The key to marketing cosmetics could lie in attitudes to equality

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

US researchers say that a study into attitudes towards equality and the link with impulse buying could shine new light on marketing cosmetics worldwide.

A team of researchers at the Rice University’s Jones Graduate School conducted the extensive survey in the US, and underline the fact that it could also have implications on how consumer products are marketed.

Entitled ‘Power-Distance Belief and Impulse Buying’, the report was authored by professor Vikas Mittal and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing and Research.

The study revolved around the Power-distance belief (PDB) which measures the level of social disparity that individuals expect and accept within their cultures.

Measuring PDB to determine consumer patterns

Some 901 Americans were asked about their purchasing habits in a series of surveys and experiments that aimed to provide a measure of the individual’s PDB, part of which entailed assessing their online shopping habits.

The study measured this phenomenon on a scale of zero to 100, with a higher rating indicating a greater likelihood that a person will expect socioeconomic disparity and accept power inequality, which in turn is linked to their purchasing behavior.

Conversely, the study found that the lower the acceptance of disparity, the more likely an individual person is to make impulse purchases.

The study discovered that this trend was evident in the purchase of everyday products such as drinks or snack, and was even more pronounced for ‘vice’ foods such as chocolates and high-fat snacks.

However, the researchers say that these findings can be equally extrapolated for goods such as prestige cosmetics and perfumes.

Luxury goods mostly bought on impulse

Mittal points out that this point is particularly relevant to purchases of such luxury and prestige goods because an estimated 80 percent of such purchases are said to be made on an impulse.

The researchers were able to link up to other studies that have already been conducted worldwide, to assess how American behavior contrasts with other countries, in turn giving a window into cultural influences in the equation.

The survey showed that, at 40, Americans had a relatively low PDB, in contrasts to Russia at 93, China at 80 and India at 77.

Other countries that had a relatively low PDB included Austria at 11, Germany 35, New Zealand 22 and Japan 54.

“It seems that people with high PDB exert self-control more often and over time may get habituated to self-control,”​ said Mittal.

Although he did underline that individual results will vary enormously in any given country, he did also draw attention to the fact that the PDB results for individual countries did denote certain core cultural values.

In turn he said that companies marketing products worldwide could benefit from adapting their marketing campaigns around the measures for PDB in individual countries.

“Marketers need to ascertain whether their products or brands are viewed by different consumer segments as virtue or vice products. Our study shows that vice product will be more susceptible to impulsive buying among low-PDB consumers,”​ Mittal concluded.

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