The fashion industry

Introduction

The more well-known a company is the more problems it will face. In another words, praised and blames are always come up together. As a tycoon of the fashion industry, the Burberry brand image has ever been damaged in their home country (Burberry official website), they should understand how to rebuilt it and make sure it will not become a global problem and affect their oversea sales. This report is based on the consumer behavior across culture theories to analyze how customers influence a brand and what Burberry should do towards different background consumers, which will mainly focus on the British market and Chinese market.

Two mini focus groups will be conducted to help approve the issue. Additionally, the study will cover the consumer behavior theories including following fields: Maslow's hierarchy of need, the concept of 'face', culture influence and fashion identity, brand identity and self- identity. After the whole analysis, the limitation of this report and the recommendation for the company will be presented.

background of the company

Burberry, as one of the most famous British luxury brands in the global fashion market, set up by a 21 years old British boy Thomas Burberry in 1856 in the UK then it has become the representative of dust coat nowadays. What is more, Burberry is also a royal brand which was first awarded a Royal Warrant by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the year 1955 and a second Royal Warrant was granted to Burberry in 1989 by HRH the Prince of Wales in 1989. (Burberry Plc official website).Its original red, white and black tartan pattern not only is the mark of Burberry's history but also the mark of Britain even the trademark of high quality and high luxury. In all modesty, when people talk about the tartan pattern, they will think of Britain and Burberry. There is a popular sentence in the fashion field: as long as it is rainy, the whole London will be covered by Burberry (Mazurka, 2005), and it has already become the national and royal brand of Great Britain. Apart from its mother country, Burberry also obtains a huge success in the global fashion market. The total revenue is growing year by year as the graph shows

The Number of stores is also keeping increasing as the figure 2 shows

Problem definition

Great Britain is the mother country of Burberry, England, in particular, quickly expanded their sale range and gained high reputation and absorbed a large group of loyal customers (Burberry official website). In other words, as one of the oldest original British luxury fashion brand, Burberry is always playing a leader role in its local market. Whereas, the lofty brand image has ever been tarnished more or less by a group of sub cultural people such as chavs or football hooligans(James,2004), namely, it is this kind of people who use Burberry products and tend to be juvenile offenders who commit crime and are not so pleasant people. Here is a phenomenon that when British people talked about Burberry they just think of chavs but not a high status luxury brand anymore (Lara and Robert et al, focus group). And also their sales dropped down in 2004 Christmas because of the copy by chavs (Harry, 2005). What is worse, they have ever even fallen into the tragic situation that in London, lots of pubs just announce with the words on the wall NO BURBERRY INSIDE (Cecilia, focus group 1). Fortunately, it is just a sort of British phenomenon in a specific environment but not a universal issue. Burberry's CEO said for the company, they should feel thankful and hopeful as the most of Burberry's sales are overseas, so even sales in the UK market have been affecting while the international total profit is going uptrend to over £160m (BBC TWO,2005).

Chav can be considered as a sort of subordinate group, they 'try to adopt the status symbols of the group above them as they attempt to climb up the ladder of social mobility', while for the people who belong to the superordinate groups will persistently make sure themselves keep away from the subordinates to show their distinctiveness and specialty (Georg, 1904 cited by Solomon 2006). Sometimes, subordinate group will create some kind of so called fashion, unfortunately at the same time it is also nearly following the perish of this certain fashion. Because when the high social status people notice their fashion has been affected or adopted by the low social status people, they will give up it and turn to find another new fashion instead to make sure they can distinguish themselves from another. In this way, Burberry should notice that if their loyal customer has been influenced and has the trend to give up Burberry products to stand out from chav group.

Nevertheless, consumers with different background have different characteristics and distinctive impression about a brand. A customer with this background may consider a certain brand as a high status brand while another customer with that background does probably not think so. Accordingly, how the consumer behavior across culture (mainly focus on the British and Chinese market) does affect Burberry is the key topic of this report. Apart from the primary and secondary research, to give more support to the report, two focus groups were conducted.

Focus group

This two mini focus groups in which 6 members each (3 British and 3 Chinese each) were asked their opinions towards Burberry. The question is how do you like Burberry's products? Group 1 is Burberry users and group 2 is non-Burberry users. 5 British people including the 2 users answered when they talk about Burberry they will think of Chavs and the brand reputation is not as outstanding as before while all the Chinese answers were they thought Burberry is the representativeof British fashion culture and it is also a lofty brand with high status. The difference between this tow answers is mainly because chavs just exist in British culture but Chinese people never heard about them.

why people consume fashion brand

With regards to the motivation for consumer buying behavior, the Maslow's hierarchy of need could be a proper explanation generally. The psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation firstly referred five level elements of need as the figure below:

In some people's opinion, they are what they own such as they will define themselves like this 'my Benz and Rolex stand for I am a flourishing person.' In the same way that the usage of a product can influence the others' perspectives (Solomon,1983) and the same products would judge customers' own self concept and social class(Robert et al, 1993) which can make them feel happy or confident. It is also about the meaning of 'life, liberty, and the purchase of hapiness' (Myers, 2000).Accordingly, the reason of luxury consumption behavior can be concluded as the chart shows below:

About the relation of luxury consumption and self concept is going to talk about more in next section.

