Purchase of certain consumer durables

This concept is believed to explain the purchase of certain consumer durables. For example, the dominant market for high priced domestic cars has been the over privileged buyers from each social class rather than high income Americans as a group. On the other hand, small cars have been bought by the under privileged segments of each class. Thus, a struggling young lawyer, as an under privileged member of he upper middle class, may purchase a Toyota Tercel as a temporary transportation solution until her income rises, then buy a new Buick Park Avenue when she gets to be over privileged. Similarly, costly household appliances and recreational activities tend to have been consumed by the over privileged members of each class. Color television sets, for instance were first bought primarily by this segment.

Based on a recent, thorough research study, the following tentative generalizations are possible regarding when social class, income, or their combination is superior as a segmentation variable:

1) Social class is superior to income for area of consumer behavior that does not involve high dollar expenditures but do reflect underlying lifestyle, value or homemaker role differences. Relevant products in this situation might include instant, frozen and canned convenience foods and beverages, snack foods; and domestic wines for example. Social class is also superior for both method and place of purchase of highly visible symbolic and expensive living room furniture.

2) Income is generally superior for products which require substantial expenditures, and which may no longer serve as symbols of status within a class or as status symbols to the upper lower class (such as major kitchen and laundry appliances).

3) The combination of social class and income is generally superior for product classes that are highly visible, serve as symbols of social class or status within class, and require either moderate or substantial expenditure (such as clothing and make up, automobiles and television sets).

Before attempting to use class to segment markets, the marketer should remember three guidelines:

1) Social class may not always be a relevant consideration; that is, segmentation by other criteria, such as age and sex, is frequently more appropriate

2) Benefits from social class segmentation for undifferentiated products may be less than the costs incurred to achieve such segmentations.

3) Social class segmentation is frequently most effective when used in conjunction with such additional variables as life cycle stage and ethnic group.

However, even for cases in which social class may have only limited application, it does provide the marketer with helpful insights some of which may be specifically used in developing marketing strategies and other of which at least offer an improved general understanding of consumer behavior.

For many products the groups of interests to the marketer are the middle and working classes by far the largest segment of the market. Because of this, in order to provide a more complete understanding of these groups where possible, special emphasis will be given to the working class because of the marketer’s inherent difficulty which springs from the fact that most marketing managers are members of the middle or upper classes These are the groups that form the basis of their self reference criterion that is they tend to assume that everyone else is like themselves in values, attitudes, tastes, lifestyle, and so forth. Such a premise is very likely to result in marketing strategy failure.

Products and Services Consumed

Product choice and usage differ among the social classes. There are items that are bought mainly by the upper classes, such as bonds, and exotic vacations and others that are purchased mainly by lower classes such as roller derby tickets and cheap wine. Not only are there between class purchasing differences but also within class variations. As mentioned previously, each class level has its conspicuous consumers and its more conservative buyers that is, over privileged and its under privileged members. Illustrating the consumption differences between under privileged Upper Americans and over privileged Middle Americans of the same income level, Coleman observes that the latter have a much greater frequency of ownership of motorboats, RVs, campers, pickup trucks for sport or work, tractor lawnmowers, snow blowers, remote-control TVs, backyard swimming pools, lakeside homes, late model sports cars for their teenage college children and large expensive cars for themselves. In contrast, Upper Americans at the same income level spend a greater percentage of time and money on private club memberships, unique educational experiences for their kids, high culture objects and events and civic affairs. Their houses may be no more expensive but have the proper address.

However, many products are purchased by a wide variety of consumers so it becomes difficult to distinguish class differences in purchasing patterns.