Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Symbolic expects

Marketing specialists are very much aware of the fact that goods and services are often purchased more for their symbolic than functional value. Symbolic expects aim at associating the product to a symbol the consumer wants: fashion, status, life style, social class, wealth, power, technological modernity, etc. One seeks an image, a given life style for instance. Thus, the practice of many sports «requires» wearing such and such equipment and clothing that have become symbols, almost fetishes, of this practice; even beginners will want to be thus equipped to meet the standard the image. In very much the same way, many tourists seek prestige products to answer their symbolic expects: luxurious hotels, exclusive destinations, a sporting life style featured by large vacation resorts, etc.

Symbolic expects answer the consumer’s concern regarding the opinion of others about him. Well-known brands of clothing, accessories, cosmetics, perfumes... are then bought as prestige symbols. Symbolism attached to these brands (wealth, prestige, social class, etc.) is often synonym of durability; brand awareness developed by their owners often has an enormous financial value. Conversely, some eccentric clothing fashions are, by nature, short-lived; however, this is often what people are seduced by, because such garments procure exclusiveness to those wearing them. Once a fashion is adopted by a large number of people, it loses its attractiveness.

Some consumers systematically buy only one well-known brand, because it is a symbol of dependability; to some extent, they buy the image of security products of this brand feature. This is especially true with new technologies. A manager may thus want to convey a favourable image to the company. In the event of a problem, he will protect his reputation by maintaining that if the «best» could not fulfill their expectations, no one else could have.

Therefore, in a whole series of cases, symbolic expects largely supersede functionality; however, many will nevertheless seek a compromise between both aspects. In your opinion, does advertising call upon symbolism too much? To what extent do you believe to be influenced by these symbolic appeals?

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