Life On The Job


MARKETING OFFICER - Paris Touma

Paris Touma

Paris Touma - ACU Bachelor of Marketing Honours Student

"Valued at $252.68 billion, the luxury goods industry is one of the fastest growing in the consumer market. But what makes a $5000 handbag better than a $50 one? Caitlin Ganter spoke to honours student Paris Touma about luxury consumer behaviour.

For some the label is everything. Designer brands often set the trend, but with easy access to counterfeit replicas, why do so many pay for the real thing?

The high price of a designer label was once justified with the promise of quality and hand craftsmanship, however, nowdays it seems the reasons lie elsewhere.

ACU Bachelor of Marketing honours student Paris Touma has conducted a research project to understand Australian luxury consumption behaviour and the concept of symbolic meaning within the luxury market.

“I have always been interested in consumer behavior and how components of marketing influence consumer consumption in the marketplace, particularly the Australian marketplace,” she said.

“As a young girl I always admired luxury brands and the people who would wear them, but coming into age and realising how expensive some branded luxury goods are, I could never fathom why they would want to spend so much money on some of it.

So in essence, this is what my research considered: ‘why do consumers purchase luxury goods?’.

Paris’s study focuses on one luxury segment in particularly, Louis Vuitton handbags, which can come with price tags over $4500.

Handbags from Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton founded the prestigious French fashion house now known as Moët Hennessy- Louis Vuitton in 1854. One of the world’s leading international brands, the Louis Vuitton range of luxury products includes handbags, luggage, small leather goods, accessories, shoes, stationery, timepieces and jewellery.

Louis Vuitton was been named the world’s most valuable luxury brand for six consecutive years and its 2012 valuation was US$25.9 billion (A$26.5).
 

Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton's website

“In the attempt to deepen the understanding of Australian luxury consumption behaviour, my thesis was grounded in theories of consumer behaviour and luxury consumption,” Ms Touma said.

“Using an extended version of the Meaning Transfer Model, the thesis explored the types of symbolic meaning derived from luxury goods post-purchase, and consumer post-purchase justification in light of both high purchase price and the presence of counterfeit replicas in the marketplace.”

The Meaning Transfer Model maps the transfer of meaning from the culturally constituted world to goods and then to individuals. Essentially, it helps understand how meaning is created and mediated through consumption for consumers.

“This study carried out in-depth interviews with Australian luxury goods consumers of only Louis Vuitton handbags. This was because the title ‘luxury’ lends itself to a broad range of goods and services which are dependent on individual interpretation.

“For some, the term luxury can relate to a Foxtel subscription, for others, a limited edition [item from] Hermès. In the attempt to focus my thesis, the study centred on Louis Vuitton handbags as an example of a luxury good, ensuring that all findings can be applied to the luxury industry as a whole.”

Despite a substantial amount of literature on luxury goods consumption in the American and Asian markets Ms Touma said there was little Australian research on the consumption behaviour of Australians in the purchase and display of luxury goods.

“I focused on the Australian luxury market as it is a key market within this global industry.


“Australian consumers spend a total of $9 billion per annum on the purchase of genuine luxury goods. This includes $2.61 billion on designer clothing, $2.34 billion on designer footwear and $1.44 billion on beauty products. More relevant to this study is $1.62 billion worth of consumer spending on designer luggage and handbags.

Shoulder Bags
Louis Vuitton's Majestueux Shoulder Bag - AU$6,400

“In 2011, Australian sales contributed a total of $2.79 billion to Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton’s global revenue and the largest contribution came from the fashion and leather goods sector.

“As Australians continue to demand and spend a considerable proportion of their disposable income on international luxury brands it is vital to deepen the understanding available on this marketplace.

“I believe that it is imperative for luxury researchers and marketers to recognise and understand why consumers purchase luxury goods, how consumer perceptions of luxury influence their luxury consumption behaviour, and how such consumption behaviour varies internationally. As a result, beneficiaries of this research include stakeholders such as consumers and retailers, both locally and internationally.”

Ms Touma conducted 16 in-depth interviews with people who had recently purchased a Louis Vuitton handbag. The results of her research indicated that symbolism was influencing people’s decisions to buy.

“The results of this study support the argument that symbolic meaning influences the purchasing patterns of consumers, identifiable through seven primary types of symbolic meaning derived post-purchase by Australian luxury goods consumers.

The identifiable types of symbolic meaning derived by interview participants were

  • brand heritage,

  • confidence,

  • fashion,

  • memento,

  • sense of achievement,

  • status and

  • wealth.


“It is the types of symbolic meaning that consumers derive from their luxury purchase that make the good worth the additional money for the consumer.

