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‘New and normal brands may just be popular for a short time, and then the values of their products would depreciate. However many luxury brands have long history and strong image reputation, therefore they would last longer than normal brands. The prices of luxury fashion brands increase every year, I think many people in China buy luxury fashion products such as a Chanel handbag for that they think the brand would last longer, and what they purchase would have a long-time value’ (Chinese respondent 5) Similarly, Japanese respondents also mentioned their concerns towards the quality value. Most of them indicate that high price of luxury fashion items could imply good quality, and therefore they could use the items for a relatively longer period. These views relate to the concept of ‘perceived quality’ value of luxury in the literature body, that consumers would associate luxury items with an excellent quality (Dubois & Laurent 1994, 1996; Wiedmann et al., 2007). In vegneron and Johnson’s (1999) proposed luxury purchasing motivation model, the ‘perfectionism’ also addresses that consumers could be motivated by the perceived high quality of luxury goods.
Style and Design Both Chinese and Japanese respondents believed that luxury fashion branded products are of superior style, sense of fashion, or classic design. They mentioned ‘Fashion and style’, ‘Classic’, ‘Design’, ‘Talented designer’ regarding to their motives of buying luxury fashion products. Chinese respondent 5 thought that ‘some luxury brands are creating art’. Two Japanese respondents also referred luxury goods as being ‘aesthetic’.
‘My favourite brand is McQueen, I appreciate the design of clothes, handbags, scarves and accessories. They are very beautiful and have a strong sense of personality. Although the prices are usually very high, I would still purchase things from McQueen because I like the design very much’. (Chinese respondent 8) ‘I think luxury fashion brands are usually of excellent design and style, therefore they might look better on me than other products, and therefore I would be more confident’. (Japanese respondent 2) ‘Many normal brands would imitate products from luxury brands, although they might look similar, it would still be different when wearing them, products from Prada, Dior, Chanel or other luxury brands are usually more stylish, classic and beautiful’. (Japanese respondent 8) These statements in viewing luxury fashion branded items show that both Chinese and Japanese respondents in the research value highly of the ‘style’ and ‘design’ feature of luxury fashion products. Besides, some Japanese respondents said luxury goods could usually ‘match many clothes’, ‘be used for work or other occasions’, showing their considerations of usability towards luxury purchasing.
Wiedmann et al (2007) incorporate the usability value in the functional-oriented motivation as one driver that influences consumers’ decisions towards luxury purchasing. It is argued that usability combines both the product’s features and the individual’s needs (Wiedmann et al., 2007), therefore, objective values of the product’s physical functions and subjective evaluations attached by individuals both contribute to the ‘usability’ value. With regards to the Respondents’ views, both Chinese and Japanese consumers expect the luxury items could be stylish, last long time and be used in many occasions.
Uniqueness and Exclusivity Some Chinese and Japanese respondents talked about the uniqueness of luxury fashion products. Uniqueness refers to the fact that as the high prices, only a few consumers can get access to these high-end products (Vigneron & Johnson, 1999). This feature makes them feel unique and exclusive. As Japanese respondent 5 said, ‘Unlike other brands, luxury brands won’t engage in mass production, they usually are of limited amounts…not everyone could have them’. This view represents consumers’ desire to be unique and exclusive. Through the consumption of luxury branded goods, which cannot be accessed by everyone, their desire could be realised and satisfied.
4.2.2 Social/Interpersonal-oriented motivation The second main theme ‘Social motivation’ conveys that Chinese and Japanese respondents were motivated by the interpersonal effects brought by consuming luxury fashion branded products. The focus of this theme is how other people are going to think or react to a luxury product (Vigneron & Johnson, 1999). As reviewed in literature, there are generally four aspects of interpersonal effects of luxury products: status and wealth displaying (Veblen, 1899; Leibenstein, 1950; Vigneron & Johnson, 1999), Prestige value motivation (Wiedmann et al., 2007), Uniqueness/distance from others motivation (Leibenstein, 1950; Vigneron & Johnson, 1999), and social group fit in (Leibenstein, 1950; Vigneron & Johnson, 1999). From Table 2 & 3, it can be seen that Chinese and Japanese respondents share three common effects in interpersonal motivation: Conspicuous Consumption, prestige value and social group conformity.
