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Vans, a retail apparel company has made a name for itself by carving out a specific niche in the footwear market. In a market dominated by Nike, Vans has set itself apart by targeting a specific consumer. This consumer tends to be younger in age, a bit edgier than the average consumer, and has a unique sense of fashion centered on casual streetwear. Because of these unique traits, Vans needs to be intentional in its advertising efforts. Vans made its initial claim to fame in the skateboarding niche market, which they capitalized on by sponsoring events such as Warped Tour, a rock-centric traveling music festival that catered to the musical tastes of their consumers. Having an advertising budget that pales in comparison to competitors such as Nike, Vans instead opts for intentional product ads in print, online, and TV. They publish these ads in media outlets that cater to their target markets, such as surfing and skateboarding magazines. Since teenagers make up a large portion of their consumer base, they also sponsored athletic-themed shows that aired in the after-school time slot. Vans also sponsor the US Open of surfing, another direct appeal to their target market.
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Vans’ customers comprise primarily younger millennials and Generation Z consumers. They tend to be athletic and active, so the shoes are designed to accommodate regular activity while also providing comfort. The Vans’ market has evolved since its early days when they catered primarily to skateboarders. They now offer a full clothing apparel line, and many of their current consumers are not athletes but appreciate a sense of street style and the simple Vans design. Vans became synonymous with punk and emo microcultures, especially in adolescence. Most consumers owned their first pair of Vans as early as middle school and adopted the rock-esque lifestyle that was associated with them. This reputation prompted Vans to sponsor the Warped Tour rock music festival, which attracted thousands of like-minded individuals. As the original Vans consumers get older, their tastes and style have evolved as well. Music and fashion trends tend to fluctuate with each incoming generation, and Vans’ will have to work to adapt to the younger generation’s specific traits. In the coming decades, Vans’ may need to revamp or completely overhaul its image to remain current, especially as the skater persona becomes less prominent. However, Vans’ current consumers may help hedge against the younger generations changing interests. Studies have shown that music tastes and lifestyle habits tend to solidify in one’s younger years. For example, surfers and skateboarders are increasingly getting older in age, keeping up with their youthful lifestyles far longer than past generations (Babin & Harris, 2017).
Microcultures can have an outsized impact on how an individual consumer perceives value from a product or service. The variance between these microcultures is particularly prevalent across different societal and income classes. Studies have shown that lower-class individuals prioritize utilitarian value and are mainly focused on fulfilling basic needs (Ogden & Ogden, 2004). They may be more likely to scrutinize prices at the grocery store and question the value of larger purchases. Higher-class individuals tend to perceive value from a hedonic standpoint and are more likely to prioritize luxurious experiences or time-saving benefits such as priority boarding at the airport. In fact, higher earners almost universally place a higher value on time in comparison to money. Other microcultures tend to influence value. A baby boomer may appreciate receiving a classic record player as a gift or may be willing to spend top dollar for this relic from the past. A millennial, however, most likely would not find much value from the same product.
A marketer’s primary task is to serve his or her target consumers in an ethical and engaging way. In an increasingly diverse global community, this means putting in the extra effort to reach individuals in unique microcultures. Fast food restaurants have learned how to adapt to different environments and their unique dietary needs. A McDonald’s menu in the US looks markedly different from one in a country like India, where their consumers have dietary restrictions and preferences not commonly found in the US (Putit & Arnott, 2007). Just as God takes special care to adhere to each of our individual needs, it is a marketer’s job to provide exceptional service to each consumer, even if it means adapting an advertising campaign or product line to meet each microcultures needs.
Babin, B. J., & Harris, E. G. (2017). Consumer Behavior. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Ogden, D. T., & Ogden, J. R. (2004). Exploring the Impact of Culture and Acculturation on Consumer Purchase Decisions: Toward a Microcultural Perspective. Academy of Marketing Science.