Standing out from the crowd: niche product choice as a form of conspicuous consumption

Tobias Schaefers (Department of Marketing, TU Dortmund University, Dortmund, Germany)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Publication date: 2 September 2014

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to define the niche market concept and to investigate the extent to which purchasing niche products represents a form of conspicuous consumption. Consumers increasingly seek products that differ from the mainstream, and companies regard niche markets as a promising opportunity beyond saturated mass markets.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on survey data that combines self-report scales and actual purchase decisions, the effects of different dimensions of conspicuous consumption on niche product choice are investigated using binary logistic regression.

Findings

Choosing niche products over mass market products is mainly influenced by differentiation tendencies. Moreover, consumers use niche products to strengthen their role as opinion leaders. Choice of mass market products, on the other hand, is influenced by assimilation tendencies. In contrast to common assumptions, status-seeking consumers are more likely to choose a mass market alternative over niche products.

Research limitations/implications

Based on the conceptualization of niche markets, this study reveals that niche products are a means for consumers to distinguish themselves. Limitations include the focus on a single product domain and country. Future research should replicate the study for other types of niche products and in other cultural settings.

Practical implications

Niche firms should explicitly consider the social effects of conspicuous consumption as a key driver of demand. Specifically, the unique nature of a niche product should be highlighted and recognizable to increase the acceptance among potential customers. Moreover, instead of focussing the status of niche products, marketing activities should address opinion leaders’ desire to maintain their standing among the social group by providing in-depth information and enhanced customer experience.

Originality/value

This paper addresses the call for a conceptual definition of niche markets. Moreover, while previous work focussed on the company perspective, this study allows for an improved understanding of consumer behaviour with regard to niche markets.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author thanks Janet Wagner, Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, and participants of the Summer Writing Workshop at EBS Business School for helpful suggestions to improve the manuscript.

Citation

Schaefers, T. (2014), "Standing out from the crowd: niche product choice as a form of conspicuous consumption", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 48 No. 9/10, pp. 1805-1827. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-03-2013-0121

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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