MAR 3211, Consumer Behavior 1
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VII
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
2. Relate consumer behavior to public policy issues.
2.1 Explain state and federal government policy changes resulting from an event.
4. Examine how consumers are influenced by values as members of a particular culture.
4.1 Explain how consumers were affected by a company’s reaction to a catastrophic event.
8. Analyze how consumers evaluate product selections.
8.1 Summarize how a negative event influenced consumer buying.
2.1 Unit Lesson Essay
Lin (2012) article
Lu, Li, Zhang, and Rai (2014) article
4.1 Unit Lesson Essay
Lin (2012) article
Lu, Li, Zhang, and Rai (2014) article
8.1 Unit Lesson Essay
In order to access the following resources, click the links below.
Click here to access the Unit VII PowerPoint presentation. (Click here to access a PDF version of the
Lin, E. (2012). Starbucks as the third place: Glimpses into Taiwan’s consumer culture and lifestyles. Journal
of International Consumer Marketing, 24(1/2), 119–128.
Read pp. 300–306 and 310–313 in the following article:
Lu, X., Li, Y., Zhang, Z., & Rai, B. (2014). Consumer learning embedded in electronic word of mouth. Journal
of Electronic Commerce Research, 15(4), 300–316.
UNIT VII STUDY GUIDE
Social Class and Lifestyles
MAR 3211, Consumer Behavior 2
UNIT x STUDY GUIDE
In this unit, we will discuss another component of influence—income and social class; influence has been a
subculture throughout history. Social classes can influence lifestyles, opinions, attitudes, and behaviors.
Certain products/services are identified as status symbols with certain social classes, not only in the United
States but also worldwide. Consumer identity is clearly shown by the consumer’s social class and lifestyle,
both of which are tied to his or her income. A consumer’s confidence in his or her future and the state of the
overall economy have a significant impact on how freely he or she spends and the types of products
purchased. People have different attitudes toward money—from “tightwads” who hate to part with their money
to “spendthrifts” who enjoy spending and buying. Eight consumer segments have been identified below.
Each of these segments represents a different way of thinking about money and spending. How do you feel
about money? Which of these segments would you fit? Do you think other people might agree with your
ranking of yourself? How others perceive you is important to most people.
Social class describes the rank of people in society who tend to align with one’s personal social standing.
Achieved status refers to individuals who have earned their status through hard work while ascribed status
refers to individuals who have acquired their status as a result of being born with that status. Periodically,
certain individuals will pass from one social class to another, and that is referred to as social mobility. How is
social class determined? Typically, it is determined based on occupational prestige and income. Occupational
prestige suggests that we use the individual’s occupation to evaluate his or her worth. This aligns with the
second determinant of social class—income. Income looks at the distribution of wealth as it aligns with the
amount of buying power the individual might have.
What does all this mean to marketers? Many marketers purposely target the upscale markets with the idea
that these individuals have the resources to spend more money. While this might be a good supposition, one
needs to remember that every wealthy consumer does not necessarily desire to spend. It truly depends on
where and how they obtained their money as well as how long they have had it. Another current wave of
thought is to appeal to the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) or the low-income consumers. It is important to note
that more than 14% of Americans live below the poverty line, and most marketers simply ignore this group
The illustration shows eight consumer segments.
Try to eliminate all items from the budget
Vultures Lurk in the discount or closeout sections for the best deals
Ostriches Refuse to acknowledge spending habits
Balancers Choose some lower-priced items so they can afford preferred items in other areas
Treaters Give themselves a treat each time they cut back on spending
Justifiers Justify spending as long as there is a good reason
Abstainers Hold off on saving and end up using credit cards to avoid paying now
Scrimpers Avoiding eliminating certain things; they choose the bargain brands of their favorite items
MAR 3211, Consumer Behavior 3
UNIT x STUDY GUIDE
(Feeding America, n.d.). While these individuals do not have a huge spending base, they have the same
basic needs to purchase these items. It is for this reason and the fact that this group is large in number that
some marketers are taking a second look at this set. It is a good assumption that companies that engage with
the BOP consumers are attempting to sell products at very low prices with a low margin. The key is to sell
high quantities with the hopes of making a profit based on volume. While this model seems to be a viable
option, there needs to be an exceptional margin of about 50%, which is well above the 30% penetration that
guides many companies. Selling to these villages is inefficient and tedious. While this sounds negative, it can
be done by building the contribution margin through higher price points and higher margins.
Social classes in the United States are a bit fluid compared to some countries across the globe. The generally
accepted social classes are identified in the chart below.
Social Class Description
Upper-upper Old rich
Lower-upper New rich
Upper-middle Professionals and owners
Lower-middle Lower-paid white collar workers and higher-paid
blue collar workers
Upper-lower Blue collar workers
Lower-lower Underemployed and unemployed
An interesting fact is that the richest 20% of people in the United States earn half of all the income while the
poorest 20% earn 3% of all the income (Frohlich, 2015). This statistic is quite telling. While this structure
seems functional, it has its issues. It tends to ignore status inconsistencies, discourage intergenerational
mobility, have subjective social class, and discourage consumer aspirations to change social standing.
