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Defining luxury

Why buy luxury

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That Indians prize luxury for its social status is a well-known fact but a new study shows that a growing number are motivated by hedonism.


A Birkin may look and cost the same across luxury markets in the world, but the reason a French woman buys the bag is very different from why an Indian picks up one. What actually drives a person to pick up a luxury product? Is it hedonism? Is it social status or the quality of the product?

An international study done in collaboration with researchers across Europe, America, and Asia found that luxury buyers fell into four categories - The Luxury Lovers (these consumers believe that luxury goods are exclusive, guarantee their uniqueness and cannot be mass-produced ), The Status-Seeking Hedonists (these consumers focus on pleasure and less on the financial and functional values), The Satisfied Unpretentious (this group emphasizes quality over prestige and is less focused on impressing others), and lastly The Rational Functionalists (they value the substantive attributes and performance of a luxury brand more than the opinions of others). The study found that while the Germans put a premium on quality, the French prize exclusivity. Indians fell in the hedonist category behind the US and ahead of Japan and Brazil.

Jaehee Jung, a researcher at the University of Delaware and one of the authors of the study, says, "American consumers buy luxury goods mainly for hedonism (self-identity, self-satisfaction, pleasure) rather than to please others. In Western cultures where individualism is valued there is generally less pressure to fit into groups than in Eastern cultures where collectivism is valued and approval by groups is as important or more important than individual goals. "

Jung surveyed American college students, many of whom responded positively to statements such as "pleasure is all that matters".

Jung says she was surprised by the finding that consumers in India and Brazil showed high emphasis on the hedonistic aspects of luxury consumption like the US. "Consumers in India also showed high emphasis on the social value of luxury consumption, so it would be important to do further research with countries of emerging economies to better understand their consumer markets. India is a particularly interesting market to study given geographical, economical, and social diversity. "
What Jung refers to when she says "social value" of a product is that - Indian consumers state, "To me, my friends' perceptions of differand non-product attributes (e. g. , price, store image) should be carefully examined to synchronize with local perceptions and values. Companies should work on creating loyalty towards their brands for consumers in a specific country and it would be important to understand local cultural elements that would trigger the development of brand loyalty. If there is a strong tendency to look up to public figures or celebrities in a particular local market, then use of them in product marketing would be considered more favorably than in other countries where that's not the case. "

Defining luxury


A definition of a luxury product is not set in stone. Consumers in different countries/cultures have different cultural characteristics and these cultural characteristics are likely to influence consumer perceptions about luxury products. However, generally speaking, luxury products are high-priced items that often bear wellknown brands/designer names, which serve as a constructed idea and portray a certain lifestyle that the consumers desire to identify with. In contemporary society where there is no a clear indication of social stratification amongst individuals, consumers use commodities with designer labels as a means to classify themselves or distinguish themselves from other others. In other words, for some consumers, luxury brands are used as a symbolic device to express their identity.


- Jaehee Jung


ent luxury brands or products are important", whereas Spanish and Italian consumers are not concerned about what others think of them at all. They fall into the Satisfied Unpretentious category while the Germans were Rational Functionalists.
But what kind of implications does such segregation hold for luxury companies that are trying to break into nascent markets like India? Jung says that till now, luxury markets have been treated as homogenous. But she feels that localization of marketing strategies is necessary.

"Both product attributes (e. g. , design, color)

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