Youth and Con$umption

George R. Cook (Executive Professor, Simon Graduate School of Business, University of Rochester, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 November 2011




Cook, G.R. (2011), "Youth and Con$umption", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 553-553.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Marketers fully understand the economic importance of the youth market because of its enormous size and ever‐increasing purchasing power. Material possessions are many times used by young people as an expression of self and readily connect them with personal happiness and personal success. The marketer's dilemma is how to effectively reach the youth market with the right message that will stimulate buying behavior on the part of the targeted audience. We find that in various countries and among different ethnic backgrounds there may well be various factors influencing consumer‐buying behavior within the youth segment. This book addresses the topic of youth and consumption behaviors in Hong Kong. Youth is identified here as the population between the ages of 13 and 29.

Our author, Professor Kara Chan, PhD, of Hong Kong Baptist University, has written extensively on the field of consumption on the part of children and youth in general. In this particular writing, Dr Chan has covered within the book's 13 chapters (305 pp.) pretty much the entire field of consumption and all of its elements. It is interesting to note both the similarities and differences, comparing youth consumer behavior and consumption in both the US and Hong Kong. A summary, and assessment in this regard, will be provided by this writer, at the end of this review.

Key factors with regard to youth consumption in Hong Kong are: income primarily provided by the family; strong desire for luxury brands; friends/peer groups seeming to play a very influential role in buyer behavior; and the practice of money management in general not being something that Hong Kong youth consumers seem to be very good at. Material possessions are prized by Hong Kong youth and serve as a basis for discussion and comparison with fellow youth.

Social comparison of goods (particularly mobile phone, clothing, and accessories) among Hong Kong youth is a very frequent occurrence – this is primarily because they are very concerned about their social self images. There is a strong interest, as is the case in the US, to “keep up with the Jones!” Material possessions seem to be associated with happiness and individual success and are a focal point for discussion and comparison by Hong Kong youth. There is an abundant amount of shopping information available for Hong Kong youth – various traditional media; the internet, which is extremely an important source, and an abundant number of shopping malls for the youth to seek out new and innovative products. Celebrities are often used by retail establishments to stimulate youth buying behaviors. (Sound familiar?) It is suggested within the book that perhaps the government and regulatory agencies should consider whether or not less emphasis should be placed on using celebrities in media advertising since it has such (perhaps negative) influence on youth consumption behaviors. With regard to TV, Hong Kong youths view the medium as both positive and negative – excellent for gathering product, brand, and services information but also having a high degree of distrust and skepticism with regard to some advertising claims and guarantees.

Based on research discussed in the book, there seems to be a very strong need for the educational system, the marketing and advertising industry, and perhaps the government to convene and discuss and perhaps introduce more educationally related information for the Hong Kong youth with the media and marketing efforts in general. That would be perhaps in contrast to some of the more extreme claims made in reference to various products by the media and the firms behind the advertisements. It is suggested that the various local advertisers and media in general re‐examine and review the various product performance appeals voiced and directed towards the consuming youth segment, considering the explicit rights of the targeted youth consumers with regard to media consumption.

It is strongly suggested that parents should play a more active role in youth money management and youth personal consumption, discussing with them the overall relevance of brand consumption, the importance of material possessions, and being able to deal effectively with peer pressures in terms of consumption behaviors in general. The idea seems to be to bring things into perspective on the part of youthful consumers and really understand if and why material possessions are in fact truly important in the whole scheme of things!

In reviewing this interesting book, it seems to me that many of the ideas, concerns, and issues associated with the youth segment in Hong Kong are in many ways not that different from the concerns expressed in the US with regard to our youth consumer segment. As marketers we do have significant opportunities with regard to the youth market but we must not forget that we have social responsibilities within the process that we must constantly address if we are to succeed in the long run!

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