Self identity brand indentity Fashion identity

self-identity can be defined as' the salient part of an individual's self that relates to a particular behavior and reflects the labels people use to describe themselves', and it will contribute to the prediction of behavioral intentions independently. (Biddle et al. 1987). Moreover, there is an issue viewed that one of the most crucial motivation factors for customer consumption is people generally expect what they buy can make them feel more like someone they want to be, in this way, people could use the material goods for the purpose of enhancing self identity and self happiness(Helga Dittmar, 2008). Any consumer consumption behavior is a certain way to be satisfied with their need. And simultaneously, the "sense of pleasure" is associated with the consumption (Subhashini, 2007)

According to the psychologist William James, the material items people own can help they identify themselves beyond the physical boundaries of the body (William James, first published in 1890). In an increasing homogeneity of the market environment, consumers buying decisions are more and more dependent on the combination degree of the material product and their own self concept, but not just concern the physical functionality anymore. (Graff, 1996)

With respect to the identity, apart from the customer self identity, the brand identity also needs to be mentioned. Being personification, a brand is much more than a product itself. Stephen Kingskilfully indicated the distinction between a product and a brand: 'a product is something that is made in a factory; a brand is something that is bought by customers. A competitor can copy a product; a brand is unique. A product can be quickly outdated; a successful brand is timeless '. (Quoted by Aaker, 1991,p1)

Brand identity

'Branding is an important element of the tangible product and, particularly in consumer markets, is a means of linking items within a product line or emphasizing the individuality of product items.'(Brand strategy, 2003). It can make them distinguish from their competitors. Therefore, building a high and special brand which can meet the demand or perceive the value of consumer is a crucial part of a company developing strategy, especially for an international company like Burberry, which shows a superior example how to build a strong brand image and how the brand affects the customers' consumption. Consumer views brand as an important part of a product, and branding can add value to a product (kotler et al, 2002).

Fashion identity

Fashion industry tends to be built or damaged by certain culture or people like celebrity simply. For example, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart wearing Burberry in their well known movie Casablanca, Burberry became more and more popular at that time. And now, Victoria Beckam and new 007 Daniel Craig also being a big fan of Burberry, they choose Burberry outfit frequently, and then their followers or crazy fans will choose Burberry correspondingly. It could be proved by the example that people especially topical people always swiftly affect the trend of fashion.

If put fashion into a historical and cultural background, it will be found that it has the unusual features and the meaning symbols as Belk argues that objects in customers' possession can literally differentiate and extend self (Belk, 1988).When a certain group at a particular period makes the fashion image change into cultural image then fashion is just a way of life and daily behavior. It is filled with a variety of groups and strata of societies, showing in the social life changes in all aspects of a culture and life styles.

Fashion is driven by creativity, desire and aspiration. Consumers want to buy unique items that are expressive, personal to them and reflect their taste and status. Fashion designers and buyers have to provide clothes that meet these ever changing needs(Tony and Margaret, 2007). In another words, fashion is not only just a simple physical style or a pattern of behavior, but also contains some deep meaning, a certain kind of culture. Next section is going to aim at culture influence.

Culture influence

Consumer consumption is always effected by the different culture which' has a profound impact on how individuals perceive who they are, what they are allowed to do and what their role is as a member of society.'(Hellmut and Deanna,p25,1998). Solomon also pointed out that without considering the culture effectiveness, fashion cannot be understood simply and culture lead to the people's attitude towards products (Solomon and Rabolt,2004). That means as long as people live in the material world no matter there are individuals or societies, then not only their daily behavior, attitude but also the lifestyle is based on their culture. What is more, the success or failure of the certain goods or services sometimes is mainly determined by the culture, which is the general priority for customers. (Solomon at al. 2006 ).

Chinese business market, developing whip and spur and being one of the largest markets in the world, more and more luxury fashion industries aim to china and alter their main marketing strategy campaign into Chinese market. In November 2009, the global strategic consulting firm Bain issued in their "Global Luxury Goods Market Report" (shanghai, china) report said in 2008 China's luxury market is about 8.6 billion U.S. dollars, while 2009 is expected to reach 9.6 billion. PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts optimistically that by 2015, China will become the world's largest buyers and top one market of luxury goods. (Reported by Jiaming Wang, 2009, China newsweek). Therefore, looking forward to share a seat in the fierce competition of Chinese market, the luxury companies need to understand the Chinese consumption behavior such as why more and more Chinese people would like to buy the luxury products and what kind of factors affect them.

