Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pledge Allegiance to Patriotic Consumers

“Getting into debt is the American way.”
     This was the prevailing opinion among a group of 27 white, middle-class Americans selected and interviewed in depth by consumer researchers from Oregon State University and France’s École des Hautes Études Commerciales du Nord. By “the American way,” the respondents meant that buying on credit was extremely common. The one white, middle-class American who said she avoided credit went on to add that her un-American habits resulted in her being unable to get a cell phone and experiencing endless troubles when traveling without a credit card.
     But there was more to it: Taking on debt is patriotic, some said. It’s necessary for Americans to do it in order to keep the economy rolling.
     When a shopper considers making a purchase that is more than habitual, they weigh the amount of risk involved. If patriotism is a factor in purchases, this involves psychological risk—the chance taken by shoppers that the purchase of the product or service will threaten the image that the shoppers want to maintain of themselves.
     The lesson for retailers is that if a purchase or terms of purchase can be framed as a patriotic act, this could facilitate the transaction. The consumers might even generate the patriotism rationalization themselves, particularly if they sense they’re under attack by critics.
     An older study by researchers at University of Wisconsin–Madison, York University in Toronto, and University of Innsbruck in Austria found that owners of Hummer vehicles explained themselves with flag-waving. Here the sample for the in-depth interview consisted of 20 Hummer owners born and raised in the U.S.A.
     The respondents were acutely aware of the accusations that the Hummer is a prime example of greed and wastefulness. The owners replied that driving a Hummer exemplified, instead, the boundless frontiers and rugged individualism springing from the very founding of the nation. They saw themselves as intentionally visible defenders of America against anti-American diatribes.
     Each of these studies was done by careful researchers using accepted qualitative research methods. Still, with each of these two studies including only a limited number of interviews, the findings should be considered intriguing rather than conclusive.
     Also keep in mind that nationalistic sentiments change. For instance, did I mention that the Oregon/EDHEC interviews were completed prior to the 2008 U.S. financial freefall? No, I didn’t. I expect that consumer sentiment about getting into debt has changed since then.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more:
Satisfy Each Customer’s Self-Concept
Consider Your Store a Sports Stadium

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