“For most consumers what they possess aids as a method of communication. Such possessions assist in creating and managing outward impressions of who they are, and more than ever before, consumers today are attempting to assimilate such goods into their ideal state of being, transforming the conditions of their lives by transforming their consumption behaviour.

“This study recognises that consumers actively seek symbolism in their consumption of goods, helping to construct meaningfulness in everyday consumption. It is the symbolic meaning represented in a branded good that entices these consumers and satisfies their interpersonal goals.

“It was also clear from the in-depth interviews that when considering their genuine luxury purchase, consumers were able to justify both high purchase prices and the presence of counterfeit replicas in the marketplace.

“Participants believed that counterfeit replicas are a part of life, and the majority of participants understood the presence of counterfeit replicas was a direct result of the genuine luxury industry and its high purchase prices. Some participants even expressed praise for the existence of counterfeit replicas.

Real vs Fake
Source: Real vs Fake Louis Vuitton Bags


“Participants were also more inclined to choose their handbag’s design and style, bearing in mind the designs and styles they believed to be highly counterfeited. This was done to reduce any possible post-purchase dissonance relating to the presence of counterfeit replicas. And lastly, as careful decision-makers, participants also claimed that they could recognise a counterfeit replica when out and about, believing that counterfeits are always distinguishable from the genuine good."
(Source: ACU InSight, Issue 9, Winter 2013).

Education:

“Prior to my Honours degree, I completed a Bachelor of Arts, with a double major in Economics and Marketing, and a Minor in Philosophy. I am currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Marketing, Honours, with my topic dedicated to consumer behaviour and the symbolic meaning associated with the purchase of luxury goods.”

“I decided to take on an Honours degree primarily because I found a topic that I loved! I also wanted to further my studies. In an increasingly competitive work force, I think it will place me in a good position to be employed upon my graduation.”

Paris says the best thing about studying at ACU is “the course content is always up to date and extremely interesting and relevant. Also the location - North Sydney. North Sydney is the second biggest commercial district in NSW, it is always buzzing and a great environment to learn business. The lecturers are helpful and genuinely concerned for my success.”

“I am hoping to get into brand management in the future so I can overlook the marketing for specific products, product lines, or brands, but ideally I would love a job where I can have an ongoing focus on the consumer behaviour of different markets (my passion).” (Source: ACU)

Activities

Psychology of Buying - Designer Jeans

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

Ethical Understanding Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical Understanding

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

ICTAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Information and Communication Technology Capability

NumeracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Numeracy

1. As a group of 4 - 5 students, you are to design a survey investigating why school students brought or didn't buy designer jeans, or designer clothes. You will need to consider the following:

a. Type of clothing

b. Cost

c. Satisfaction

d. Reasons for buying or not buying

as well as other factors to find out why students brought or didn't buy designer clothing.

2. Use Survey Monkey to design your questions

Survey Monkey

3. Analyse the responses of the students you surveyed remembering that you need to survey at least 20 people.

4. What were the results? Are they similar to Paris Touma's results? 

5. Go to the Shop Ethical! website.

Shop Ethical

 
"The real issue is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects. Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 76.6% of total private consumption expenditures – the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.5%. ….

We consume a variety of resources and products today having moved beyond basic needs to include luxury items and technological innovations to try to improve efficiency.

Such consumption beyond minimal and basic needs is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, as throughout history we have always sought to find ways to make our lives a bit easier to live. However, increasingly, there are important issues around consumerism that need to be understood.

For example:

  • What is a necessity and what is a luxury?

(Source: Behind Consumption and Consumerism, by Anup Shah)

6. In your group, debate this question: "What is a necessity and what is a luxury?"

7. Action: How would you bring the purchasing of designer jeans and their impact on the world to the forefront of other students at your school?

 

Psychology of Buying

High SchoolSecondary

Ethical Understanding Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical Understanding

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

NumeracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Numeracy

1. Read the following article in Psychology Today,  "7 Reasons Why We're Irrational Shoppers" Published on September 25, 2013 by Alain Samson, Ph.D. in Consumed Reading

Psychology Today

2. Paris Touma found that: “Australian consumers spend a total of $9 billion per annum on the purchase of genuine luxury goods. This includes $2.61 billion on designer clothing, $2.34 billion on designer footwear and $1.44 billion on beauty products. More relevant to this study is $1.62 billion worth of consumer spending on designer luggage and handbags."

And, in the 2014 Budget, nearly $8 billion in Foreign Aid was cut from the Australian Budget.

Foreign Aid

3. Develop a conversation using Edmondo [safe, secure Social Media site for students and teachers] about the ethics behind these two positions - buying designer goods vs Foreign Aid.

Edmondo

 

 

 

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