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A double‐edged sword: understanding vanity across cultures

Srinivas Durvasula (Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)
Steven Lysonski (Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 27 June 2008




Based on their size, disposable income, and purchasing power, generation Y (Gen Y) consumers are viewed as the Holy Grail for marketers. Conversely, some of this group's behavior disturbs public policy officials, particularly when dealing with issues such as poor financial planning, bulimia and anorexia nervosa. The key question for both marketers and policy makers is what is the best way to understand the Gen Y segment? The vanity concept is used in this study as a way to understand the Gen Y consumer segment. The purpose of this paper is to examine vanity perceptions (cross‐nationally and by gender) as well as social and business implications with vanity.


Key research expectations are proposed that are related to cross‐cultural and gender differences on vanity perceptions. A sample of approximately 125 Gen Y consumers in two eastern and two western cultures was used to find support for the research expectations. Statistical results are reported.


The results clearly show that both gender and country have an impact on vanity perceptions. Concern for both physical appearance and professional achievement are higher in eastern cultures as compared to western cultures. Both males and females are highly concerned about physical appearance and professional achievements. However, self‐assessment of physical appearance and professional achievement are significantly lower among females as compared to males.

Research limitations/implications

In future studies it would be interesting to study differences among other countries and consumer groups.

Practical implications

The results of this study provide evidence to marketers that vanity appeals can resonate well with Gen Y especially those in China and India. For consumer protection advocates, results offer insights about the extent to which importance of vanity is likely to increase, especially in countries that embrace globalization.


So far, no study has applied the vanity scale to understand the Gen Y segment, despite the financial power of this group in purchasing both desirable and undesirable products; nor has any study examined whether vanity perceptions vary cross‐nationally, especially between economically developed western cultures and developing economies with large populations representing eastern cultures.



Durvasula, S. and Lysonski, S. (2008), "A double‐edged sword: understanding vanity across cultures", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 230-244.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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