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School of Business | Department of Marketing | Marketing | 2013
Thesis number: 13506
Behave yourself - Identity power of consumption, a contemporary view
Author: Peltonen, Jukka
Title: Behave yourself - Identity power of consumption, a contemporary view
Year: 2013  Language: eng
Department: Department of Marketing
Academic subject: Marketing
Index terms: markkinointi; marketing; kulutus; consumption; kuluttajakäyttäytyminen; consumer behaviour; identiteetti; identity; etnografia; ethnography
Pages: 102
Full text:
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Key terms: symbolic consumption, consumer behaviour, identity, ethnography, generation Y
The heart of the study lies in the concept of identity and its central role in understanding consumer behavior. The study follows the premises of postmodern consumption theories and underlines consumers' drive to buy products not only for the functional benefits but also for the symbolic meanings that these withhold. A product's capability to signal symbolic cues of the consumer oneself and the aspirations of an individual and his or her identity are strongly affecting the consumer behaviour.

According to findings based on academic literature, consumption of brands and goods are used for: Creating consumer's identity and expressing it to outside counterparts as well as for locating oneself socially. Also consumers seem to choose products, brands or suppliers matching their self-image, discussed as the congruence hypothesis, a theory based on the post positivistic school.

In the study it is highlighted how in the contemporary context the importance of the consumption of physical branded goods for the creation of the identity and for consumers' self-expression can be questioned. Consumers' need for self-expression is limited and brands are constantly challenged not only by other brands but also by any other non-brand means of self-expression and self-expressive behavioral acts, not forgetting constant public self-expressive behavior made possible by social media.

Nonetheless, consumerism and purchase rituals of physical goods and their brands have not disappeared, but still play a major role in our society and represent large amount of people's monthly investments in time and money. This leads to the indented aim of this study, to investigate the role of consumption in identity creation and as a self-expressive behavior in the changed environment, in the contemporary context of today's western welfare society. The final goal is formulated under the following research question: How does symbolic consumption and consumers' self-concept become negotiated in how the role of possessions is understood in a contemporary context?

The question is approached through the methods of ethnography and qualitative interviews. To grasp the context of contemporary society to its fullest, the choice of participants guided the research to a sample of four generation Y representatives living their independent lives of young adults in the urban neighborhoods of the capital of Finland.

The empirical findings show how consumption has a supportive role in the creation of consumers' identity. Consumption is also seen as a powerful tool in identity expression. Participants of this study behave very similarly as consumers compared to how they describe themselves as individuals and what the ethnographic findings concerning participants' identities suggest.

The study supports the stated importance of other self-expressive behavioral acts for identity creation - especially one's profession is seen particularly important. Yet, the study witnesses how participants use consumption more for that purpose: Participants didn't have so much control over their work situation but they were able to follow their free will in the field of consumption.
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