This exploratory study examined the influence that social media has on the consumption of luxury products. We all know that social media has created a different dimension of consumers in various categories of products and services, and for luxury products in particular. That being, the ‘aspirational consumer’, whose desires for luxury derive from content produced on social media. Often, despite their strong yearning for luxury goods, due to economic reasons, aspirational consumers are unable to frequently purchase luxury. Social media provides an avenue for aspirational consumers to conspicuously consume without the need to purchase, enabling them to use luxury brands to create value amongst themselves. Aspirational consumers are mostly found amongst HENRYs (high earners, not yet rich).
Would you consider yourself one of HENRYs?
Research into the consumption of luxury goods has frequently been studied through the prism of Veblen’s (1899) Theory of Conspicuous Consumption (Truong and McColl 2011). Studies around the influence of social media on conspicuous consumption are fragmented. The literature reviewed revealed there is a need for an in depth understanding of the influence that social media has on HENRYs consumers behaviour prior to purchase. A hybrid qualitative approach using online and face-to-face focus group data was utilised within this study to map a journey of HENRYs consumption behaviour. WhatsApp was used as a focus group facilitation tool and this in fact is considered as originality of this research as no published studies report on the use of messaging apps as the qualitative research tools.
The map that we have developed as per illustration below reflects the role that social media has amongst the conspicuous consumption of luxury brands.
Findings highlight that status consumption is prevalent amongst HENRY consumers. The proliferation of social media usage further encourages HENRYs need for status goods. Social media provides individuals with an immediate environment for luxury conspicuous consumption. Social media influencers and user-generated media allow individuals to demonstrate their luxury status through the creation of social media content. HENRYs wish to emulate these behaviours from status influencers to produce their own social media content as evidence of their own luxury possessions. The reactions that derive from status posting satisfy their narcissist ambitions.
This research has been peer-reviewed and presented at the Academy of Marketing 2017 Conference in Hull, UK. The paper was praised by all attendees of the Consumer Behaviour track.
Reference for the conference paper: Kennedy, G. and Bolat, E., 2017. Meet the HENRYs: A hybrid focus group study of conspicuous luxury consumption in the social media context. In: Academy of Marketing 2017 3-6 July 2017 Hull, United Kingdom.
Full version of the conference paper can be found here: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/29423/
Below, see presentation slides from the Conference.