Lifestyles are another area that influence consumer identity. This refers to the idea that people will separate
themselves based on the things they like to do, how they spend their leisure time, and how they spend their
disposable income. All three of these components are interrelated. Within the lifestyle areas, there could be
several different social classes of people that have the same lifestyle preferences. Psychographics is another
area that assists marketers in segmenting the market. Using psychological, sociological, and anthropological
factors assists the marketer in developing a detailed profile of the target market and to determine why they
make decisions about certain products, ideologies, people, or otherwise. The marketer uses demographics to
determine who buys and psychographics to determine why they buy.
A research tool used by marketers to group consumers according to activities, interests, and opinions is AIO.
The idea is for marketers to group consumers who have similar activities and patterns of usage in order to
draw analogies to enable them to prepare more effective marketing campaigns. Additionally, marketers use
this tool to define the target market, create a new view of the market, position the product, communicate
product attributes more clearly, develop product strategy, and market social and political issues.
The values and lifestyles system (VALS) is yet another tool used by marketers to more effectively reach their
target markets. VALS uses a battery of questions that identify and divide the respondents into groups, each
with distinctive characteristics. These divisions are identified below.
Innovators Confident and successful individuals who are self-
Thinkers Well-established consumers who tend to analyze
Achievers Hardworking, goal-oriented consumers who value
Experiencers Spontaneous consumers who are on the cutting
edge of trends
Believers Faithful consumers who appreciate stability
Strivers Low-resource consumers who often change jobs
Makers Straightforward consumers who are often distrustful
Strugglers Thrifty consumers with low resources
MAR 3211, Consumer Behavior 4
UNIT x STUDY GUIDE
After reading the group descriptions, it becomes quite evident how marketers might use the VALS tool to
identify their target market and how they would best reach them. The more that a marketer understands, the
greater his or her ability to more effectively market. Combining VALS with the concepts of AIO could provide
an even clearer picture of the target market. Besides this analysis of lifestyles, marketers also examine the
social class structure as they attempt to more clearly understand consumer buying behavior.
Recently, there has been a splurge of publicity on the addictive behavior of some shoppers. This refers to
those who spend an enormous amount of time on recreational shopping and tend toward impulsive purchases
without regard to the financial ramifications. The obvious issue for most is the inability to pay the credit card
bills at the end of the month and the acquisition of items that they really do not need. These types of
behaviors have been associated with depression and a lack of self-confidence, with the idea that acquiring
products and services will take care of these problems.
Society, as well as our legislative bodies, have weighed in on certain consumer and marketing behaviors,
identifying them as misbehaviors. Opinions regarding what is acceptable or normal behavior really depends
on our ethical beliefs, ideologies, or even cultural beliefs. Consumer misbehaviors might include shoplifting,
drinking and/or texting while driving, or even outright practices of fraud. Fraud cases are growing in number,
primarily because of the increased use and abuse of the Internet. Methods of defrauding consumers are
continuously employed as consumers themselves become more dependent on the Internet for their consumer
Unethical behaviors on the part of marketers might include deceptive advertising, artificial price increases, or
advertising in such a way as to manipulate without concern for the well-being of the individual. Examples of
this might include offering products that offer short-term satisfaction but long-term consumer and societal
problems. Continued interest in environmentalism and consumer good are extending corporate social
responsibility (CSR) practices to be the norm instead of an option. Socially responsible behavior on the part of
a company has been associated with favorable consumer evaluations and, ultimately, increased customer
satisfaction. At the end of the day, this should result in an increase in overall sales for an organization.
There have been several areas of public criticism of marketing that include deceptive advertising and
advertising to children. Deceptive advertising is characterized as advertising that intentionally leaves out
information that could change the consumer’s mind. Also included in this category is that of puffery that
suggests the marketer is including exaggerated claims, again, to influence the consumer. The topic of
marketing to children begs the question of whether children can understand the marketing messages and
interpret them in the real world. The other concern is the number of messages that are directed at children. In
summary, these marketing practices ask whether the sales tactics are actually manipulative in nature and
whether they are creating artificial needs.
Through this discussion, the question is whether the burden should be placed on the company or if there
should be legislation to protect the consumer. Whether it be on a state or federal level, how much public
policy should be enacted? There is also the question of how much should be placed on the consumer.
Finding the right balance between consumer protection and market freedom is incredibly difficult to master.
Feeding America. (n.d.). Hunger and poverty facts and statistics. http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-
Frohlich, T. C. (2015, October 10). States with widest gaps between rich, poor. USA Today.
Research the BP oil spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. This event was obviously devastating to the wildlife and environment in the area and, to a certain extent, had global implications.
Respond to the questions below in essay format—not in question-and-answer format.
1. Did the company handle this situation correctly? Explain what it might have done differently.
2. From an environmentalism standpoint, did agencies handle this correctly? Explain your rationale.
3. How did the state government and federal government react? Are there additional public policies in place now to address these types of catastrophes?
4. With respect to public perception of BP, explain how the event and the subsequent reaction of BP influenced public opinion of the company. Do you think this had an effect on consumer buying of BP products?
Your response should be double-spaced and be a minimum of three pages in length. References should include a minimum of two credible sources from the CSU Online Library. All sources used must be referenced; paraphrased, and quoted material must have accompanying citations and be cited per APA guidelines.
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