From Love to Rebuff: How Culture Shapes the Perception of Luxury Goods Among Consumers

From Love to Rebuff: How Culture Shapes the Perception of Luxury Goods Among Consumers

Beata Stępień (Poznan University of Economics, Poland) and Michael Hinner (Technische Universitat Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2727-5.ch002


The aim of this chapter is to discuss the grounds for country differences in the customers' attitudes towards luxury goods. The basis for this discussion are the Social Identity, Communication Accommodation, Expectancy-Value Theory, Theory of Reasoned Action and Expectation Confirmation Theory, attitudes, and attitude formation. We compare other empirical research on consumers' value perception (CVP) in the luxury sector and the results of our own international e-survey conducted in 5 countries (Germany, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Turkey). By comparing opposite market segments, i.e., the stand-outs and the prestige-seekers as well as groups of luxury lovers with luxury opponents we look for grounds of divergent attitudes towards luxury goods. We found that culture, as a very complex phenomenon, shapes the attitudes not only at the national level, but is also reflected in the level of education across countries. That is why a combination of market segments combined with belief systems and levels of education may be a more accurate indicator of consumer attitudes.
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Studying consumers’ value perception (CVP) of products and services has driven the attention of researchers and business managers for long (Gale, 1994; Holbrook, 1996; Woodruff, 1997; Payne & Holt, 2001; Eggert & Ulaga, 2002; Vargo & Lush, 2004; Stępień, Hinner, Pinto Lima, & Sagbansua, 2016). Understanding what creates value and how it is transferred into consumers’ purchasing decisions is crucial for creating effective business models, but remains both a practical and an academic challenge. Anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and economists study consumers attitudes and behavior from different perspectives and produce a variety of possible explanations on how consumers perceive value’s propositions offered on the market, what they consider as important value drivers, and what are the grounds for commonalities and differences in their attitudes towards these propositions.

All these questions, in spite of the multitude of research exploring consumer consumption behavior, still remain open; partly due to the complexity of topics we deal with: the multidimensionality of the value term, the grounds of consumer attitudes and its link (or a disconnection) with certain behavior. Firstly, the value is an individually, subjectively and socially constructed phenomenon with value components overlapping and influencing each-other (Holbrook 1996; Woodall, 2003; Holbrook 2006; Sánchez-Fernández & Iniesta-Bonillo, 2006; Tynan, McKechnie, & Chhuon, 2010). Consumers can have mixed, or even contradictory value perceptions of certain goods or services at the same time, cannot fully realize the grounds for these diverse opinions, can hide their preferences for various reasons, or their behavior may be inconsistent with self-reported attitudes (Otnes, Lowrey, & Shrum, 1997; Dubois, Laurent, & Czellar, 2001). Furthermore, value perceptions evolve because people change their opinions, attitudes and behaviors over time (Woodall, 2003; Holbrook 2006; Tynan et al., 2010; Leroi-Werelds, Streukens, Brady, & Swinnen, 2014). In this sense, CVP serves as a dynamic, partly subconsciously determined and evolving set of attributes for which it is not clear yet as to how the logic of transmitting these beliefs into consumer consumption behavior actually operates.

To make matters even more complicated, consumers are subject to external influences that shape the way they perceive goods or services and evaluate their value. CVP is leveraged by supply chain actors (delivering value propositions on the market) or other customers (passively or actively co-creating the value through interactions with other consumers and companies). The reception of a company’s value proposition is also molded in the minds of customers through the cultural, institutional, political, and economic constraints of the country they were born or they live in. There is much research, both conceptual and empirical, demonstrating that country settings, with a paramount role of culture, actively and enduringly affect consumer behavior and perceiving the value of goods and services (Redding, 1990; Hofstede 2001; Overby, Woodruff, & Fisher, 2005).

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