2 Luxury consumption & Problem/issue framing
When it comes to analyse luxury consumption, some studies look at the brand, the marketing management applied and the role of the brand for the consumption of luxury goods (Deeter-Schmelz 2000, Phau & Prendergast 2000, Vickers & Renand 2003, Beverland 2004, Truong,
Simmons, McColl, & J. Kitchen 2008, Fionda & Moore 2009). Other researches focus instead on identifying the profile of the buyer and the reasons that pushed him to buy (Dubois & Duquesne
1993, Vigneron & Johnson 1999, Frost & OCass 2002, Wiedmann & Hennigs, 2007, Husic & Cicic 2009, Amatulli & Guido 2010).
Phau & Prendergast (2000) focused their study on the influence of brand awareness, purchase and dream value. Findings gave that the popularity of a brand can propel the dream value of the brand. This means that increasing awareness brings a higher level of brand preference that leads to a
stronger purchase intention. The conclusion clearly rejects the Rarity principle that requires a tightly controlled brand diffusion in order to enhance both exclusivity and prestige of the brand.
Similarly, Beverland (2004) following this model, created 6 dimensions necessary in order to have a strong brand identity, high brand awareness and perceived quality in order to retain sales and have loyal customers:
Value Driven emergence
Marketing & Endorsement
Although this framework can be important for companies to build a strong brand identity, this model assume that the consumer will understand our culture and history. Unfortunately, it is not something that can be taken for granted with market populations that have different cultures and attitudes toward luxury products. With todays market that is always more driven by Chinese mass consumption it became strictly necessary for companies to apply cross – cultural analysis of the different attitudes toward the concept of luxury and the values it represents (Dubois, Laurent,
Vigneron & Johnson (1999) assumed that there are 5 kinds of luxury consumers.
According to the study, the 5 different benefits delivered by the luxury purchase are, the perceived conspicuous value, perceived uniqueness, perceived social value, perceived emotional value, and perceived quality.
According to this categorization hedonist (seeking for emotional value) and perfectionist (seeking for the highest quality) customers are mainly interested on the use of the product, this means that when choosing a luxury item, they give priority to the perceived quality, the overall product characteristics and performance over the price. These consumers are sure of what they want, trust their own perception and price exists only as an ulterior confirmation of the quality.
On the other hand, we have customers that wants to gain status (Veblenian consumers), perceived uniqueness (Snob consumers) or social prestige (Bandwagon consumers). These peoples look for product sold by prestigious brands, and the prestige depends respectively from the capacity to impress, the limited supply and the effect transmitted to others during the use or of the product.
These 5 types of purchase benefits are also summed up in 2 main categories of reasons for luxury goods consumption:
External (Interpersonal, Social)
Internal (Personal, Reserved)
In the first case the consumer aim to affirm his status through the public display of the product (Frost & OCass 2002). In the second case the motivation is driven by emotions, the state of mind, and a subjective sensation and perception. The main difference between these two categories is that one is environment referenced (social ostentation, Status improvement) and the other is self-referenced (Self-perception, State of mind).
There are many studies that aims to find the right customer segmentations for each market, but most of the researches focus on a geographical, financial, and social segmentation. These are important factors that helps to define the type of customer but in order to reveal what really motivate the purchase of a luxury good it is necessary to know the personal values, the lifestyle and the attitude of that consumer. We find few studies that investigate these 3 dimensions, even though they are necessary to the companies that want to realize an effective marketing segmentation analysis. In order to investigate these 3 factors, it is necessary to go deep in the consumer mind to understand which values he is chasing when choosing a product. Here it comes the importance of the application of ladders interviews (Reynolds & Gutman 1988) aiming to explicit the path consumer
mind goes through when assessing the value of the product. Starting from a tangible or intangible product feature and ending with the final state of mind desired after the purchase. Luxury
companies, especially those operating in the European market that is always more Chinese driven have to identify the growing population target groups that are arising in the market and especially the perceptions they have toward luxury products and how their perceptions affect their buying intention.
When it comes to perceptions, we have to mention the study of Dubois, Laurent and Czellar (2001) performed on the perception of luxury customers in twenty different countries. The study found out 6 main features of luxury:
Although quality is the most basic but important feature it is not sufficient if not supported by other features as for example an outstanding service pre and post purchase that will be evaluated from the consumer as part of the Luxury experience.
Most of the features of luxury (design, quality, aesthetic, limited access etc) make products to be very expensive. Even if a high price in the luxury industry gives the perception of high quality, this may vary depending on the type of product.
