It has been noted that several limitations of the self concept notion can impede its usefulness in marketing applications. In addition to problems of measurement common to many concepts, there is also lack of a clear cut agreement on what is specifically meant by the self. Different interpretations of the concept can create uncertainty regarding its use in understanding consumers. Further, the self image concept stresses consumers’ self awareness at the conscious level and tends to minimize the importance of subconscious or unconscious levels of influence. As we noted such deeper mainsprings of behavior can have an important on consumers’ behavior.
In spite of these potential limitations self image is a powerful concept which has many implications and applications in the field of consumer behavior. The concept has been used in market segmentation, advertising, packaging personal selling, product development and retailing.
Some people have suggested that companies can segment markets into more homogeneous sets of self image profiles. These self descriptions could then serve as blueprint useful to marketers in designing total marketing programs. It is argued that decisions based on markets segmented by consumer self images operationalize the marketing concept by viewing the consumer from the consumer’s own point of view.
The self image concept is quite heavily used in a variety of aspects of promotion. This is clearly demonstrated in the area of clothing. For example, certain types of men’s suits are shown being worn by distinguished conservative looking models, often with a touch of gray in their hair. Such suits are usually seen on bankers and businessmen who have achieved considerable success. Other suits, frequently those with continental styling are shown being wore by younger men with longer hair, who appear much more contemporary. The setting for these advertisements frequently involves active, informal social settings where the model often is shown without a tie. Salespeople will often emphasize such self image messages by telling customers they know that items are either consistent or not consistent with self images (that suit is just not you).
In another promotional area, notice the differences between advertisements showing women using Dial and Camay bathe soaps. Women using Dial are depicted as having very active days with a great deal, of excitement and exercise. They are shown using Dial in invigorating refreshing showers and they generally seem to live life with gusto. Conversely, women who use Camay tend to be portrayed as considerably more delicate in nature. They seem to embrace the product for the kind way in which treats their skin and the softness that it will yield. As opposed to taking refreshing showers they appear to desire the sensual experience of long warm relaxing baths. It is interesting to note how packaging of each product appears to support such distinctions in the image of each product.
Analysis of consumers’ self images and their images of brands can also aid marketers in developing products. New brands can be created based on consumer self image profiles for which there are no matching brand images existing,. Product categories having particular promise in this area include those that generate high ego involvement and have high social visibility among the upper social classes. Examples include home furnishings, clothing and automobiles as opposed to such products as fingernail clippers and light bulbs.
One final comment regarding the self image concept is important to mention. Studies have suggested that self image can be an important predictor of consumer’ brand preferences. However, brand preferences are not necessarily translated directly into purchases. Constraining factors such as price and other individual or environmental influences can modify these brand preferences before they are acted upon.