What Kind of Consumer Are You?

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Depending on how you feel about luxury brands and “status” goods, you might be categorized as a Patrician or a Parvenu. But, if you read this blog regularly, you’re probably a Proletarian—which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not rich.

Based on lots of observation and no academic research whatsoever, I recently named 10 types of consumers how inevitably overspend. Taking a more scientific approach—scientific for marketing, anyway—an article from a team of USC researchers lists 4 types of wealthy consumers. A WSJ blog summarizes their findings and provides quickie profiles for each of the four species. Patricians, for example, are super rich but focus on not being too showy—or rather, they pay top dollar for understatement, and display their extreme wealth in ways perceived only by people in similar income brackets.

The article’s authors say that Proletarians, on the other hand:

… are simply not driven to consume for the sake of status and either cannot or will not concern themselves with signaling by using status goods. They seek neither to associate with the upper crust nor to dissociate themselves from others of similarly humble means.

Somewhere in between Patricians and Proletarians are Parvenus and Poseurs, who are both highly interested in status and luxury brands. The main difference between these two is that the Parvenu has more money to spend on, say, $500 designer sunglasses. The Poseur is just as obsessed with brands and wants to appear rich, but doesn’t have enough cash to buy all the flashy brand items he or she craves. The solution? Knockoff goods, or perhaps lots and lots of credit card debt.

By my count, three out of these four consumers are those who will inevitably overspend. They are focused not on their own enjoyment, but on impressing somebody else, which is sad and shallow. The term Proletarian normally refers to a commoner, someone in society’s lower economic strata, and it seems odd and a bit insulting for the article’s authors to use the word to refer to the only category of consumer who is truly comfortable in his own skin, and who couldn’t care less about why other people think of him.

Saddest of all of the categories is the Poseur. Back in my days as a skate rat, everybody had a sticker on their board that summed up a sentiment that still nails it for me. The sticker featured a circle with a red line slashing diagonally over the word POSERS. In other words: NO POSERS.