Consumer meaning making: the meaning of luxury brands in a democratised luxury world

Liselot Hudders, Mario Pandelaere and Patrick Vyncke

Ghent University


Since the 1990s, the market for luxury brands has grown considerably (Nueno & Quelch 1998; Vickers & Renand 2003). Several factors encouraged this tremendous growth, such as the rising demand for luxury from emerging luxury markets (e.g. India and China) and the expansion of the luxury category (Silverstein & Fiske 2003). An increased spending capacity also encouraged the middle classes to spend more money on luxury brands. Consequently, the luxury market is no longer the exclusive domain of the elite (Yeoman & McMahon-Beattie 2006; Wiedmann et al. 2009). This process is called the democratisation of the luxury market (Dubois & Laurent 1995; Truong 2009). Due to this democratisation, the nature of luxury is changing because the exclusive has become commonplace (Garland, Cornish & Bean 2008). The traditional definition of luxury as something that is out of the ordinary in terms of daily living needs is no longer tenable (Vickers & Renand 2003). The present paper therefore examines (1) consumers’ perception of luxury brands in this democratised luxury world, and (2) how these perceptions are related to both individual difference variables (i.e. materialism, prestige sensitivity) and individual well-being (i.e. self-esteem, positive and negative affect, life satisfaction).