Consumer culture is constantly
evolving. In the last 30 years or so, society has experienced the fall in
communism and an apparent change in consumer behaviour regarding to product
desirability. A key theme that all 3 articles highlight is the concept of
products being embedded with valuable meanings (by marketers) in which
individuals use to define and express their identity in society (self-concept).

This essay will critically examine the consumer’s desire, consuming self, role
of subcultures and the global impact of consumer culture, as discussed by
authors Ger & Belk (1996), Zukin & Maguire (2004) and Ahuvia (2005).

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A key theme that arises from these
authors is the idea that consumer’s needs, wants and desires help in shape and
construct an individual’s identity. Motivation happens when a need is activated
that the consumer wishes to fulfil. The degree of motivation varies for
different individuals (gap between an individual’s current state and desired
state). An individual’s needs are commonly classified into two main matters;
Utilitarian and Hedonic (Ger & Belk, 1996; Zukin & Maguire, 2004). Maslow’s
hierarchy of needs (1954), offers the view that consumers will need to follow
and fulfil the stages of the hierarchy (biogenic and psychogenic needs) in
order for a consumer to achieve self-actualisation, the highest ‘need’ in the
theory. On the contrary, academics have argued that Maslow’s view is simplistic
and outdated. For example, a study of Romanian students was advised to note
down a list of products they most desired. The list created comprised a mix of
both luxury items and basic supplies such as food and warm clothing. Thus,
suggesting that Maslow’s view is one-dimensional and does not acknowledge the
different motivations or value a product has for different individuals,
especially those living in less affluent countries with poor economic situations
(Ger & Belk, 1996).