The market for luxury products has experienced a substantial growth ever since human beings became civilized. In fact, in the fiscal 2005, the consumption of luxury products reached its peak. This emerged due to the increased number of consumers who buy luxury goods, greater economic confidence and increase in the number of universal millionaires. However, given that luxury products are not purchased for individuals’ survival, why then do individuals and groups prefer the consumption of luxury brand products?
Initially, most luxury sales were made only to the rich or elite, but the trend has currently taken a new twist. Even the middle class now serves as a target market for luxury products. Keller (2009, p.296) currently believes that the future of luxury brands is bright. This could be attributed to fact that consumers are increasingly being exposed to the universal media which portrays Western lifestyles that are associated with yearn to purchase and consume high quality or status products. Thus, with the growth in individual’s disposable income, the global markets for luxury goods also grows as result of the increased demand for these products. Nonetheless, researches reveal diminutive literature on what drives the consumption of luxury brand products. The gap literature with respect to the consumption of luxury products leaves the following questions unanswered.
- As luxury become increasingly democratized, what role does culture play in driving luxury consumption?
- What cross-cultural distinctions and similarities are observed among consumers with regards to luxury consumption?
- What role has socio-psychological motives such as brand associations esteem indication, social gains and ostentation played historically and how will they shape the future luxury consumption in various developed and emerging markets?
It is a complex construct to explain the individuals’ consumption processes (Oswald 2010, p.416). The perception was simplified by Wan et al. (2009, p.190) who divided personal consumption into symbolic and economic views. Chen, Hung and Peng (2011, p.420) suggest that, with regard to economics, there are particular benefits that products offer. However, the author noted that products have attached symbolic meaning that is conceived to denote a similar gist across different product consumers. Christodoulides et al. (2009, p.397) further stated that the process of consuming only accrues when a product has been purchased and this is dependent on three factors namely the exposure to the product information, income and culture.
Consumers in different countries are exposed to different kinds of product information. Advertising for instance, influences the consumers’ behaviours as they yearn to imitate the role models and celebrities that televisions and other media sources broadcast. On the other hand, the luxury product purchasing preference of different consumers is reliant on the income (Mai & Tambyah 2011, p.91). Income according to Iain et al. (2012) materializes as a constraining factor that hinders individuals from purchasing luxury brand products given that such products are primarily produced to target the noble class of clients.
Oswald (2010) defined materialism as constituting of possessiveness, envy and generosity. Whereas the author did not directly mention status, he indicated that more luxury products are usually consumed by materialistic consumers. Consumers who purchase for status have the sole desire to buy products that possess the status requirements. Consumers who are materialistic in nature observe luxury products as an imperative aspect of their well-being (Wiedmann et al. 2009, p.629). Status consumers in contrast lay much emphasis on products which enhance their level of status and would wish consuming quality brands that are akin to their status (Truong 2010, p.657).
The media like television have programmes that portray materialistic characters as affluent human beings. The current generation and other personalities tend to imitate such perceptions in the real world. The cultural values acquired from media by consumers have attracted marketers to target individuals and groups with expensive luxury brand products (Teck-Yong & Bogaert 2010, p.59). The author further states that, the consumption of luxury brand products has increased because of the belief that they are linked with heroes and celebrities. However, there are various consumer motives that drive the consumption of luxury brand products (Phau, 2010, p.61).
Mai and Smith (2012) asserted that the demand for products is affected by the non-functional and functional motivational aspects. Products that have inherent qualities are perceived to have functional attributes while products that are demanded not on the basis of their qualities are regarded as non-functional. Based on Baker (2010, p.5) study, interpersonal effects play significant role towards the consumption of luxury brand products. Han et al. (2010, p.16) on the other hand use the concept of self-consciousness to denote the response of consumer’s social life influence as a motivating factor towards the consumption of luxury brand products. Neither of the above studies has acknowledged that culture also drives the consumption of luxury brand products (Jaehee & Dong 2011, p.61).
The human consumption behaviours are greatly affected by culture. In fact, Gistri, G et al. (2009, p.367) assert that linkages amid cultural individuals and the alterations in cultural boundaries ensue due to considerable change in mass communication, expanding network and increase in technology. A murkier cultural boundary vision is created as members of a given cultural group migrate to a different locale. The individuals bond with other groups and bring with them their interests, behaviours and values that are traded off. Such attributes tend to shape the luxury brand consumption (Eastman & Kevin 2011, p.16).
In a study conducted by Fionda and Moore (2009), is it noted that culture is amongst the many factors which significantly influence the consumption of luxury products. The cultural and traditional backgrounds of consumers influence their product consumptions. Nevertheless, the cultural theory namely the individualistic and collectivist that Phau and Cheong (2009) suggested are considered to be too simple. They fail to note how culture drives the consumption of luxury brand products. Phau (2010, p.61) only showed that individuals in the collective cultures are more concerned with self, other, group rights and social self.
