DO YOU REALLY NEED IT? A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION IN RELATION TO SELF-IDENTITY

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för service management och tjänstevetenskap

Abstract: Conspicuous consumption has been steadily growing and possess considerable functions in creating and expressing consumers’ self-identities. Conspicuous consumption is something that plays a large part in the consumers lives due not only the visible exchanges but also the symbolic value that it brings and creates a reciprocity between consumers self-identity and conspicuous consumption. This study investigates what role conspicuous consumption have on their self-identity what has enabled and aided conspicuous consumption in the way we are seeing today. A qualitative study consisting of twelve semi-structured interviews was conducted where convenience sampling was chosen in order to contact people that could participate in these interviews. The findings show that conspicuous consumption have an impact on self-identity, where it can create something artificial for them in order to achieve their ideal self. Consumers are not as tied to localities and traditions as they were before, resulting in increased purchases of luxury goods. Specifically, this leads to many consumers looking for more refined items that are align with their self-image. Self-identity is reflexive, creating an intense and rapid impulse of change within modern institutions and the structured reflexivity of social life, which means that nothing can be taken for granted on either the level of day to-day life possibilities. Conspicuous consumption works as a tool to make it easier for individuals to develop their self-identities reflexively accordingly to what the societal norms and expectations are of a consumer. In addition, the data suggests that individuals do not passively accept their self-identity but rather make it what it needs to be and constantly reforming it, where modern consumption has gone from the physicality of consumption to the conspicuity of preferences. In the pursuit of self-identity, consumers seek validation from other peers also whilst maintaining their consumption of conspicuous goods. This creates a loop where the respondent feels the need to buy the goods that other people buy to fit in and create a sense of belonging, having an effect on who they perceive themselves to be. Consumers today have been able to see conspicuous consumption be enabled by globalization, technology, mediated experiences, increased symbolic value of a product and the adherence of social groups and this is all due to the need of status seeking. With the status that luxury goods hold and the desire to attain these products in order to affirm their own sense of self, the more likely it will be that they consume in a conspicuous manner.

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