Consumers as Individuals

1 January 2017

The self-concept refers to the beliefs a person holds about their attributes, and how they evaluate these qualities. Components of the self-concept It is composed of many attributes, some of which are given greater emphasis when the overall self is being evaluated. Attributes of self-concept can be described along such dimensions as their content (for example, facial attractiveness vs. mental aptitude), positivity or negativity (i. e. elf-esteem), intensity, stability over time and accuracy (that is, the degree to which one’s self-assessment corresponds to reality).

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Self-esteem Self-esteem refers to the positivity of a person’s self-concept. People with low self-esteem do not expect that they will perform very well, and they will try to avoid embarrassment, failure or rejection. People with high self-esteem expect to be successful,, will take more risks and are more willing to be the centre of attention. Self-esteem is often related to acceptance by others.

Marketing communications can influence a consumer’s level of self-esteem. Exposure to ads can trigger a process of social comparison, where the person tries to evaluate their self by comparing it to the people in these artificial images. Real and ideal selves Self-esteem is influenced by a process where the consumer compares their actual standing on some attribute to some ideal. The ideal self is a person’s conception of how they would like to be, while the actual self refers to our more realistic appraisal of the qualities we have or lack.

And we often engage in a process of impression management where we work hard to ‘manage’ what others think of us by strategically choosing clothing and other cues that will put us in a good light. The ideal self is partly moulded by elements of the consumer’s culture, such as heroes or people depicted in advertising who serve as models of achievement or apprearance. Products may be purchased because they are believed to be instrumental in helping us achieve these goals. Some products are chosen because they are reaching the standard set by the ideal self. Multiple selves

We have as many selves as we do different social roles. Depending on the situation, we act differently, use different products and services, and we even vary in terms of how much we like ourselves. A person may require a different set of products to play a desired role. The self can be thought of as having different components, or role identities, and only some of these are active at any given time. Symbolic interactionism If each person potentially has many social selves, how does each develop and how do we decide which self to ‘activate’ at any point in time?

The sociological tradition of symbolic interactionism stresses that relationships with other people play a large part in forming the self. This perspective maintains that people exist in a symbolic environment, and the meaning attached to any situation or object is determined by the interpretation of these symbols. Like other social objects, the meanings of consumers themselves are defined b social consensus. The consumer interprets their own identity, and this assessment is continually evolving as they encounter new situations and people. The looking-glass self

When you choose an article of clothing, the mirror superimposes it on your reflection so that you can see how it would look on you. This process of imagining the reactions of others towards us is known as ‘taking the role of the other’, or the looking-glass self. According to this view, our desire to define ourselves operates as a sort of psychological sonar, we take readings of our own identify by ‘bouncing’ signals off others and trying to project what impression they have of us. Self-conciousness There are times when people seem to be painfully aware of themselves.

If you have ever walked into a class in the middle of a lecture and noticed that all eyes were on you, you can understand this feeling of self-conciousness. Some people seem in general to be more sensitive to the image they communicate to others. A heightened concern about he nature of one’s public ‘image’ also results in more concern about the social appropriateness of products and consumption activities. Several measures have been devised to measure this tendency. Consumers who score high on a scale of public self-conciousness, for example, are also more interested in clothing and are heavier users of cosmetic.

A similar measure is self-monitoring. High self-monitors are more attuned to how they present themselves in their social environments, and their product choices are influenced by their estimates of how these items will be perceived by others. High self-monitors are more likely than low self-monitors to evaluate products consumed in public in terms of the impressions they make on others.

Products that shape the self: you are what you consume Recall that the reflected self helps to shape self-concept, which implies hat people see themselves as they imagine others see them. People use an individual’s consumption behaviours to help them make judgements about that person’s social identity. A consumer exhibits attachment to an object to the extent that it is used by that person to maintain their self-concept. Objects can act as a sort of security blanket by reinforcing our identities, especially in unfamiliar situations. Symbolic self-completion theory predicts that people who have an incomplete self-definition tend to complete this identity by acquiring and displaying symbols associated with it.

Self/product congruence Because many consumption activities are related to self-definition, it is not surprising to learn that consumers demonstrate consistency between their values and the things they buy. Self-image congruence models predict that products will be chosen when their attributes match some aspect of the self. These models assume a process of cognitive matching between these attributes and the consumer’s self-image. Research tends to support the idea of congruence between product usage and self-image.

Congruity has also been found between consumers and their most preferred brands of beer, soap, toothpaste and cigarettes relative to their least preferred brands, as well as between consumers’ self-images and their favourite shops. Some specific attributes that have been found to be useful in describing some of the matches between consumers and products include rugged/delicate, excitable/calm,…. The extended self. Many of the props and settings consumers use to define their social roles in a sense become a part of their selves. Those external objects that we consider a part of us comprise the extended self.

Many material objects, ranging from personal possessions and pets to national monuments or landmarks, help to form a consumer’s identity. Four levels of the extended self were described. These range from very personal objects to places and things that allow people to feel like they are rooted in their larger social environments. • Individual level. Consumers include many of their personal possessions in self-definition. These products can include jewellery, cars, clothing and so on. The saying ‘You are what you wear’ reflects the belief that one’s things are a part of what one is. • Family level.

This part of the extended self includes a consumer’s residence and its furnishings. The house can be thought of as a symbolic body for the family and often is a central aspect of identity. • Community level. It is common for consumers to describe themselves in terms of the neighbourhood or town from which they come. • Group level. Our attachments to certain social groups can be considered a part of self. A consumer may feel that landmarks, monuments or sports teams are a part of the extended self. Sexual identity is a very important component of a consumer’s self-concept.

People often conform to their culture’s expectations about how those of their gender should act, dress, speak and so on. To the extent that our culture is everything that we learn, then virtually all aspects of the consumption process must be affected by culture. Gender differences in socialization A society’s assumptions about the proper roles of men and women are communicated in terms of the ideal behaviours that are stressed for each sex (in advertising, among other places). Gender goals and expectations In many societies, males are controlled by agentic goals, which stress self-assertion and mastery.

Females, on the other hand, are taught to value communal goals such as affiliation and the fostering of harmonious relations. Every society creates a set of expectations regarding the behaviours appropriate for men and women, and finds ways to communicate these priorities. Gender vs. sexual identity Sex role identity is a state of mind as well as body. A person’s biological gender does not totally determine whether they will exhibit sex-typed traits, or characteristics that are stereotypically associated with one sex or the other. A consumer’s subjective feelings about their sexuality are crucial as well.

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