The American Marketing Association recently published six studies about the luxury goods purchasing differences between American conservatives and liberals. For those in the automotive, travel, and other affluent-targeting industries, knowing this information can greatly improve the ROI of your marketing efforts.
One of the key functions of a luxury good is to communicate the owner’s social status. Wealth, ability, and personal network power are examples of status that can be visually demonstrated with a luxury item.
As Rolex puts it: “Wearing a Rolex watch enables entry into a world of unlimited possibilities.”
Or from a rival watchmaker: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
Dubai-based DAMAC says their luxury real estate properties “complement your stature”.
In each of these instances, the object under consideration does not elevate your status – it maintains it. They show what you have already achieved. Status-maintenance is a vital component to how political ideology can influence purchasing decisions. Conservatives and liberals in the United States view and approach status-maintenance differently. In the AMA research, a total of six studies were conducted to analyze the differences and the result they have on the purchase of luxury goods.
We recently developed a magazine for a luxury car dealership. As part of the design process, we discussed with them the idea of placing an “aspirational” vehicle on the cover – the type of vehicle that one would literally dream of owning. For example, many people may want to own a Mercedes-Benz, but it is something else entirely to own a Mercedes-AMG® S 63.
Status is an integral part of desire. It shapes how we define ourselves, both in terms of our own self-worth and how others see us. For marketing purposes, it is important to understand how consumers perceive their own status because of its influence on desire for luxury goods.
For the purposes of the AMA research, “political ideology refers to beliefs and principles that reflect a person’s views on how society should be governed.”Ball and Dagger 2006
As noted in the research, political conservatives tend to favor the status quo. They are more comfortable with lifestyle elements which are familiar to them. They are more likely to evaluate a person’s social status than to evaluate the system in which that status is ranked. Therefore, it is important to note their preference for status-maintenance over status-advancement. It was also shown that the more politically conservative a person is, the more they valued not only status-maintenance, but luxury status-maintenance.
Scientifically, the studies did not seek to measure a contrasting behavior by liberals or their specific preferences. It was noted that liberals favored status advancement, but that was not a specific goal.
The participants in one study were sent a survey 3-4 months after the purchase of their vehicle and asked to self-identify their political affiliation. Vehicles were categorized as luxury or non-luxury. A total of 21,999 observations were made. According to the data, affluent conservatives are 35% more likely to purchase luxury vehicles than affluent liberals. The luxury car is a status symbol. It communicates their stature to the wider world.
Marketing Impact: Such data should influence campaign elements including image choice, copywriting, and media selection. Elements such as high-brow patriotism (Colin Powell, not Larry the Cable Guy), affluence, and support for the military and law enforcement will work well. It is important to note that law-and-order support should be evidenced through actions as well as words. If you intend to claim you support first responders, have a partnership with local police or fire departments in your community. If you want to say you support the military, volunteer time for welcome returning soldiers or financially sponsoring a local VFW. You are more likely to permanently lose business if your words are not backed by actions.
The important message here is the difference between status-maintenance and status-advancement. American political conservatives aren’t buying luxury products because they are conservative. Every decision is an emotional one. The ownership (or perceived ownership) of a luxury product helps a conservative feel as though they are maintaining status in their network.
“You earned it” is more effective than “You will earn it”.
“The trip your friends wish they could take” is more effective than “the trip you’ve always wanted to take”.
Simple draping a flag over something or getting an endorsement from Tomi Lahren isn’t the key to your success. If you know your prospect is politically conservative, tailor your message to meet their expectations and respect their beliefs.