Status symbol and stories

Brands have been relying on status symbol attitude of consumers for years now. Many times we have seen consumers buy things which represent their social status in front of others (for example BMW over Ford). Such consumers would prefer high range products over low range products when it comes to matter of their social status. The more possessions a consumer has or the one which are more expensive possessions states the degree of status one tends to have.

According to social comparison theory by Leon Festinger consumers have tendency to compare their own material possessions with those owned by others in order to conclude their relative social standing (Schiffman and Kanuk 2010, p.320)

The three status factors frequently used while estimating social class are as below

1)      Relative wealth (economic assets an individual would possess)

2)      Power (influence over others or the amount of personal choice)

3)      Prestige (the amount of recognition received from other individuals)

 social somparision theory

The items which are under luxurious categories of consumer products like diamond rings for engagement are widely used as status symbol all over the world, and with celebrities flaunting their big diamonds rings, it is a never ending trend of materialist products. The major intention or motivation behind this type of purchase is not to enjoy the product but to show others that you can afford it.

Jennifer Smith Maguirea and Dan Hub (2013, p.676) examined Chinese consumers behaviour towards foreign brands, specifically their experience with big coffee brand like Starbucks. “My friends and I are always sitting in ‘strategic’ places, where we could be seen by others. Or sometimes we buy a cup of coffee and take it away, so that everybody on the street could see we went to Starbucks. In other people’s eyes, maybe I am a modern young professional. (YS, female, 26)”. Many such Chinese middle class consumers like YS agreed to the fact that consumption of western brand goods is a mean of status display for them.


Status symbol is one of the vital factor in consumer’s mind along with desire to buy branded products from foreign countries due to their better quality and trustworthiness towards that brand. It is also known that status symbol is utilised to make physiological satisfaction and compensation of any deficit an individual is facing in their life by spending more and having more purchasing power when they are feeling uncertain or bad about any aspects of their lives.

Seven news (Seven Network) channel in Australia observed the changing trend of status symbol for most expensive Pram. The rapidly increasing culture of pram pride is seen most among men, who are said to be quit prone to pram envy. The spending behind this has intention to show who has biggest and best or who has prettiest pram, as it gives an impression that you are a good parent. The average price of pram is around 500$ but parents or grandparents are ready to invest up to 2500$ for status brands.

(Pram envy: Once upon a time, cars and handbags were the go to status symbols but new research says that’s so last year, 2015)

It is getting difficult day by day to link particular brands with a specific class due to increase in a lot of “affordable luxuries” which were not so easily acquirable in past by consumers. This gets more confusing when even the wealthy family may buy wine from an expensive store and its bath towels at Target and the college girls who buy expensive bags from Coach and Louis Vuitton eat Ramen noodle for dinner.


List of references

Leon, S & Leslie, K 2010, Consumer Behaviour, 10th edn, Pearson Education, New Jersey.

Michael, S 2011, Consumer Behaviour Buying, Having and Being, 9th edn, Pearson Education, New Jersey.

Pram envy: Once upon a time, cars and handbags were the go to status symbols but new research says that’s so last year 2015, Seven News (SEVEN NETWORK), Australia <;dn=TSM201507090071;res=TVNEWS>

Maguire, JS & Hu, D 2013, ‘Not a simple coffee shop: local, global and glocal dimensions of the consumptions of Starbucks in China’, Social Identities, vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 670-684, retrieved 1 April 2016, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.







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