Self-Concept & Consumer Behavior: Marketing Products to Enhance Self-Concept💪🚀
The child’s self-concept or self-image starts developing as he/she interacts with others in the family. This interaction gives the child the idea to define him/her as a separate entity. That is, the sense of self develops from the very early years.
Your self-concept is composed of the attitudes you hold toward yourself or how you see yourself. It also includes, at the same time, the picture you think others have of you. You may distinguish between the actual self-concept – the way you view yourself and the ideal self-concept – the way you want to be viewed or would like to view yourself.
Carl Rogers defined self-concept as an organized configuration of perceptions of the self which are admissible to awareness.
It is composed of such elements as the perceptions of one’s characteristics and abilities; the precepts and concepts of the self concerning others and the environment; the valuable qualities which are perceived as associated with experiences and objects; and goals and ideals which are perceived as having positive or negative valence.
According to Hawkins, Best, and Coney, self-concept consists of four parts, viz. actual concept, ideal concept, private self, and social self. The actual concept refers to your idea of who you are now.
The ideal concept means your conception of who you would like to be. On the other hand, the private self refers to how you would like to be to yourself. The social self is your idea of how others see you or how you would like to be seen by others.
From this explanation, you can find four separate selfconcept of yourself, as shown below:
- Real Self: How you actually see yourself now.
- Ideal Self: How you would like to see yourself.
- Real Social Self: How you perceive others actually see you.
- Ideal Social Self: How you would like to have others see you.
The self-concept that you have of yourself is not a rigid one. As you come across new situations and meet and interact with new people, your selfconcept may change. You will always try to move your real self-concept toward your ideal self-concept.
Mr. Cooley termed self-concept as “looking-glass-self.” Your selfconcept is actually your reflection of yourself to others. This is as you see your reflection when you stand in front of the mirror. What do you do when you find that your hair are not properly combed? You set those by looking at your reflection in the mirror.
The same happens in the case of developing your self-concept. If you see yourself through others’ eyes, you can trace your weaknesses and get them corrected. Mr. Cooley has identified three components of this concept;
- your perception of how your behavior appears to others;
- your perception of their judgments of your behavior; and
- your feelings about these judgments.
As we mentioned earlier, self-image or concept may change from time to time as the demands and expectations of people close to you change. This self-concept has a significant impact on your consumption decision that will be discussed now:
Self-Concept and Consumer Behavior
Self-concept serves as the basis for one’s lifestyle. You may also state it another way: an individual’s lifestyle reflects his self-concept within the limits of time, financial circumstances, and other constraints normally imposed on his life.
Different studies of purchases show that people generally prefer brands and products that are compatible with their selfconcept or self-image.
There are mixed reports regarding the influence of actual and ideal self-concepts on brand and product preferences. According to some researchers, consumption preferences correspond to a person’s actual self-concept, while others hold that the ideal self-concept is dominant in consumers’ choices.
However, the way an individual perceives various products could be affected by the image he/she has of himself/herself.
One tends to prefer those brands that reflect his self-image. One may also desire certain brands that do not match his current image but may reflect an image that he aspires. We also engage in behaviors such as product purchases when we think those purchases will enhance our self-image.
It (self-concept) is, in fact, the personal or internal manifestation of the lifestyle for any individual since it denotes the totality of one’s attitude, feeling, perception, and evaluation of oneself. Different studies found that most consumers prefer brands that are similar to their self-concept.
For example, a fashionable woman (as she perceives herself) may buy fashionable, not comfortable clothing to wear even at home. Another woman, who, for example, considers herself as not fashionable (self-concept), may display different patterns of behavior while buying clothes for herself.
One’s self-concept actually influences his choice of clothing and many other items that he buys and uses, such as automobiles, housing, cosmetics, food items, different packaged goods, luxury items, store selection, etc.
You should note one important point here that one may buy and use different types of products to display his actual and ideal self-concept.
For example, an individual may buy very ordinary clothing for use at home (displaying his actual self-concept), whereas he may buy very fashionable and costly clothing to wear when going office (reflecting his ideal selfimage).
Marketing Significance of Self-Concept
A marketing manager must realize that product design, price, distribution, and promotion should be consistent with his consumers’ self-images to sell well. He should understand the following few things:
- Every individual has a self-concept.
- The individual values it (self-concept).
- As it is valued by them, they try to enhance their self-concepts.
- It is developed through interaction with parents, friends, teachers, and significant others.
- Individuals buy certain products as they symbolize some social meaning.
- The use of products as symbols communicate meaning to oneself and others, causing an impact on one’s self-concept.
- Consequently, individuals consume those products/brands that represent or enhance their self-concepts.
Thus, individuals’ self-concepts serve as a guide for many of the products and brand choices made. A marketer, while developing new products and new appeals for consumers, always needs to keep in mind that the product design, characteristics, and advertising appeal should be consistent with the consumer’s self-concept.
If an individual is convinced that a particular brand expresses his self-concept, he will how to buy it to protect his self-concept and give others the idea of his self-concept.
Therefore, understanding self-concept can help marketers in many marketing decisions, including product design, pricing, promotion, market segmentation, etc.