Magazine article Baylor Business Review

"Materialism Cometh"

Magazine article Baylor Business Review

"Materialism Cometh"

Article excerpt

Its Link to Status, Compulsive Buying and ...Racehorse Owners?

Research on materialism has sought to understand the factors that affect our society's materialistic values nd the impact such values have on our behavior as consumers. Studies further indicate there is likely to be a significant relationship between materialism and status consumption, since one's status reflects one's identity and vice-versa. It is also apparent that such concepts operate differently across cultures.

The economic condition of developed nations, particularly in comparison to the 66 percent of the world that is underdeveloped, has not only facilitated excess but some might say, promoted excess to the harm of mankind. The increasing presence of materialism among developed countries disturbs many and has already influenced developing nations as buyers begin to demand more.

One way to examine materialism is to identify situations in which materialism is likely to be manifested. Here, we explore the relationship that materialism has with status consumption and compulsive buying in the context of owning thoroughbred racehorses.


What does materialism imply? In the most negative of terms it implies avarice, greed, hoards, etc. In general, however, it just means that more and more people like to have quality, high-dollar possessions that convey an image of success- giving them status. For many, possessions and acquisitions are a source of personal comfort and happiness, while others just like to be ostentatious.

Researchers have found three dimensions of materialism: 1) acquisitions as a source of personal comfort and happiness for many-pretense for others, 2) centrality, the degree to which one places possessions and their acquisition at the center of one's life, and 3) status, the perception that possessions confer status and project the desired self-image.

Researchers have defined status as the rank that one holds in society, which can be considered a form of power made up of respect, consideration, and/or envy from others. Wider still, research shows that status consumption is the motivation to improve social standing through conspicuous consumption.

In the case of thoroughbred racehorses, ownership-is likely to improve one's status-even to the extent that while television cameras may focus on the winners of Triple Crown events, the mere "ownership of a competitor" may be sufficient to achieve the type of status, success, and happiness that materialistic consumers crave.

The cost of entry to the sport is generally perceived to be high, as the July 1998 Keeneland sale of yearlings confirmed when the average price of a never-raced, untried yearling was over $482,000! The "Sport of Kings" nickname also implies that one must be wealthy to participate.

Yet, the reality of horse ownership is very different than the general perceptions. Racehorse owner partnerships can start as low as $1,000 per year, offering a method of status consumption in which the real cost can be hidden while one lives off the perception! Thus racehorse ownership can be a low-cost status consumption experience.


Compulsive buying has been described as "chronic repetitive purchasing" that becomes a primary response to negative events or feelings. While compulsive buying falls into a category of clinically-defined compulsive behaviors, it has also been explored by consumer behaviorists as a psychographic property or trait-as would be the case when compulsive buyers are very conscious about appearance, which could, in turn, indicate greater emphasis on status.

The stimulus for studying the relationship between materialism and compulsive buying is the thought that perhaps compulsive buying is more likely to occur when materialism is high. Thus, the compulsive "behavior of choice" becomes buying when materialism or status-seeking traits are already present. …

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