The purpose of Sonja Lahtinen’s thesis, Miltton thesis competition winner 2014, was to figure out how young female luxury consumers construct meanings for luxury fashion brands in Finland and China. In this blog post, Sonja discusses what Finnish marketers could learn from the findings of her thesis.
The findings of my thesis provide us interesting aspects both from the Chinese and Finnish consumers. Chinese are proud of their growing ability to buy expensive products, and for them higher price signals higher quality and higher status. How much Chinese spend is striking and even more so is the way they spend. For example, according to the recent study conducted by the Visit Finland, Chinese tourists are the ones who spend the most money when traveling in Finland, 623€ on the average per stay, when Russians leave only 270€ in the country.
Another interesting example from the Finnish point of view, is the Finnish children clothing company, Reima, who recently told that the price tag for their products is much loftier in China than in Finland (or other markets), because otherwise the wealthy segment they are targeting in China would not be interested about their brand.
In addition to understanding Chinese consumers and their culture better, Finnish companies can always improve the way they co-create value with their Finnish customers. I found in the interviews that the signs of the “new luxury” emerged among the Finnish respondents. For them, the ecological, ethical and experiential factors were considered highly important, and they associated these meanings, such as durability, ethical production, and the mindset against fast fashion, with the purchase and use of luxury fashion brands. Researchers Nyrhinen and Wilska also found in their study in 2012 that Finnish consumers are willing to pay the premium for the products that they feel are representing a more ecological and sustainable way of life.
Consumers extend the meanings created by brands
Overall, the interpretive repertoire of Finnish and Chinese respondents extends the meanings far beyond the ones that brands have created by themselves and those that have been recognized by prior research. With the aggregated consensus map, marketers are able to identify a broader variety of potential brand meanings that their customers might attach to their brand.
Meanings for luxury fashion brands among Chinese and Finnish consumers (click the image for a larger view)
Based on this, marketers should evaluate how personal/social, product-/non- product-related, or emotional/rational the brand meanings that customers attach to their products or brands are, and they should consider whether they should revise their brand strategy or brand positioning accordingly. The findings may also assist brand managers in developing coherent, integrated global brand strategies that are sensitive to local differences and focus on creating personally meaningful brand experiences.
My key finding
For me, the most interesting finding was that in societies where people have adopted the postmaterialist values, the interpretations of what is felt as luxurious are very different from those that have been dominating the contemporary marketing view. Signs of softer, more experiential, more ecological and more ethical meanings can be recognized in this study, and these meanings are something that future consumers are increasingly interested in – and future researchers and marketers should be, too.
Read also Sonja’s previous blog post.
Sonja Lahtinen is an internationally oriented young marketer, and a life enthusiast, who is passionate about cultural branding, consumer trends, sustainable business and CSR issues. Her thesis was awarded as the best Master’s thesis in the thesis competition organized by Miltton in 2014.
Read the whole Master’s thesis here