A Framework for Examining the Role of Culture in Individuals Likelihood to Engage in Self-Gift Behavior

By Weisfeld-Spolter, Suri; Thakkar, Maneesh | Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, January 2012 | Go to article overview

A Framework for Examining the Role of Culture in Individuals Likelihood to Engage in Self-Gift Behavior


Weisfeld-Spolter, Suri, Thakkar, Maneesh, Academy of Marketing Studies Journal


INTRODUCTION

"Amy White is getting an early start on her holiday shopping list. The St. Louis attorney has already picked out a Harry Potter DVD, a $70 coffee-table book and a $39 Victoria's Secret sweater. There's even a $625 purple vase on the list. And the lucky recipient ... Ms. White herself" (Mechling, 2010).

Gift giving theory and research has primarily focused on interpersonal gifts (e.g. Belk, 1979). However, as demonstrated by the statement above, people may also give gifts to themselves, and it is believed that the self- gift phenomenon may be widely occurring in American society (Mick and DeMoss, 1990a, 1990b). In fact, previous self-gifting research has primarily focused on Western consumer behavior (e.g. self-gift motivations and occasions (Mick and eMoss, 1990a, 1990b), cognitive processes (Olshavsky and Lee, 1993), materialism (McKeage, Richins, and Debevec, 1993), attribution of achievement outcomes (Faure and Mick, 1993; Mick and Faure, 1998) etc.) However, it is well established that people with different cultural backgrounds may behave differently and have different reactions to similar situations. More specifically, research has shown that different cultural identifications have an impact on the way people think, feel, and behave (e.g. Markus and Kitayama, 1991). This leads to the question then of whether the results of previous self-gifting studies can be generalized to consumers living in other countries. More specifically, the first question we have to ask is does the concept of a self-gift even exist in other countries or is it one unique to the United States. This research proposes to answer this question by developing a theory that examines different types of consumers attitude and likelihood towards self-gift giving.

More specifically, to investigate potential individual differences (reflecting differences in culture) that may exist with regards to consumers attitude and behavior of self-gifting, the Theory of Reasoned Action, with its established usefulness for predicting and explaining behavior, combined with self-construal, one of the most popular constructs used to explain the effects of culture on a variety of outcomes, will be used to develop a theory to answer this question.

SELF-GIFTING AND ADVERTISING

"A new name has cropped up on holiday shopping lists: Me" (Mayk, 2009). Self-gifts are conceptualized as (1) personally symbolic self-communication through (2) special indulgences that tend to be (3) premeditated and (4) highly context bound (Mick and DeMoss 1990b, p.328). Previous research has substantiated the notion that self-gifts are a fairly common and important phenomenon particularly in western consumer behavior (e.g. Faure and Mick, 1993). According to social researchers, Western individuals have become increasingly self-oriented in their purchases and consumption behavior (Mick, DeMoss and Faber 1992), and an example of this phenomena has been labeled self-gifts. Similarly, McKeage et al. (1993) believe that people have been giving gifts to themselves since the early beginnings of self-indulgence.

Marketers have recognized this trend in the United States and have directed their product development efforts and advertising messages accordingly. For example, the diamond industry has caught onto the new "me" mood, with slogans like "Your left hand says 'we,' you're right hand says 'me'," urging women to buy diamonds for themselves. Slogans such as "You deserve a break today" (McDonald's) and "The perfect little thank-me" (Andes candies) present indulgences as personal rewards (Mick and DeMoss, 1990b).

American advertisers have been capitalizing on consumers' self-gift propensities for some time. The question then becomes whether the propensity to self gift is confined to the United States, or a more wide spread phenomenon. This has important managerial implications for marketers of self-gifts, particularly those in Western cultures that want to market their products abroad. …

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