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From this perspective, luxury brands may be desired be many consumers, but the more affluent are clearly more readily capable of such acquisitions, making them a natural target for luxury brands marketers.
Although there is a growing body of contemporary knowledge concerning the influence of self-perception and self-image on luxury brand purchases, the study of these issues is certainly not new. In fact, as early as 1899, Thorstein Veblen developed a theory according to which consumers use product prices as a means of ostentatiously displaying their wealth (Veblen 1899). Based on the inextricable relationship between the level of consumers' income and the type of goods and services they may desire, it would be reasonable to posit that highly affluent consumers would be a natural market for luxury brand marketers; however, the choice of luxury brands over other brands is a highly complex decision that take into account a wide range of personal and subjective factors that can compel consumers to select a luxury brand even if the price is more than they would like to pay (Kahle & Chiagouris 1999). While this much is known, there remains a paucity of timely and relevant studies concerning the influence, if it exists, of self-perception and self-image on consumers' choice of luxury fashion brands today. For instance, according to Fortunati, Katz and Riccini, "There is an intriguing unresolved question concerning the relationship between Luxury and Necessity. Are long-term users are of two types? The first type might be those who view it either as a necessity or as a luxury. The second type might be those who have a dual view, namely they embrace both qualities in their attitude -- seeing the technology as a 'luxurious necessity' (e.g., having a wristwatch but choosing a luxury brand)" (2003: 81). Knowing the difference between these motivational factors as they relate to the constructs of self-image and self-perception can therefore help marketers fine-tune their marketing messages.
Purpose of Study
The overarching purpose of this research is to examine the influence that self-perception and self-image have on the consumer in their choice of luxury fashion brands. It is the researcher's initial hypothesis that: self-perception and self-image have a very strong influence on consumers in their choice of luxury fashion brands. Therefore the aims of this research are:
1. To test and examine the hypothesis stated above for its validity.
2. If the hypothesis holds true, to measure how strong of an influence self-perception and self-image have on the consumer in their choice of luxury fashion brands.
3. Alternatively to show that the hypothesis is false.
4. To define self-perception and self-image.
5. To evaluate the concept of a 'luxury' fashion brand.
Importance of Study
This research will provide findings and conclusions that will benefit- and be of value to- the science of marketing, especially in the field of understanding consumers. Understanding the rationales and motives behind consumer buying preference, buying habits and purchase decision is of the utmost importance and significance to marketing. A deepened understanding of the influence of self-perception and self-image will help luxury fashion brands better identify their target market(s), understand their consumer's needs and wants
Rationale of Study
The literature regarding self-image and product-image congruity is stated in the work of Landon to have been "initiated by Levy (1959) and Gardner and Levy (1955)" (1974: 1) the first researcher to measure "the extent to which self-image is congruent with purchase" was Birdwell (1968) who concluded that "self-image was significantly more congruent with brand of car owned that with the seven other brands studied, using a semantic differential." (Landon 1974: 1) The work of Dolich (1969) is reported to have employed a semantic differential as well and found that there was a greater congruity between self-image and most preferred brand over all four product categories" and as well found that self-image was equally effective for most preferred brands of both social and private products." (Landon 1974: 1)
Overview of Study
This paper used a five-chapter format; chapter one introduced the topic under consideration, a statement of the problem, the purpose and importance of the study, as well as its scope and rationale. Chapter two provides a critical review of the relevant and peer-reviewed literature concerning luxury brands and consumer motivation, and chapter three presents the study's methodology, a description of the study approach, the data-gathering method and the database of study consulted. Chapter four is comprised of an analysis of the data developed during the research process and chapter five presents the study's conclusions, a summary of the research and salient recommendations.
Chapter Two: Review of the Literature
This chapter provides a review of the relevant literature to develop the background and an overview of luxury brands and the markets in which they compete, an analysis of the influence of self-perception on consumers' choice of luxury fashion brands, followed by a similar analysis of other factors that have been shown to contribute to consumers' choice of luxury fashion brands. A summary of the research concludes this chapter.
Background and Overview
The work of Weidman, Hennigs, and Siebels (2007) entitled: "Measuring Consumers' Luxury Value Perception: A Cross-Cultural Framework" states that in view of the dynamic growth in the luxury market and the availability of luxury goods to a wider range of consumers than ever before, the luxury market has transformed from its traditional conspicuous consumption model to a new experiential luxury sensibility marked by a change in the way consumers define luxury" (2007: 1). These authorities state as well that it is critical for luxury researchers and marketers in the global context to understand why consumers buy luxury, what they believe luxury is and how their perception of luxury value impacts their buying behavior." (Weidman, Hennigs, and Siebels 2007: 1) To illustrate the complexity of these perceptions, Weidman Hennigs, and Siebels state that "luxury' is a construct that is 'subjective and multidimensional' and that a definition of the concept of luxury should follow an integrative understanding" (2007: 1)
Luxury is defined in the work of Weidman, Hennigs, and Siebels as being "the highest level of prestigious brands encompassing several physical and psychological values" (2007: 1). In addition, Weidman, Hennigs, and Siebels (2007) state that luxury goods consumption involves ". . . purchasing a product that represents value to both the individual and their reference group. Referring to personal and interpersonal oriented perceptions of luxury, it is expected that different sets of consumers would have different perceptions of the luxury value for the same brands, and that the overall luxury value of a brand would integrate these perceptions from different perspectives" (2007: 1). Furthermore, if the luxury's overall level of value or brand is equally perceived across national borders then it is stated that a "differentiated measurements may reveal that the overall luxury value perception is a combination of different evaluations with regards to the subdimensions" (Weidman et al. 2007: 1). Not surprisingly, this differentiated perception of luxury value is stated to possibly rely on the cultural context and the people concerned" (Weidman et al. 2007: 1).
The work of Kapferer (1997) states that ". . . luxury is enlightening...Luxury items provide extra pleasure and flatter all senses at once . . .Luxury is the appendage of the ruling classes" (1997: 253). As to their utility, luxury goods are stated by Weidman et al. To "enable consumers to satisfy psychological and functional needs. Above all these benefits can be regarded as the main factor distinguishing luxury from non-luxury products or counterfeits" (2007: 1). By contrast, necessities are stated to be utilitarian objects that "relieve an unpleasant state of discomfort" while luxury items are "characterized as objects of desire that provide pleasure." (Weidman, Hennigs, and Siebels, 2007: 1)
The work of Nicole Stegemann entitled: "Unique Brand Extension Challenges for Luxury Brands" published in the Journal of Business & Economics Research states that many luxury brands "have a long history with their origin in France, and many luxury goods manufacturers such as Louis Vuitton, which celebrated its 150 anniversary in 2004 have been around for a long time" (2006: 1) According to Stegemann, consumers use luxury brands because of their desire to differentiate themselves by either: being part of this reference group or to separate themselves from other groups preferably to become part of a higher social class" (2006: 2). Stegemann additionally reports that there are three consumer segments as opposed to the original segments of the 'affluent' and the 'excluded' and that those three segments are:
1. The Elitists -- the traditional affluent segment;
2. The Excursionists -- representing the middle class that carefully and occasionally purchasing luxury goods; and,
3. The distance segment -- not interested in luxury at all. (Stegemann 2006: 2).
In addition, Stegemann relates that it was shown in…[continue]
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