The significance of social stratification for the marketer is that there are differences in values, attitudes, and behavior of each of the classes. These differences provide a basis on which to segment markets and obtain an enhanced understanding of the behavior of consumer. Some of the major findings from research on general social class differences are summarized. As we describe the lifestyles of each of the major social class groups, it should be kept in mind that all members of the same class have homogeneous behavior. A diversity of family situations and a nearly unbelievable range in income totals are contained within each class and there is a considerable variable in the way individual members of a class realize these class goals and express these values. Moreover, it is impossible to point to a clear line of demarcation where one class changes to another. There is some blurring and overlapping of the social strata. Nevertheless, we will attempt to make some major distinctions each of ten social classes.
The lifestyles of this group have changed more over the last twenty years than have those of people in the classes below them. This group is an interesting mix of many lifestyles postpreppy, luxurious, countercultural, conventional intellectual, political and the like. They account for 14 percent of the market and are the segment of our society who most value quality merchandise, pay special attention to prestige brands, and believe it is important to spend with good taste.
Grouping these people together makes sense for the marketer because their motives and goals in consumption for most mass marketed items are similar. However, luxury and specialty items may require differential treatment among the groups.
Upper – Upper Class:
This is the Social Register class composed of old locally prominent families – the aristocracy of birth and wealth with at least generations in the community and class. It is smallest class group, international in residence, friendships and relationships. Its members have occupations as large merchants, financiers, and in the higher professions. Their reference group is the British upper class. They are oriented toward living graciously upholding the family reputation reflecting the excellence of one’s breeding and displaying a sense of community.
This group is sometimes known as old money because of its inherited wealth status. Even though this small group is not a significant factor in America’s overall consumption system, it wields much of our country’s wealth and power. For certain luxury markets this group is important.
The Social Register Association lists 32,500 of the richest, most powerful people in America. Since 1887 it has provided an annual list of who’s in and who’s out of the American aristocracy. Thirty percent of the group lies in New York and its suburbs.
Lower Upper Class:
This is the nouveau riche or newly rich class composed of those who have recently arrived at their wealth and are not quite accepted by the upper-uppers. They are the executive elite, founders of large businesses and wealthy doctors and lawyers. They have the highest incomes of all the classes and their goals are a blend of the upper uppers pursuit of gracious living and the upper-middles success drive.
Many of the nation’s millionaires fit this category. In the mid 1980s over 830,000 Americans or about 3 million households, had a net worth of $1 million or more. Historically, the greatest proportion of millionaires had inherited wealth (upper-uppers). In recent years, that proportion ha sharply diminished. Many of the new millionaires come from the ranks of entrepreneurs, especially those who have founded technological businesses; skilled professionals in fields such as neurosurgery and the law, top corporate executives, and professional entertainers and sports stars.
High net worth is a better segmentation variable to, use than income when targeting the wealthy. It is more accurate indicator of a household’s spending power. But, for marketers, targeting the wealthy is more difficult than targeting high income households because data on wealth are updated only every few years and are available for small areas.