In today’s American society, the leading groups of mass market consumers are the young adults. In malls and large retail boutiques, the younger generations are beginning to spend a lot of time making purchases. The young adult is a category of shoppers that is quite recent to the market and is considered not a ‘teen’ shopper and not an ‘adult’ shopper. The teen and the adult shoppers are very different target markets because they have very different shopping habits. The adults are the baby boomers, and baby boomers are a generational cohort that has different needs then teenagers and young adults (Kim).
Because the baby boomers are in their later life stages, they are wealthier and most of them are in retirement. This generation seeks leisure, fine dining, hedonic products and experiential shopping experiences (Kim). The teen population, on the other hand, is a target market in fashion that is also recent and is not currently employed or is currently seeking employment (Kim). The teen groups of consumers usually do not make their own purchases but influence their parents to make the purchases for them, if the teen consumer does make purchases they are usually in small quantities and at low prices (Kim). Popular culture greatly affects the teen target market because the younger generations are in middle schools and their highest priority is to seek connections to others (Kim). The teenager’s main concern in life is the battle between individual identity and their role in peer relationships (Erikson’s Stage 5).
The young adult is a person from the age of 19 to 40 (Erikson’s Stage 6). This is the stage in life when the adult is at his/her peak. This means that their health and their role as a worker in society is most critical (Erikson’s Stage 6). Furthermore, this is the stage in life that people most seek intimacy and belonging (Erikson’s Stage 6). According to a renowned psychologist and human development expert, Erik Erikson, “an individual who has not developed a sense of identity usually will fear a committed relationship and may retreat into isolation,” (Erikson’s Stage 6). This means that finding their own identity and where they fit in, in today’s society is very important to the young adult. Furthermore, understanding their beliefs, morals, values and their associations is critical to how the young adult views themselves. Erik Erikson believes that in order to relate to other people during this developmental stage, a person must be, “Giving and sharing with an individual without asking what will be received in return,” (Erikson’s Stage 6).
For the young adult, purchasing decisions are very important because they identify themselves with the person. What the young adult wears, chooses to eat and drink, and what the young adult keeps in their house is all a demonstration of who the person is psychologically and culturally (Brannon). It is very important for the young adult in this stage to make purchases that represent who they are as a person and an individual. While teenagers make purchases on a whim that was motivated by their social groups, the young adult makes smart purchases considering their role in society, what they believe in and also popular culture (Kim). In other words, the young adult makes purchases that have meaning to them.
Movies, television, shows, actors, bands, and singers influence the young adult’s purchasing decision as well. Popular culture takes on an important role in marketing because it is constantly marketing specific lifestyles and social behaviors. To some people music might be a very important aspect in their culture, whether it be punk rock or jazz. A celebrity in this case is someone who is important to the consumer. Each genre of music has its own lifestyle and markets its own set of values because the celebrities in music serve as role models to the fans. For example, fans on the sex pistols in the 70s were young adults that began to dress and live their life by example. These consumers would purchase band merchandise, dress in punk rock attire that they saw the band members wear, smoke and live their lives according to that lifestyle (Kim). Because of this a consumer makes the decision to purchase a product for many reasons. Purchasing an outfit inspired by punk rock is a statement to others that the person is not only a fan of the music but also of the lifestyle. This tells others that in order to relate to this person one must understand the punk rock values and morals. The punk rock consumer also identifies themselves with this lifestyle and wants to connect to someone with similar values. The purchase of clothing now becomes more than just a necessity, but also a hedonic purchase that carries a lot of emotional stimulus and emotional value to the wearer.
Punk rock was a very influential trend in the 1970’s because it was a style that was adopted by young adults. For the first time in history, the young adults became a very influential fashion market because they rebelled against conformity and their purchasing decisions later affected other fashion trends. “Punk was as much a youthful reaction against older generations, considered oppressive and outdated, as a product of the newly recognized and influential youth culture.” (Vivienne).
Fashion innovators are “people who wear new fashions and expose them to others,” and also, “buy new product innovations earlier than others in their group,” (Brannon). This means that an innovator is someone who sets new product innovations and inspires others to wear them, or someone who finds new product innovations and adopts them earlier than others. In this case the Sex Pistols would be fashion innovators because they were celebrities that bought new innovations and wore them earlier than anyone else. Other people looked up to them as fans or other associations and were motivated by their style to adopt those innovations as well. According to the diffusion curve, the Sex Pistols would be a celebrity that wore fashion at the very beginning, before the early adopters, and thus influenced the fashion of others by giving them new styles that they could either accept or reject (Brannon).
Fashion leaders are different than fashion innovators because the fashion leader is someone more knowledgeable about fashion trends and styles, and is more likely to start new innovations. Leaders are those that, “endorse a style to those who need help,” or are “asked for advice about clothes,” because they have a better grasp on fashion (Brannon). Vivienne Westwood would be a fashion leader because she began to dress and help fashion innovators like the Sex Pistols by designing their clothing. “Shrewd entrepreneurs, Westwood and McLaren were instrumental in defining and marketing the punk look at the precise moment that it was taking the streets of London by storm,” (Vivienne). The Sex Pistols could be considered a celebrity that influenced and inspired Westwood’s style. Even though she was a fashion leader, the lifestyle and image that the band marketed was an inspiration to Westwood. “In 1974, Westwood again changed the name of the shop to reflect McLaren's new shock tactics, this time to SEX, where they sold S&M (sado-masochistic) inspired clothing, met the Sex Pistols, and added their punk line, Seditionaries,4 in 1976,” (Westwood).
This goes to show that celebrities may lead fashion because they are innovators. By adopting new innovations early, and by wearing styles that could become novel trends, celebrities like the Sex Pistols can inspire and influence fashion. Furthermore, celebrities like the Sex Pistols may be inspirational to fashion leaders in social groups. Social groups in different communities all have their own lifestyles and their own environment. If a small social group has a fashion leader who is more aware of fashion trends and more aware of new innovations they might be able to become early adopters in the diffusion curve and then help others in their group to adopt the style (Brannon).
By being fashion innovators, celebrities like the Sex Pistols can show a wide audience different types of styles and trend that are novel. By doing this they give consumers the chance to reject these novelties or to accept them (Brannon). If a fashion leader in a social group accepts these innovations then the innovation will spread and become a trend, if the novelty is rejected then the innovation stops (Brannon). Conclusively, this is several ways that fashion trends can become omnipotent.
Brannon, Evelyn L. Fashion Forecasting. New York: Fairchild Books & Visuals, 2005. Print.
"Erikson's Stage 5." SUNY Cortland - Faculty and Staff Web Services. Web. 09 Dec. 2009.
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Kim, Youn-Kyung, Pauline Sullivan, and Judith Cardona Forney. Experiential Retailing Concepts and Strategies That Sell. New York: Fairchild Books & Visuals, 2007. Print.
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