Chinese respondents had one distinct motive of ‘uniqueness’, that they sometimes tried to use the luxury fashion branded items to distance from other people.
Conspicuous Consumption Owning luxury products could signify the respondent’s relatively high status, wealth or success to others (Veblen, 1899). Chinese respondents used statements like ‘indicating high social status’, ‘showing to others that I am wealthy and can afford this brand’, ‘Flaunting’, ‘success symbols’, etc. and Japanese respondents mentioned ‘showing that I can take good care of myself’, ‘showing off wealth’ to describe the purchasing motives.
‘I think wearing luxury fashion branded items could help to present a person’s taste, status and wealth. I believe that most people would not spend 10,000 RMB (about £1,000) or 20,000 RMB to buy a handbag or a dress, she must have a certain level of economic ability, or her family has social status or wealth. Therefore, in my view people who wear luxuries must be rich, or have high social status. Otherwise who would spend 10,000 RMB to purchase a handbag?’ (Chinese respondent 6) ‘I don’t believe wearing luxury means I have higher social status or I am wealthy, but other people would think so. I think sometimes people want to show to others that they have brand stuff, like showing they are wealthy, successful, and could take good care of themselves’. (Japanese respondent 3) Although respondents from both nations agreed that ‘showing off’ was one important motive in purchasing luxuries, there were still few differences in their views. For example, most Chinese respondents emphasised that people wanted to show they had high status and good families, while only one Japanese interviewee talked about the ‘status’ displaying, and no one mentioned about ‘’good family’. Besides, Japanese respondents generally held the view that ‘showing off’ was just one reason that motivated consumers to buy luxuries, while most Chinese respondents believed that many Chinese consumers were motived mainly because of the luxuries’ ability to
indicating wealth and status:
‘I think many people in China would only care about whether the brand is popular or well-known, they follow the trend of buying famous luxury clothes and handbags, in order to let people know that they have money and can afford things from this brand’. (Chinese respondent 2) ‘Some of my friends may purchase luxury fashion products to show off, but it can only be one reason, cannot be the only reason’. (Japanese respondent 1) This finding supports the view in the literature that publicising wealth and status is one important motivation that drives consumers’ luxury purchasing behaviours. Both Chinese and Japanese respondents’ concentration on the conspicuous consumption can be explained by their underlying culture orientation examine in the literature review chapter. It is argued that as Asian cultures are mainly collectivism-oriented (Hofstede, 1980, 1991), therefore consumers in this culture orientation are primarily or mainly motivated by the social or interpersonal values conveyed by luxury goods (Wong and Ahuvia, 1998). As Asian cultures emphasises the status and socioeconomic hierarchy, therefore, Asian consumers are motived to buy luxuries as these items’ ability to indicate one’s wealth level and social ability (Doctoroff, 2005).
Prestige Value Consumers could be motivated by the high brand awareness and reputation of luxury fashion products (Wiedmann et al., 2007). They believed that luxury products could help them to create and enhance image to others such as wealth, success, taste, fashion, etc. Besides, people may want to get attention from other people by wearing luxury products. For instance, respondents from both countries said they were motivated by luxuries’ ‘brand image’, ‘reputation’, ‘ability to indicate good taste, impress others and get attention’, ‘brand recognition’, ‘high grade’, etc.