The concept of 'face'

In the past ten years, luxury brands in china are just the exclusive power for those moneybags and elites. Notwithstanding, an earthshaking changes in the recent years, not only the economic recession did not impede the escalating trendof luxury consumption but also you could see more and more Chinese are using LV or Chanel in their daily life, even they just middle class people. Maybe a doubt will come out here about how the middle class can afford such a large amount of money just for that gingerbread?

There is a traditional special word in Chinese culture called 'mianzi' or 'lian' which means 'face' in English(Solomon, 2006, mooij, 2004) but it is much more complicated than 'face' in Chinese. According to Hofstede, the concept of face is based on the proper relationship between a person and his or her belonging group or society (Hofstede, 1984). In Chinese culture, influenced by the Confucian perspective, people talk about 'mianzi', it is much more about the psychological feeling than the physical character and related to these words: shame, reputation, prestige and the like. If a person's behavior make him cast out of society then he will 'lose his face'. (Yau,O.M.H., 1994). Ironically, sometimes people have no choice but have to follow the trend of the society or to struggle to meet the so-called standard otherwise they will 'lose face' (Hellmut and Deanna,1998). Thus, believing the luxury products can help them earn 'mianzi', more and more Chinese are keen on purchasing those kinds of high price products such as LV, Chanel which can exactly demand Chinese customer to achieve their 'mianzi', namely to fulfill their amour-propre . In another words, owning the most popular item or high status product, people will 'gain face' then feel proud of being a high social class person. On the contrary, if people buy something low reputation goods, they might feel have no 'face'. In the 'mianzi' culture, people's self confidence does not come from themselves but from the others' comment. There is even a joke but a very popular quote among Chinese daily life said that' would rather lose life than losing face'. To some extent, to gain face, the majority of people are busy with following the steps of fashion. however they are also led by the fashion at the same time. The most horrible situation might be that people will lose themselves then became the slaves of fashion.

Limitations

Nothing is perfect in the world, so every writing project will have difficulties and limitations during the whole process. For this report, the limitations are listed below:

  • Words count restriction. Due to the words limitation, it is not possible to fully depict a global company's problem and strategy. Meanwhile, the standpoint cannot present deeply or penetratingly.
  • Time and money limitation. There is not ampletime to do the professional secondary and primary data collection and systematic analysis.
  • Narrow focus group. Just 2 groups with 12 members cannot accurately reflect the whole British and Chinese consumer behavior. Therefore, it is just an example for the report to prove the view.
  • Lack of the support of company. All the data are just original from the company's official websites and annual reports without the face to face contact with the company. It is also because of the lack of time and money to get in touch with the company directly.
  • Parochial outlook. The course is consumer behavior across culture but the report just base on the Chinese and British customer analysis. As due to the words count limitation, it cannot analyze the whole global culture.
  • Facebook influence. Sometime attention was arrested by Facebook and time was rolled around it as well. The essay should have been better without Facbooking.

Conclusion and Recommendation

In conclusion, it would be advisable to carry out a thorough analysis of Burberry's consumers across culture like Prof. Hofsted said that 'Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.'(Hofstede, 2004). Individual culture like UK it privileges the identity separate from others whereas the Chinese collectivist culture emphasizes identity come through connectedness with others (Hofstede, 2001). Hence, for Burberry, if their brand image was damaged by chavs or football hooligans, maybe in the UK it is not so serious problem because British people care their own feeling more than how others' speech, but if the image problem is in china, Burberry should have a wake-up call as Chinese people would be afraid of being recognized as Chavs by others, and then they might give up Burberry and find another brand instead.

For social man, the products what they buy are not only the simple material stuff but also the potential meanings, they expect to be specialize via those goods. Herewith, Burberry probably need to investigate and comprehend what is customer's ideal product and what is their genuine necessary like Holbrook and Hirschman(1982) presented the idea that consumption might be just 'involving a steady flow of fantasies, feelings and fun.'

On the one hand, maybe Burberry's image has been diluted by chavs indeed, on the another hand, it could be said that it also a positive way for them to improve awareness Index somehow, no matter it is a admirable awareness or embarrassing one, at least this situation make Burberry became a topic and let more people know about the brand. Consequently, if Burberry wants to find back their glory time and formulate their global competitive strength, they just need to shape their course towards different culture and build up the high social class status then it is believable that their glory history will be repeated again and keep resplendence.

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