The motives behind consumer decisions to purchase luxury brands like Swarovski have been studied in a number of researches. The general findings of these studies have been that these motives are largely emotional, and that they are evolving as the composition of the luxury market segment changes. De Mooij (2005) defines emotion as an "interaction between cognition and physiology." The characteristics of emotion that or of greater concern to luxury brand managers are that emotions are learned and that they vary from culture to culture.
The mode of expression of emotion also varies by culture. In capitalistic societies, consumption has evolved into a unique mode of expression of self-satisfaction, self-esteem and self-pleasures. These buying motives shape the perceptions of various brands among consumers, along with brand loyalty and brand image. De Mooij (2005, p. 116) explains luxury brand buying motives in terms of collectivism/individualism and masculinity/feminism. Conformance may be the dominant buying motive in collectivistic societies such as the emerging Asian markets of China, Russia and India. Hence, the buying motive here may be the expression of status or social class.
This is an important point for Swarovski if it wants to enter the large markets for luxury goods in these countries. On the other hand, in individualistic societies, uniqueness is valued and so self-expression or self-pleasure may be an important buying motive for luxury brand consumers.
Kapferer (2008, p. 107) has also attempted to identify the buying motives for luxury brands on an individual level by segmenting the luxury consumer market into four categories. According to the degree of separation and the increasing magnitude of the distance with the general market that does not purchase luxury goods, these consumers are motivated primarily by the beauty and the high quality of the luxury product. Thus, for a Swarovski consumer falling into the first category, the buying motive is likely to be the superior quality and the elegance of the Swarovski crystal chandelier.
In the second category, Kapferer (2008, p. 107) places consumers who seek creativity and novelty. They are primarily motivated by the aesthetic and creative attributes of the Swarovski product. They may purchase a radically new design and may be the pioneers among the consumers. The third category of consumers is motivated by the timelessness and the reputation that the brand has earned over the years. These consumers are often termed as old money in common terms. The fourth category of consumers is perhaps motivated least by the functional aspects of the brand and is primarily interested in the scarcity or rarity of the brand. They may be wealthy collectors for whom the product may be a work of art or a valuable specimen.
Chevalier & Mazzalovo (2008, p. 172) help to further elaborate on the buying motives of individual luxury consumers. The buying motives are based on the characteristics of the recently wealthy classes such as the corporate executives and owners of Internet companies. They are motivated by a desire to seek self-improvement and self-elevation. They also seek to develop a distinct identity and stand out from the crowd. They are creative and are attracted towards novelty and a fusion of diverse ideas and styles. They are inspired by aesthetic beauty and seek to improve their appearance and their social status. The purchase of respected luxury brands is one way of signifying to the society and to their reference groups their rise in social status.
Luxury brands like Swarovski are seen to attract the attention of this segment because the brand has been able to successfully reach out to the desire of this segment to assert its individuality by providing designs that are trendy yet elegant. Chevalier & Mazzalovo (2008, p. 173) also make note of the prevalence of older buying motives such as the high price of the product or its rarity. However, these are not perceived to be as dominant as they once used to be and the luxury brands have adapted to this change successfully.
Kapferer (2012, p. 67) also identifies some of the distinctions between fashion, premium and luxury brands. He states that consumer demand for fashion brands is motivated by a desire to imitate and conform. In addition, fashion brands are transient and changes frequently. On the other hand, luxury brands are timeless and go beyond simply high quality and technological sophistication. Demand for them is motivated by a desire to elevate oneself in the social group and to reflect personal taste.
Along with the cultural and individual level buying motives identified above, Patrick & Hagtvedt (2009, p. 270) also distinguish between the buying motives of old money and new money. They recognize the social and economic factors as those that motivate the established wealthy classes to purchase luxury brands such as Swarovski. On the other hand, those who have come into money recently, also known as the nouveau riche, are primarily motivated by personal factors such as hedonism, the influence from others in the in-group, the desire to seek approval from the reference group, and so on (Patrick & Hagtvedt 2009, p. 271).
These motivations shape the perceptions and attitudes of these consumers towards the brand. These include perceptions of and attitudes towards the brand image, brand uniqueness, perceived extended self, and perceived aspirational value. These perceptions combine to shape the perception of overall brand quality and the subsequent decision to purchase the product. The consumers of the luxury brand Swarovski are likely to be motivated by a combination of these motives, with the implication that the Swarovski brand may need to develop emotional branding and an integrated marketing communication strategy to arouse the buying motives of these consumers.
The Role of Emotional Brand Engagement
The role of emotions in branding and purchase decisions by the consumer is highlighted in a study by Williamson (2002). He was among the more notable researchers who, in the beginning of the twenty-first century emphasized the importance of emotions in marketing research. This was an important development because during the 1990s, the emphasis in advertising and marketing was on sensory appeal, which Williamson (2002, p. 198) identifies as a lower-order state than emotion. He asserts that emotions also play an important role in purchasing decisions along with rational thinking.
He describes behaviours that may not be necessarily rational, e.g. instinctive, reflexive and repetitive behaviors. He also emphasizes that emotions may be distinguished on the basis of how they are experienced. Hence, he divides emotions into first, second and third order emotions on the basis of their primal, subconscious and conscious nature (pp. 196-198). His study also helps to distinguish emotions as a more complex and higher state compared with feelings. Emotions are described as having driving force and the power to affect individuals' moods and hence their decisions.
Okonkwo (2007, p. 87) substantiates the distinction between feelings and emotion made by Williamson (2002) when he discusses the ways in which a brand appeals to the emotion in trying to engage the consumer with the brand. Okonkwo states that the luxury brands make emotional appeals in addition to the sensory appeals to taste, smell and touch. He states that luxury brands stress the "aura and appeal" of the brand in trying to reach out to the consumer and engage their imagination. The Swarovski brand is also presented by the company as embodying "precision craftsmanship" (Swarovski 2010, p. 5) and "the highest level of quality" (Swarovski 2010, p. 13). Along with these functional aspects, the brand also embodies imaginative and subjective ideas such as "mysterious" and "captivating" (Swarovski 2010, p. 5). Okonkwo (2007, p. 87) states that such factors present a compelling and engaging message of the brand image and create a sense of "longing" in the minds of the consumer. This is because consumers believe that the brands they use reflect their personalities and so desire to achieve the sense of fulfillment of expression of the self. The aura and appeal are stored in the "memory bank" (Okonkwo 2007, p. 87) of the consumer and they seek the brand on their next visit to the retailer.
The crucial role played by emotion in consumer decision making has also been explored by other researchers. Heath (2009) has taken important steps in explaining how emotion and cognition interact when making purchase decisions. This can help to shed some light on how consumers make decisions over the Swarovski brand. The luxury market is driven by prestige value over the functional value. Therefore, rational cognitive thinking appears to be less important than subjective valuation of the brand.
Heath (2009) describes this as engagement as opposed to attention (p. 62). He states that when making consumer purchase decisions, the emotive content of the brand communication has a stronger effect on the purchase decision than the cognitive content. In fact, he goes further to propose that the purchase decision is made on the basis of the sub-conscious emotive content and the cognitive content or rational processing of information is simply a means of reinforcing the decision or counter arguing against…