‘I used to buy a handbag from Louis Vuitton, in China, it’s popular and everybody knows it. In fact, I think I bought in just because it’s Louis Vuitton, I want to have a handbag from this brand, I feel confident having it’. (Chinese respondent 4) ‘Of course products of luxury brands are usually of good quality, but compared to middle-range or better products, the quality might be similar, only the brand image and reputation might not be that strong…For me, I buy luxury fashion products mostly because of the fame of the brand, I feel confident wearing them’. (Chinese respondent 6) ‘Brand, brand image, it will bring more satisfaction when it comes to brand’. (Japanese respondent 5) Social Group Conformity Participants from both China and Japan mentioned that the intention of ‘social group fit in’ was one influential factor in their purchasing behaviour. Chinese respondents indicated that their luxury purchasing decisions sometimes resulted as the influences from their friends and colleagues, such as ‘wanting to have discussion topic with
friends’, ‘following the trend’, or guilt around ‘have-nots’:
‘One of my friends has a pair of shoes from Chanel, then I would want shoes from Chanel as well. I mean, I know I would be influenced if most of my friends buy items from Celine, Prada, LV, Gucci, etc’. (Chinese respondent 7) ‘When I am alone, I don’t care whether I wear luxury stuff or not, but when I go out with friends or in social occasions, I would wear products from luxury brands, I could discuss with my friends about luxuries’. (Chinese respondent 4) These views towards luxury consumption imply the respondents’ desire to behave in accordance with the social groups they are currently in, or on a broader perspective, to behave correspondingly to the general social trends. These are linked to Leibenstein’s (1950) proposed term ‘bandwagon effect’: consumers desire certain product in order to follow others in their reference group who already own the product (Tynan et al., 2010).
This implies that consumers are motivated to purchase luxury goods to fit into current or upper societal groups (Leibenstein, 1950; Vigneron & Johnson, 1999, 2004;
Wiedmann et al., 2007). In addition, Wong and Ahuvia (1998) argued that in collectivist cultures such as China and Japan, people generally believe it is important to conform to their social groups. Therefore, if a group view luxury consumption as proper, individual members would try to keep up with the consumption patterns of the group by generating similar purchasing behaviours. However, although both Chinese and Japanese respondents addressed the influences of their social groups, the degree of conformity seemed to be different. Japanese, on the other hand, concentrated more on ‘pressure to fit into a group’. Iwabuchi (2001) notes that group afflation is very important in Japanese society. If one group ‘prescribes’ that owning luxuries are as socially proper, then the members would almost have to follow the ‘prescription’(Iwabuchi, 2001; Goy-Yamamoto, 2004). This could be acknowledged from
the following statement:
‘Sometimes there is pressure to get into a group. Owning products from a brand seems to be a way to fit into the group, because if you have items of certain luxury brands, it means that you are fashionable and maybe wealthy, people in this group might feel you are one of them. If you are already in a group that consuming luxury fashion branded goods, then there is pressure to buy more’. (Japanese respondent 6) It should be mentioned that while most Chinese respondents had similar views towards ‘group fit in’ effect, Japanese respondents tended to split their views of either concerning much towards group conformity, or not caring at all. As Japanese
respondent 4 and 1 expressed:
‘Many Japanese people want to look like the same like anybody else in the group, but at the same time have some differences. The differences should not be too distant…if you are too different, people in the group would think that you are no longer one of them’. (Japanese respondent 4) ‘To me, I never think in that way. I just consider whether I like it and if I can afford it. I do not want to be viewed as any certain kind of people…I do not want to follow what they are buying’.
(Japanese respondent 1) These distinct views indicate that some of the Japanese respondents consider fitting into social groups very importantly, and their desires to conform to the groups would strongly drive their luxury purchasing behaviours. On the other hand, some Japanese are more self-oriented and consider group fitting in as less important. The different views towards group conformity of Japanese consumers support Chadha and Husbang’s (2006) argument that many Japanese consumers today tend to express their individuality through their purchasing decisions.
Uniqueness (distance from other people) & Superiority Some Chinese respondents were motivated by the uniqueness character of luxury products. As the high prices of luxuries, only a few people could get access to these products. Consumers were motivated as the luxuries’ ability to help them keep distance or ‘distinguish’ from other people. For example, Chinese respondent 8 expressed that she would feel ‘having things that is unique and special’, that made her feel different from others. Furthermore, two respondents mentioned that luxury goods could make them feel superior through comparison, that they felt they had what others could not have.