Brands and Consumption Cultures Among University Students

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Geraldina ROBERTI, University of L'Aquila, Italy
In the context of postmodern society, consumption gains an increasingly meaningful role in the self definition and communication processes. As also Crane (1992) suggested, the self definition is more and more based upon the construction of one’s personal lifestyle and upon the adoption of specific patterns of consumption; consumer goods have an important communicational value, since goods – the visible side of culture – allow individuals, especially young people, to establish social relationships (Douglas, Isherwood, 1979). As researchers know, young consumers’ practices are mediating their identity expression, enabling them to communicate their identity, the subcultures they belong to and their personal value system to the outside world.

In the light of considerations such as the foregoing, we decided to carry out a qualitative research study on a sample of University of L’Aquila students (Italy), in order to investigate elements that currently characterize their consumption cultures, with a special attention to their relationship with specific brands. To this end, we realized a series of focus groups comprising these students, and subsequently more significant issues were examined by means of semi-structured interviews of selected focus groups participants. Our main objective was to assess how, in their local context, the symbolic significance of a product/brand are incorporated in students’ cultural patterns and self-definition dynamics.

The main findings to emerge concern firstly the importance of the realm of consumption for identity and socializing process: brands offer suggestions, moods and symbolic materials from which consumers can freely draw on to represent their self-images and share them with others. That means individuals include specific brands among the identity resources they use to express themselves. Those kinds of lovemarks (Roberts, 2006) are capable of entering into the symbolic world of the young consumers and reflecting their emotions, going beyond all rational or economic calculation as to utility.