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1.1 Background of the Study
In today’s competitive business environment, the subject of social class cannot be over-emphasized. This is driven by the fact that social class has been an essential concept of analysis and considerable attention for sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, economists, social historians, consumer researchers and marketing practitioners from vast societies. However, social class is a set of concept in the social science theory centered on the models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2004:164). It follows, therefore, that social class is the division of members of a society into a hierarchy of distinct status classes, so that members of each class will have relatively the same status and members of all other classes will have either more or less status (Michael, 2004:366).
According to Fisher (1987:493), social class is a large group of people whose economic circumstance, usually measured by their income, wealth, occupation and education, are broadly similar. To this ends, social class is measured in terms of status and defined in terms of the amount of status a member of a particular class relatively have, in comparison with members of other classes. Almost every society has some social class structure. However, various classifications of social class structure have been
proposed; early sociologist (Eg. Karl Max and Max Weber) have divided the society into three and two social class groups. Others researchers have found four, five, six and even nine-class schemas (Richard, 1983: 291-292). Consequently, the choice of how many classes to be used depends on the amount of details the researcher believes is necessary to explain adequately the attitudes and behaviors of communities under study. However, little agreement exists among sociologists upon the three general classes: upper class, middle class and lower class. Because of the broad nature of the three categories, it’s further split into six or more descriptive categories: upper-upper, lower-upper, upper-middle, lower-middle, upper-lower, and lower-lower (Terrel, 2000:63-65). Thus, the additional divisions help to discriminate who falls into certain class, yet there is still some ambiguity.
Well and Prensky (1996:85), observed that similarity of people in a particular rank is not only measured in terms of income, education and occupation but also on their perception, values, attitudes, beliefs, and buying behavioral patterns. Basically, in the theory of marketing and consumer behavior, social class has been seen as one of the external factors that influence consumer/buyer behavior. To this end, consumer
behavior is the way consumer/buyer act towards obtaining and using economic goods and services (Adediran, 1997:26). According to Osuagwu (2002;255), consumer behavior is the behavior consumers/buyers displays in searching for, buying, using, evaluating and disposing of products which they expect will satisfy their needs and wants. Fisher (1987: 78), noted that the market behavior of individuals are closely related to their social class. To this end, the concept of social class is considered a basic influence on consumers purchase pattern and purchase preference for similar social class members.
According to the account of Douglas (1998:19-20), the cohesiveness of social class members influence brand choice of each other. As a result, social class categories have been used by advertisers and marketers in their effort to persuade consumers to purchase products and/or brands. Because social class affects so many aspects of a person’s life, it also influences buyer’s decisions. Sherry (1990:27-28), states that social class may determine the type and quality of products that a class member can buy and use, the shopping patterns and the class of stores visited per time. Beyond that, the choice of products and/or brands depends largely upon lifestyle and social class. Schiffman and Kanuk (2004:141), revealed that
members belonging to a social class would go for such products which are used by others in that class. This is due to the fact that they seek social approval and want to purchase and use what fellow class members purchase and use. In this context, social class distinct products brands preference amidst social class ranks. For instance, upper class consumers favors fashion and sophistication, and this reflect itself in their purchase of luxurious and prestige products, services and/or brands. On the other hand, the middle class takes into account value of money and looks for benefits that can be derived from a purchase; they go for moderately price goods while the lower class go for goods of necessity. Moreover, the use of prominent social class members to endorse a brand can be a reference purchase appeal for the middle/lower social class; as the later aspires to emulate the former and desire buying products and brands which the former buy.
William McCathy (2002:249), observed that social class group relates their purchase decision to their purchasing power, which is dependent upon their group disposable income. More so, social class is associated with values, attitudes and life-style of consumers which significantly determines their consumption/buyer behavior for numerous products especially
selected brewery brands in Nigerian market. Hence, the core objective of this study is to ascertain the influence of social class on the purchase of selected brewery products in Nigeria; with particular reference to selected Nigerian breweries Plc brands - Gulder, Star, Maltina and Fayoruz .
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The hierarchical aspect of social class is important to marketers. Consumers purchase certain products or services because they are favored by members of their own or a higher social class; also they may avoid other products because they perceive them to lower class or downward market brands. Within this context, social class membership serves as a reference for the development of individual consumer attitude and behavior (Douglas, 1998:19). According to the report of Richard (1983:267), consumers use evaluation of their social class members to choose a brand. However, the portraying of products as being purchased by socially pleasant situations, the use of prominent/attractive people to endorsing brands and the use of obvious class members as spokesman in advertisement, are typical evidence that marketers and advertisers make substantial use of social class concept to influence consumer/buyer
behavior, consumers purchase pattern and brand preference in their marketing mix strategy (Sherry, 1990:27).
Since social class can be grouped into various market segments such as upper, middle, lower class and more, social class groups relates their purchase decisions to their purchasing power, which is dependent upon the group disposable income. William and McCarty (2002:276), notes that individuals purchase products based on the values and attitudes their class prescribes to them. Therefore, understanding their educational and financials status has helped to categorize them and assist marketers in determining ways to influence their purchase habits and reinforce their purchase perception towards their products. In specific terms, the problem to be addressed in this study includes the following: what are the effects of social class on products purchase pattern? Does social class have significant influence on consumer brand preference? Does social class reinforce consumer products perception? Does social class have significant effects on consumer/buyer behavior?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of this study is to determine the influence of social class on the purchase of selected brewery products in Nigeria; especially Nigerian Breweries Plc selected brands such as Gulder, Star, Maltina and Faryouz. However, the study tries to:
1. Find out the effects of social class on products’ purchase pattern.
2. Ascertain the influence of social class on brand preference.
3. To find out how social class reinforces consumer products’ perception.
4. Determine the impact of social class on consumer/buyer behavior.
1.4 Research Questions
1. Does social class have significant effects on products’ purchase pattern?
2. Does social class influence brand preference?
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