Vanity purchases occur when a customer buys a product with the intention of using it to enhance or support their perceived personality or, as we call it in the Consumer Buying Behavior tutorial, their self concept. The most well known example of this is the personalized license plate, though many other products also fall into this category such as designer clothing, sports cars, housing and jewelry. From this short list, it is pretty clear vanity purchases skew toward high-end, expensive offerings, and are most frequently bought by high-income buyers.
What is additionally interesting about some vanity purchases is that these are often viewed as being recession proof. A case in point is men’s high-end jewelry. As discussed in this story, this product category experienced a 10% sales increase between 2007 and 2009, the height of U.S. recession. For some, this may not seem all that surprising as the target market for high-end jewelry are those earning over $100,000. However, the recession was widely viewed as impacting a large cross-section of the population including high-income consumers. It would seem logical that the high-end jewelry business would suffer. Yet, the opposite seemed to happen.
The motivation for continuing strong purchases in this category, despite a tough economy, is the key characteristic of vanity goods. Purchasers are motivated to acquire these products with the express intention of enhancing their image, which includes how they are perceived by others. As noted in the story, buyers have stated they purchase expensive jewelry so that others will think they are doing well. From a consumer behavior perspective, these buyers believe perception may be more important than reality.
Unity's study found that rings accounted for 51% of men's jewelry purchases made last year, excluding wedding bands. The fastest-growing accessories, however, are bracelets and necklaces — up 23% and 21% respectively, from 2008.
It should be noted, the information was obtained from a comparative survey of affluent purchasers. While it is not clear from the research company’s Methodology & Survey Sample Demographics section as to how the survey was distributed, it would appear they are using convenience sampling. While the data obtained from convenience sampling is generally not as reliable as data obtained via random sampling, the size of the sample used in this research (over 1,000 respondents each quarter) does suggest that there could be good information here.
How would a marketer of vanity goods, such as jewelry, use the information contained in this study to help with their marketing efforts?
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