symbolic interactionism’, which is related to luxury consumption. Products are purchased not only for the functional attributes, but also their symbolic meanings, these symbolic attributes would then reflect the characteristics of the purchasers (Levy, 1959). He proposes that the motivations towards luxury consumption could also be explained in a symbolic interactionism perspective. For example, ‘Status motivation’ (Veblen, 1899; Keynes, 1936; Leibenstein, 1950) reflects a consumer’s desire to symbolise status through consumption. ‘Uniqueness motivation’ (Leibenstein, 1950) reflects people’s willingness to symbolise difference through consumption. ‘Conformist motivation’ (Duesenberry, 1949; Leibenstein, 1950) reflects one’s desire to symbolise social group belonging through consumption.
Framework of Interpersonal and Personal Motivations In a review of the literature relating to luxury consumption, the concepts of ‘Veblen’, ‘Snob’ and ‘Bandwagon’ effects are developed further by Vigneron and Johnson (1999, 2004), who classified these as interpersonal-oriented motivations. Drawing on the work of Dubois and Laurent (1994), Vigneron and Johnson (1999, 2004) argue that apart from the external influences, there are motives of an alternative ‘personal’ nature, from within the individual himself/herself. They identify two additional types of motivation for consuming luxuries: namely the ‘Perfectionist’ and ‘Hedonic’ luxury purchase motivations (Tynan et al., 2010). The former reflects a consumer’s desire to purchase a luxury product for its perceived functional value; and the latter indicates the consumer’s desire for the luxury product’s perceived hedonic value. Hedonic and perfectionist value can be categorised as personal or independent forms of motivation and are independent from the consumption preferences of others (Vigneron and Johnson, 1999, 2004).
‘Hedonic’ means that a consumer is motivated to purchase a luxury product because it produces positive emotions (Vigneron & Johnson, 1999).
‘Perfectionist’ refers to that the consumer concerns the quality or design of a luxury product (Vigneron & Johnson, 1999).
They propose a separation of the interpersonal and personal motivations for luxury consumption and conceptualised five basic categories of perceived values for luxury products accordingly as shown in the following table.
The framework/model proposed by Vigneron and Johnson (1999) illustrated above
includes the traditional interpersonal/social forms of motivation of luxury consumption:
Veblen value, snob value, and bandwagon value. It incorporates both interpersonal and personal motivations, providing a more holistic view than what has been previously conceptualised, which is seen as a significant advance in the academic literature of luxury consumption (Godey et al., 2012).
2.3.2 Further Studies on Luxury Purchasing Motivation In Vigneron and Johnson’s (2004) further related empirical research, they change the ‘bandwagon’ from the interpersonal to the personal to the personal motivation, while the ‘perfectionism’ is switched to the interpersonal motivation by considering the luxury purchasing behaviour of the global consumers (Vigneron & Johnson, 2004, as cited in Tynan et al., 2010). In addition, a number of researchers enrich the traditional framework of luxury purchasing motivations (e.g., Wong & Ahuvia, 1998; Vigeron & Johnson, 1999, 2004; Tsai, 2005; Wiedmann, Hennigs & Siebels, 2007). For example, Wong and Ahuvia (1998) are the first researchers to demonstrate that for some consumers, personal orientation (Hedonism and perfectionism) towards luxury brands was more important than the interpersonal orientation (Veblen, Snob and Bandwagon);
they are usually motivated by the utilitarian, emotional and symbolic dimensions of a luxury product when making purchasing decisions (Godey et al., 2012). By analysing the data collected from Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific, Tsai (2005) illustrates that personal motivations including self-directed pleasure, self-gift giving, congruity with the internal self, and quality assurance all contribute to consumers’ luxury purchase motivations, and influence their repurchase intentions.
Alternatively, Vickers and Renand (2003) suggest another approach to conceptualise consumer perceptions towards luxury goods, which also indicates an alternative framework of consumption motivations (Tynan et al., 2010). They argue that luxury goods satisfy the functional, experiential and symbolic interactive needs for consumers.
