Social Class

Sea Goddess Cruises, a subsidiary of Cunard, was created to fill a market opportunity in the upper class segment of the market. The concept is simple: custom build an ocean liner which offers understated elegance, visits ports where other cruise ships can’t enter, and most importantly ferries a silk stocking crowd that blanches at the thought of a mass market cruise which caters to Aunt Millie and Uncle Ted from Heartland, USA.

At about $1000 a day per couple (with a maximum capacity of fifty eight couples), a cruise on the Sea Goddess caters to an audience that understands gracious living and is prepared to pay for it. All of the cabins boast a view and measure about 200 square feet, or about half again the size of the typical cruise ship cabin. With beautiful wood work wool carpets, designer fabrics, and quiet colors, each cabin also has climate control, a color TV, tele-text, a video player, stocked bar, and ship to shore telephone.

Clients typically earn upwards of $100,000 a year are active in business or the professions, may own their own business or derive their income from investments, have average age in the upper 40s,a and are socially active.

Exclusively is what its passengers want, and Sea Goddess aims to deliver it. The ambience of a private cub on a private yacht is emphasized throughout the Sea Goddess promotional brochure. It describes the Sea Goddess as offering a way for a small number of people with similar background and interests to travel together, receive the finest of personalized service, and not bothered by mass tourism, but excursions, and regimented schedules that characterize traditional cruise ships.

We shall examine the influence of social class on consumer behavior. In sense, we may think of social classes, or strata, as being subcultures, for each class has its distinguishing more of behavior or lifestyle. We shall first discuss what is meant by social stratification and how social class divisions are determined. This will be followed by a discussion of differences in the values of each class and their lifestyle differences. Finally, the nature of consumer behavior within each class will be described as it is determined by these values and lifestyle differences. The concept of social class can be useful to the marketer for understanding consumer behavior and plotting a marketing strategy. In order to use it wisely, however, one must first understand its meaning.

The term social class is used here in the descriptive, not normative sense. That is we are not implying that one class is better than another. We are simply describing the class structure as we know it to be. Some may resent such a discussion or be uncomfortable about it, feeling that it is undemocratic. However, social classes exist and their patterns must be understood if the marketer is to be successful.

The process of social stratification:

As much as Americans like to think that all people are created equal, we are aware that some are more equal than orders; that is there are some people who stand high in the community, while others rank low on to them. We refer to these levels as social strata, or classes. Social stratification then is the general term whereby people in a society are ranked by other members of a society into higher and lower social positions, which produces a hierarchy of respect or prestige.

The term social class has been defined as a group consisting of a number of people who have approximately equal positions in a society. These positions may be achieved rather than ascribed, with some opportunity existing for upward or downward movement to other classes.