Status Brands: Examining the Effects of Non-Product-Related Brand Associations on Status and Conspicuous Consumption


Certain brand names rely on the fact that people buy their product because of the social status and social wealth that is attached to their product. Conversely, people buy these products and wear brand names because of the social status and individual identity that goes hand in hand with certain brand name companies. This journal article demonstrates the relationship between brand name products and consumers, and how consumers are more likely to wear brand name products that increase social prestige and social status, as well as creating individuality and “unique” identity through wearing these brand name products.

            Researchers have thoroughly studied fashion and clothing and how it has an affect on people. According to this study, fashion can say how important someone is, tell others how much social status they have or how much wealth they have (depending on the cost of the clothing), what the individual is like, such as conservative, sexy, casual, “hipster”, and so forth. According to Eastman, status and conspicuous consumption is “the motivational process by which individuals strive to improve their social standing through conspicuous consumption of consumer products that symbolize status for both the individual and surrounding others”. What Eastman is saying is that consumers buy products with social prestige in order to ‘up’ their social status, even if the consumers are not in the same economic sector as others.They also go on to say that conspicuous consumers rely heavily on image and individuality.

Consumption becomes a process of identity management, and according to researcher Belk, this is an interactive process of self-image of the goods consumed and that of the individual consuming them.  Belk believes “this is how possessions become a reflection of who we are and how we want others to perceive us and that people see their possessions as a part of or extension of themselves”.

This is all true in accordance with some of the readings that we have done in class, such as T. Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption. Veblen goes on to say that consumption is a way to show distinction and a way of social communication that leads to social prestige and status; people show off their materialistic goods in order to up their prestige within their social sphere.

When people go on to consume brand name products, they experience what is called “product symbolism” or “brand symbolism”, that is, what the product means to the consumer and their feelings for the product that they have purchased. According to this research, feelings contribute to attitude towards brands, beliefs, attributes and perceptions of the brand, thus forming an emotional relationship from consumer to brand product.

In conclusion, consumers are affected by a brand’s symbolic characteristics and by a brand’s social prestige and status. Marketers have acquired this knowledge of how people relate to their identity and social status through their brands, so companies now have a better understanding (and manipulation) of consumers through marketing strategies.

From reading through various articles in class and this article, I believe that conspicuous consumption is a problem in society today, whether it is consumption for home-décor, haute couture, electronics, or even just brand-name products (specifically articles of clothing). People are more inclined to buy products that have some sort of social prestige or social status linked to them such as Ugg boots, Hunter rain attire, the now infamous Canada Goose jackets and so forth. With that being said, I think what a lot of researchers are also missing is the relationship between consumers buying products, and the product is the quality of the product. Subjecting myself to buying all of these Brand-name articles, I buy more expensive products if I know the quality is better and that the product is going to last long. For example, last year I bought rain boots from Aldo shoes, that now leak and my feet end up soaked. I have now moved onto more expensive rain boots called Hunters. These have yet to leak and leave my feet wet and uncomfortable. So although there is still the undeniable relationship between conspicuous consumption and social status, I also believe that there is a relationship between the quality of the product and consumers buying the product.

People who are involved with brand-name products and conspicuous consumption want to set themselves apart from others with the mass-produced articles of brand-name clothing they have. It seems that it would be hard for people to be unique and set themselves apart from others with these products, however, when it comes to fashion, anything goes. “It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it” is a pretty big saying (if you have seen fashion television). What this means is that the color, shape, brand, size, and so forth does not matter; it is how you are wearing the product; how you are setting yourself apart from others with the same product. Farmer’s wear Hunter boots differently from a Carleton University student. It all depends on the person and how they make their outfits unique to set themselves apart from others.

 Shannon Donnelly


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