A consumer’s functional need is described as a response to an internally generated need, such as the need to perform a task well or the high quality requirement towards a product (Vickers and Renand, 2003). An experiential need refers to a consumer’s desire for sensory pleasure, entertainment, variety and other cognitive stimulation (e.g. beauty) (Vickers and Renand, 2003). A consumer’s symbolic interactive need means the product consumed should correspond with a consumer’s need for status, membership of a group and enhancement of the self (i.e. extended self) (Vickers and Renand, 2003). Vickers and Renand’s (2003) model of luxury consumption perception implies an alternative way to view consumers’ motivation of luxury purchase, that individuals could be motivated by the functional value, the experiential pleasure, and the symbolic effects of luxury products. The model provides a different perspective to view the luxury consumption motivations.
Wiedmann et al. (2007) argue that a customer’s value perception and the motivations for luxury consumption should not be simply restricted to the social (e.g., exhibiting status, success, distinction, uniqueness, etc.) and personal aspects (e.g., seeking entertainment, pleasure, way of life, etc.), but also depend on the functional and financial utilities of luxury products. They develop and extend the traditional framework (interpersonal and personal motivations) by putting forward a multidimensional model consist of four dimensions: functional, social, individual and financial value dimensions. Functional value means luxury goods’ value of usability, quality, longevity and uniqueness. As also explained Vigneron & Johnson (1999, 2004) previously, this dimension indicates that customers would purchase luxuries due to the nature of excellent quality, or try to portray their individuality (Nueno & Quelch, 1998).
Secondly, social value refers to the conspicuous (Veblen, 1899) and prestige value of luxury products, implying that consumers might be motivated to buy luxuries in order to show their wealth and social status (Wilcox et al., 2009). Thirdly, individual value (i.e.
self-identity value, hedonic value and materialistic value) (Wiedmann et al., 2007) implies that individuals purchase luxury products to realize self-identity or to obtain emotional/sensory pleasure. Finally, people could also be motivated by the high prices to exhibit their social standing (Bian & Forsythe, 2011). These four dimensions significantly influence consumers’ luxury value perception and their motivation consumption on an international level (Wiedmann et al., 2007).
The previous two sub-sections address the classical motivation themes including Veblen (conspicuous consumption), Snob, Bandwagon, hedonic and perfectionism motivations for luxury consumption, as well as further developments in alternatives proposed by other authors such as Vickers & Renand (2003), and Wiedmann et al (2007). However, Chaudhuri & Majumdar (2006) argue that these themes concentrate on how consumers perceive and value luxury products, rather than underlying motives towards their purchasing behaviours. Besides, the previous concepts are generally based on Westernfocused research; the traditional framework might not be applied to Asian countries due to substantial cultural differences. The literature argues that national-culture is a very significant and strong influence affecting people’s motivations for buying luxuries.
For example, Dubois and Duquesne (1993) emphasise that the culture and economic levels play a significant role in the luxury purchasing behaviour. Rolf-Seringhaus (2002) also supports this view by stating that the cultural variables affect individuals’ attitudes towards luxuries as much as personal views, noting the importance of considering cultural contribution to an individual’s luxury purchasing motivations. In addition, Wiednann, Hennigs and Siebels (2007) argue that, apart from interpersonal and personal motives, situational conditions should also been taken into consideration, when trying to investigate consumers’ luxury purchasing behaviour. Examples of the situational conditions could be economic, societal and political factors, which are all based on a national context.
Thus, several researchers (Dubois & Duquesne, 1993; Wong & Ahuvia, 1998; Danziger, 2005; Chadha & Husband, 2006; etc.) propose alternative frameworks relatively compatible to explore the motivations of luxury purchasing in Asian countries and compare the differences and similarities across cultures. The luxury purchasing motivations of Chinese and Japanese consumers are discussed below.
2.3.3 Specific motives in Chinese and Japanese Context Culture, as Hofstede (1991:5) explained, refers to ‘the collective mental programming of the people in an environment’. It contains the commonly shared values, attitudes, roles, beliefs by people in a region and during certain period (Mooji, 2004). Scholars such as Hofstede (1980, 1991) and Triandis (1995) underlined that as one dimension in distinguishing national cultures, the concept of individualism and collectivism could effectively explain the behavioural similarities and differences across different nations.
A nation’s individualist or collectivist orientation could then influence the types of value that people look for in products and services (Gao and Norton, 2009).