The Shift from Conspicuous to Inconspicuous Consumption and the Messages Hidden in Plain Sight
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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William F. Humphrey, Junior
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Luxury products, conspicuous consumption, inconspicuous consumption, cultural capital, construal level theory, luxury branding, brand prominence
Date of Defense
With the growing fragmentation of the luxury consumer market, the increasing mix of conspicuous and inconspicuous products offered by luxury brands, and the overlapping motivations for (in)conspicuous consumption behavior in the marketing literature, this research investigates under which circumstances a luxury consumer will choose to engage in either conspicuous or inconspicuous consumption. Three cross-sectional studies with experimental designs are conducted to test the proposed Triple C Model of (In)Conspicuous Consumption and determine if the proposed model can be used to predict, and ultimately change, consumption behavior among certain luxury consumers. The proposed model purports that construal level, sender cultural capital (e.g., the knowledge to know the difference between seemingly plain and inconspicuously branded luxury products), and the sender’s perception of their audience’s cultural capital are the underlying mechanisms that influence the choice to engage in either conspicuous or inconspicuous consumption.
Results reveal that the level in which luxury consumers construe luxury products was inversely related to the amount of cultural capital they maintain for luxury products. Lower (more concrete) construal level luxury consumers had more cultural capital than higher (more abstract) luxury consumers. Results also revealed the effect of cultural capital on whether to engage in either conspicuous or inconspicuous consumption was moderated by the sender’s perception of their audience’s cultural capital. Higher cultural capital luxury consumers were more likely to engage in inconspicuous consumption when they perceived their audience also to have a higher amount of cultural capital, but were more likely to engage in conspicuous consumption when they perceived their audience to have a lower amount of cultural capital. This effect was attenuated among lower cultural capital luxury consumers, as they were more likely to engage in conspicuous consumption regardless of their perceptions of their audience. Finally, this research used the Triple C Model of (In)Conspicuous Consumption to target initially higher (more abstract) construal level luxury consumers who had lower cultural capital to change their consumption behavior to engage in inconspicuous consumption over conspicuous consumption under certain circumstances.
Tanenbaum, Jaclyn, "The Shift from Conspicuous to Inconspicuous Consumption and the Messages Hidden in Plain Sight" (2019). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4362.
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