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School of Business | Department of Marketing | Marketing | 2014
Thesis number: 13827
Humble man's pursuit of prestige: A narrative approach to the interplay of cultural virtues and luxury desires in Finnish post-postmodern man's identity construction process
Author: Malminen, Salla
Title: Humble man's pursuit of prestige: A narrative approach to the interplay of cultural virtues and luxury desires in Finnish post-postmodern man's identity construction process
Year: 2014  Language: eng
Department: Department of Marketing
Academic subject: Marketing
Index terms: markkinointi; marketing; kuluttajakäyttäytyminen; consumer behaviour; kuluttajat; consumers; identiteetti; identity; ylellisyystavarat; luxury goods; elämäntapa; way of life; tarina; narrative
Pages: 102
Key terms: cultural identity; luxury consumption; consumer behavior; consumer culture theory; lifestyle; identity construction; life story; narrative analysis; social constructivism
Purpose of the study:

This study aims to explain how the given cultural context and consumer's life experiences affect consumer's interpretations of luxury and determine how they act as luxury consumers. Following Holt's (2002) definition of a post-postmodern era, this study treats luxury brands as one of the many cultural resources, which are important in consumer's self-construction process. While luxury has long traditions in countries such as France and Italy, its history in Finland is relatively short and the driving forces behind the formulation of Finns' luxury perceptions are intriguing. Finnish society's core virtues, such as modesty and humbleness, are quite notably in crossfire with elitism and extravagance often associated with luxury consumption, which makes Finland especially interesting cultural setting to examine. This study investigates the construction of Finnish consumer identity and seeks to understand Finnish men's viewpoint on luxury. The profound aim of this study is to discover how the post-postmodern male consumers allow luxury lifestyle manifestations in the northern hinterland called Finland.


The research is qualitative of its nature and best described as a hermeneutically-oriented narrative life story study. The consumer's life experiences and worldviews are in key role while this study takes an interpretive approach and examines how male consumers construct their identities and make sense of luxury. Data-collection was done through in-depth life story interviews and theme interviews focusing on luxury topic. The interviewees were a carefully chosen sample of Finnish men in their early adulthood. Narrative analysis was then deployed to make sense of the data gathered in these interviews. Namely, relevant parts of interviewees' stories on life and luxury topic were linked together with cultural context and, eventually, themes to capture the essence of Finnish luxury consumption were suggested.


My study reveals that Finnish young generation has adopted more hedonistic and egocentric lifestyle than their parents and that they are more open to allow luxury lifestyle to manifest in Finland. In addition, this study proves that despite the assumed contradictions to traditional cultural virtues, Finnish post-postmodern men treat luxury brands as one of the many cultural resources in their identity construction processes. The key findings of this study are captured in five themes that initiated from the similarities found in the interviewees' stories and that showcase interplay of luxury brands and cultural virtues in men's identity-seeking. Luxury is used for achieving sense of belonging to the desired reference group while taking the risk of being stigmatized as a snob. Luxury incorporates also a certain modern version of gift giving to oneself, as a phenomenon such as personal rewarding of achievements is acknowledgeable function of luxury among young Finnish men. What is more, the study shows that there's a preference for experiences over material purchases and luxury also manifests as experiental elitism among the post-postmodern men. However, Finns are recognized as a nation that has tendency for social comparison and envy, which encourages in keeping the luxury consumption manifestations private or among closed circle (private indulgence).

Key words:

cultural identity, consumer behavior, consumption, luxury, lifestyle, life story, identity construction, narrative analysis, consumer culture theory, social constructivism
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.