A personal Story from the Past
The story behind of the brand or of the product in particular can be the reason why consumers purchase the product. In that moment the consumer accepts not to buy the product for a need satisfaction but for the wish to share the same values of the brand and be part of that story.
The line that separate luxury goods from the rest of the goods is that luxury goods are not essential to people to lead their lives. Luxury doesnt need to give a rational answer to functional necessity but rather inspire people to realize their dreams by providing positive emotions.
Aesthetic & Beauty
According to the study, Aesthetic and beauty are necessary features of luxury goods that leads to gratification and happiness of the buyer.
Rarity and Uniqueness
Exclusivity is the conceptual key to understand luxury. To create exclusivity, its necessary to have a high price but also perceived uniqueness and limited availability of the product.
However, during the analysis of the literature, only one consumer research (Amatulli, Guido 2010) was made with the use of the MEC model for investigating the factors behind Fashion Luxury purchase intention. Differently from other consumer researches this investigation was carried out on the market of Watches & Jewellery in Italy in order to bridge this gap in literature. The research was made in Italy that represents a mature market for the Luxury industry but that is facing some challenges in particular in the Watches & Jewellery segment (-2% CAGR 2019-2023 – Italy).
Contrary to the fashion luxury industry or the prestige cosmetics & fragrances industry, watches and jewels are goods where the functional benefits are hardly identifiable by the consumer. This segment is more affected by substitute markets (ex: phone for watches) and this means that marketers skills depends on their capacity to create an emotional bond between the product and the person.
3 Methodology description
3.1 Ladder Interviews
The Ladder interviews is a qualitative research that in this case was combined to a small survey to collect the socio-economic data of the persons that we later interviewed. One of the advantages of this method is that it provides precise data of what people believe and what are their motivations when doing something. The interviews usually starts with a simple and broad question like: What is the feature of this Rolex you like the most? , when the interviewed identified an attribute of the product that he liked the aim will be to discover the reason why that attribute is important for him. By constantly asking why the interviewed will be taken up the ladders step-by-step. It is important for the interviewer to get specifics at each ladder and to get a specific response. Its better to have a confirmation of the respondent thought before going to the next ladder. The aim is to arrive from a single attribute until the value that motivated that choice and when we find that value, we will start the same process for another product attribute. Obviously, the more constructs we will be able to find in consumer mind ant the more useful this study will be.
According to the means end model, we assume that the consumer knowledge over a product is hierarchically organized based on an increasing level of abstraction. According to Olson and Reynolds (1983), is possible to illustrate the relationship between the initially identified physical attribute and the desire end state thanks to a hierarchical value map.
Hierarchical Value Map
Attributes: A consumer may know the product based on the attributes of the product that can physical therefore tangible (ex: I buy a Ferrari for its strong V8 motor) or abstract attributes (ex: I buy a Ferrari for it appealing design)
Consequences: A consumer may know the product based on the personal consequences derived by the experience with the product that can be functional (ex: I buy a Ferrari because is a trustable car) or a psychological consequence (ex: I buy a Ferrari because I feel trendier)
Value: In the end consumer may know the product based on the personal values it satisfy that can be concrete, therefore instrumental value (ex: With this Ferrari I will save time when going to work) or abstract therefore terminal value (ex: To own a Ferrari is my childhood dream)
The research was conducted in Italy that is still one of the most developed markets for Luxury consumption. The choice of this location allows us to learn more about a market that is in a relatively slow growth contrary to other Europeans markets. The research was conducted on 20 people that were equally distributed among men and women with an age between 21- and 80-years old living in Italy that personally bought at least one luxury watch and one luxury jewel. The aim was to select a diversified research sample with respondents that had different socio-economic back
grounds. For this reason, before conducting the interview with the person it was asked to fill out a small questionnaire asking for some of the main socio-economic informations. The interviewer was asked to precise the gender, the age range, the educational level, the marital status, the net personal income in euros in a year and the occupation. The 20 respondents were selected from family and friends that were familiar with the segment market of luxury watches and jewellery.
In depth interviews were conducted with 20 people, 16 of which were conducted face to face and 4 conducted by phone and the average time spent for an interview was between 30 and 45 minutes. The interview started before with the analysis of the watch attribute(s) and then it followed with jewels attribute(s) (ring, collier, earring, etc). Before analysing the structure and results of the different interviews, lets analyse the observed data from the questionnaire