Most studies have failed to deliberate on the cross-cultural consumption of luxury brands. Contrary to the prior studies, this research will have based on the role culture play in driving luxury consumption. It will also fill the literature gap on cross-cultural similarities and distinctions that are observed among consumers with regards to luxury consumption.
The choice of a research method depends on its strengths and weaknesses (Heine, 2010). For instance, the quantitative technique draws on the numerical value as it explains the research and solves the problem. The quantitative research method is basically important in the sense that it focuses on collecting data for numerical and statistical analysis (Baker 2010, p.5). Qualitative researchers however claim that when a study draws on quantitative data only, it might ignore the cultural and social variables of the info that has been acquired (Chen & Tsai 2010, p.450). Chen and Tsai (2010) further stated that a factor like attitude can hardly be expounded on using a sequence of numerical analytical research assumptions.
According to Chu and Huang (2010, p.130), the qualitative technique is a multi-method including interpretative and naturalistic research approaches. This implies that a research that is qualitative in nature will study events within their natural sets. The obtained data are descriptive complications, meanings and moments from personal experiences.
Since the study aims at exploring the cross cultural luxury brand consumption, it will focus on the motivating factors behind the consumers’ culture and behaviour towards buying and consuming the luxury brand products. Given that quite a number of consumers tend to purchase luxury brand products, the quantitative research technique will thus be more appropriate to assist in gathering data and other pertinent information from a larger sample size (Atwal & Williams 2009, p.339). Nevertheless, culture based research studies necessitates the participant’s views and opinions whereby the numerical data only might not depict a comprehensive indulgence. When qualitative method is used, it will assist in explaining the participants’ expressions in an expressive text set-up (Anonymous, 2010). This particular study will therefore use a mixed research method to help answer the research questions as explained in the diagram below.
The mixed research method will help the researcher to direct the collected data for analysis and to solve the research problems. The mixed method will also aid in bringing balance between the observed weaknesses in each research method. It will further help in addressing complex research questions and assist audiences in understanding the research information.
Data can be collected from interviews, questionnaires, data bases, internet or even mail. However, each of these data collection methods has its own conditions. The data collection method that is used will always be affected by the way the gathered info or data will be used. This particular research study will use both secondary and primary data.
To collect primary data from the luxury brand products consumers, electronic survey (e-mails) and face to face questionnaires will be used. The data collected through face to face questionnaire will help the researcher to fill the missing information and correct the misunderstood questions. The face to face administering of the research questionnaire will not be able to offer large quantities of study samples. The limitation of using face to face questionnaire to gather data will be overcome by using electronic survey method. This method does not however guarantee that the participants will respond to the research questionnaire (Coi 2009). Hence snow ball sampling will be used to distribute the research questionnaire. The technique will assist in administering the questionnaire online to conveniently reach the targeted research participants aged between 20 and 55 years. This age group is considered to be the mature luxury product consumers.
Since data will be collected from a larger population, the questionnaire method is deemed to be less expensive (Coi 2009, p.108). Besides, the electronic survey will reduce the amount of time needed to conduct the survey.
Relevant secondary information and data on cross cultural luxury brand consumption will be collected from books, articles and journals. Previous research studies conducted on this topic will also be obtained from databases such EDGAR, ProQuest and Emerald. Such data sources contain useful information on the cross cultural luxury brand markets and indicate researches that have already been conducted. News and magazines that contain information on luxury brand market and the cross cultural consumers’ behaviours will be drawn on.
After gathering the primary data through administering online and face to face questionnaires, content analysis and other statistical methods will be used to analyse the obtained data. According to Baek et al. (2010, p.631), the analysis of the obtained raw data using appropriate statistical method might help in generating valuable information. This will in turn assist an organization to gain competitive advantage as well as in its decision making process.
Microsoft excel will be used to analyse the inferential statistical data which will then be presented in graphs, pie charts and cross tables. Simply put, the collected data will be analysed through multiple regression techniques and exploratory factor analysis.
The researcher intends to test the following research hypotheses.
- H0 =with increasing democratization of luxury, culture plays a role in driving luxury consumption.
- H1 = with increasing democratization of luxury, culture does not play a role in driving luxury consumption.
- H0 = There are cross-cultural similarities and distinctions observed amongst consumers with regard to luxury consumption.
- H1 = There are no cross-cultural similarities and distinctions observed amongst consumers with regard to luxury consumption.
Most researches in the field of luxury brand consumption have empirically explored the correlation between the purchase intentions of luxury brand. There are no researches conducted to highlight the cross-cultural similarities and distinctions observed amongst consumers with regard to luxury consumption. Besides, with the increasing democratization of luxury, the role that culture plays in driving luxury consumption has not been well deliberated on. Therefore, the practical implication of this study is that it will provide novel empirical support to show whether culture plays a decisive role in driving luxury consumption. It will further shade light on the managerial and empirical comprehension of what luxury brand consumption entails. The findings will add to the already existing literature on luxury brand consumption.
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