Social Classes are Multidimensional

Social classes are multidimensional, being based on numerous components. They are not equivalent to or determined solely by occupation or income or any one criterion however, they may be indicated buy, or be related to, one or more of these measures. It is important for the marketer to realize that some of these variables are more reliable proxies (substitutes) than others. As we shall discuss alter, income is often misleading as an indicator of social class position. Yet money, far more than anything else, is what Americans associate with the idea of social class.

On the other hand, occupation generally provides a fairly good clue to one’s social class; in fact some believe it is the best single indicator available, because certain occupations are held in higher esteem than other by Americans. Table illustrates the hierarchy of prestige to many occupations in the United Status.

Table Occupation Prestige Scores

Prestige score Occupation

86 Physician
76 Department head in a state Government
67 Clergyman
64 Public Grade School Teacher
63 Banker
62 General Manager of a manufacturing plant
59 Policeman
54 Personnel Director
53 Airplane Mechanic
48 Locomotive Engineer
42 Post office Clerk
35 Baker
34 House painter
31 Logger
29 Gardener
25 Bartender
23 Saw Sharpener
21 Filing Station Attendant
The numerical skiers indicate the level of status for the occupational category. Thus, the higher the score, the higher the status is perceived to be. Notice also that both blue and white collar groups are included, with some overlap of status between high blue collar groups and low white collar groups.

Housing is another key social class ingredient according to most theories. Most marketers believe Birds of a feather flock together and thus you are where you live. Consequently, some researchers cluster US postal zip code areas together on the basis of key demographic factors. Those at the top of the hill as the blue blood estates followed in descending order by furs and station wagons and money and brains to blue chip blues. Such information can be used for market segmentation and strategy decisions. For instance, Colgate-Palmolive used this approach to pick neighborhoods for a drop of 7 million samples of Fresh Start detergent.

Social Classes are hierarchical:

Social classes have a vertical order to them, ranging from high status to low status. They exist as a position on the social scale. Individuals may be placed within a class on this hierarchy, based on status criteria.

Social Classes restrict behavior:

Interaction between the classes is limited because most of us are more comfortable and find reinforcement with those like us in terms of values and behavior patterns. Consequently, members of the same social class tend to associate with each other and not to any large extent with members from another social class because they share similar educational backgrounds, occupations, income levels, or lifestyles. The factor of limited interaction impedes interpersonal communications between different classes about advertising products and other marketing elements.

Social classes are Homogeneous:

As indicated above, social classes may be viewed as homogenous divisions of society in which people within a class have similar attitudes, activities interest and other behavior patterns. For the marketer this means that group of people are exposed to similar media purchase similar products and services and shop in similar stores. This homogeneity allows the marketer in many cases to effectively segment the market by social class and to develop appealing marketing mixes.

Social classes are dynamic:

Social stratification systems in which people have some opportunity for upward or downward movement are known as open systems. People in closed systems have inherited or ascribed status; that is, they are born into one social level and are unable to leave it. Thus, the difference between a system based on earned or achieved status versus one based on inherited status is significant with regard to social mobility. The US illustrates a social class or open system which offers moderate opportunity for mobility. Although such a change can occur, it is usually not large and generally takes place over an extended time. Sometimes an entire occupational category seeks to use its status through public relations efforts as evidenced by attempts in many fields to attach the term professional to their work activities (for example, law enforcement officers, accountants and even truck drivers). Parts of rural India illustrate a case, or closed system which has existed for thousands of years, in which social and equality is rigidly enforced, creating a permanent social position assigned at birth and preventing ay social mobility by the individual.

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