The impact of luxury brand mentions on consumer culture : a phenomenological inquiry
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The current research explores how luxury brand mentions impacts consumer culture. Specifically, the social, cultural, and economic implications of such mentions when integrated in reality television is investigated. Exploring this phenomenon is important as consumers are afforded several options to skip or avoid advertising when viewing television. Hence, consumers are now exposed to brand mentions that are integrated in media by advertisers who aim to combat the advertising avoidance. Generally, brand mentions are depicted in media as inexpensive, convenient products, such as household goods or food products. But with the emergence and popularity of reality television, consumers are now exposed to those brands, in addition to luxury brands. This is true as brand mentions financially support production costs for many reality television programs and also serve as aspirational props. Luxury brand mentions are worthy of study as they exude exclusivity and status and are traditionally targeted to a niche, elite market. As luxury brands are integrated in reality television, a broader, more diverse consumer audience is exposed to such mentions. This research is one of the first to specifically explore how luxury brand mentions appear in reality television. Using the consumer culture theory framework, two studies were conducted to understand the nuanced meanings of such mentions among consumers. Study One explored the integration of luxury brand mentions using a content assessment. Study Two used depth interviews to gauge consumer response to such mentions. Study One results indicate luxury brand mentions are highly prominent in affluent-lifestyle reality television shows. Five of the most frequently mentioned luxury brands represent the automobile, entertainment/technology, and hospitality product categories. Overall, the promotion of materialism, aspiration, and elitism were messages consumers were exposed to. Study One results were supported by findings in Study Two which revealed informants’ race, class, and gender as strong influencers of their interpretations of luxury brand mentions.