June 20


Social Status and Self-esteem: Its Influence on Buying Decisions

By Hanson Cheng

June 20, 2023

  • minute read
  • Last Updated on June 20, 2023 by Hanson Cheng

    Buying decisions are a fundamental aspect of our daily lives. Whether we’re purchasing groceries, clothing, or a car, our choices are influenced by a variety of factors. Among the most significant are social status and self-esteem. These two elements play a critical role in how we view ourselves and others and, ultimately, make purchasing decisions.

    Understanding the impact of social status and self-esteem on buying decisions is crucial for marketers and individuals seeking to make informed choices about their purchases. This article explores the relationship between social status, self-esteem, and buying decisions.

    The Definition of Social Status

    Social status refers to a person’s position within a society or community. It is based on various factors, including wealth, education, occupation, and social network. The concept of social status is important because it influences how people interact with each other, what opportunities they have access to, and how others perceive them.

    Social status can be categorized in different ways, such as high or low, prestigious or not, and visible or invisible. High social status individuals often have more power, influence, and resources than those with low social status.

    What is Self-esteem?

    Self-esteem refers to the level of confidence, respect, and worth that an individual has for themselves. It is an evaluation of one’s own abilities, characteristics, and overall value as a person. Self-esteem is critical in determining how people view themselves and their place in society. High self-esteem is linked to positive mental health outcomes, better decision-making, and overall life satisfaction.

    Conversely, low self-esteem can lead to negative outcomes such as depression, anxiety, and poor social and academic performance. Self-esteem can be influenced by factors such as personal achievements, social interactions, and societal expectations. In terms of buying decisions, individuals with higher self-esteem are more likely to make purchases that align with their values and personal identity.

    They are less likely to be influenced by external factors such as social pressure or advertising. On the other hand, individuals with low self-esteem may engage in consumption to bolster their self-worth or seek approval from others. Understanding the role of self-esteem in consumer behavior is essential for marketers looking to create effective advertising campaigns and target specific consumer segments.

    Overview of the Relationship Between Social Status, Self-esteem, and Buying Decisions

    Understanding the relationship between social status, self-esteem, and buying decisions is crucial in comprehending consumer behavior’s underlying influences. Social status, broadly defined as the position an individual holds within a given society in terms of wealth, power, education, and occupation, has long been recognized as a critical factor in shaping an individual’s consumption patterns.

    At its core, social status influences how individuals perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others, creating a complex web of social dynamics that affect their purchasing decisions. In parallel, self-esteem, or the value individuals place on themselves, is also linked to buying behavior, as individuals often use purchasing decisions to reflect and enhance their self-image. Self-esteem also plays a role in how individuals react to social pressure, and individuals with high self-esteem are generally less influenced by external factors when making a purchase decision.

    The relationship between social status, self-esteem, and buying behavior is complex, multifaceted, and heavily influenced by social and cultural norms. As such, understanding the interplay between these factors is critical to formulating successful marketing strategies that resonate with consumers and drive purchasing decisions.

    Factors Influencing Buying Decisions

    Social status

    Social status is a term used to describe an individual’s position in society based on a range of personal, economic, and cultural factors. The concept of social status has been shown to play a significant role in influencing consumer behavior. Research has indicated that individuals who hold a higher social status are more likely to be influenced by luxury brands and conspicuous consumption, while those with lower social status tend to make practical and utilitarian purchases.

    One study found that individuals with higher social status are more likely to purchase products that are associated with status symbols, such as designer clothing and luxury cars. Another study found that social status is often linked to a desire for social recognition, with individuals seeking to enhance their social status through their purchasing decisions.

    The concept of social status can also influence how individuals perceive and categorize products, with high-status individuals more likely to view products in terms of their symbolic value and low-status individuals more likely to focus on their functional value. Overall, the impact of social status on consumer behavior is complex and multifaceted, with both individual and cultural factors playing a role in shaping buying decisions.


    Self-esteem plays a crucial role in influencing individuals in their purchasing decisions. People with high self-esteem tend to be more confident in their choices and are more likely to purchase products that reflect their personalities and characteristics. Such individuals often seek products that align with their self-concept and represent their social identities and image. Conversely, individuals with low self-esteem may be more likely to seek products that enhance their self-worth and boost their confidence.

    They may also be highly sensitive to social comparisons and purchase products that signal higher status or provide social acceptance. Individuals with low self-esteem may also be more susceptible to external influences, such as advertising and peer pressure when purchasing. Therefore, it is essential for marketers to understand the impact of self-esteem on consumer behavior and devise strategies that target consumers with different self-esteem levels.

    This could include strategies such as emphasizing the personal benefits of the product for individuals with low self-esteem and highlighting the product’s uniqueness for individuals with high self-esteem. Overall, self-esteem significantly influences consumers’ buying decisions and can be used as a valuable tool in marketing and product positioning.

    Other psychological factors

    Other psychological factors that may influence consumer buying behavior include personality, motivation, perception, and learning. Personality refers to a person’s unique traits, which can impact their spending habits. For example, extroverted individuals may be more likely to buy products that enhance their social status, while introverted individuals may prefer products that provide comfort and security. Motivation, or the driving force behind a person’s behavior, can also impact buying decisions.

    While some consumers may be motivated by the desire for social acceptance, others may be motivated by the need for self-expression or personal fulfillment. Perception refers to the way a person processes and interprets information from their environment, which can impact their attitudes and beliefs about certain products. For instance, a consumer may perceive a luxury brand as a symbol of status and success, leading them to make a purchase based on this perception.

    Lastly, learning refers to the process of acquiring new information and knowledge, which can influence consumer behavior through exposure to marketing messages and social influence. Marketers can leverage these psychological factors to create effective advertising campaigns that resonate with consumers’ needs, desires, and beliefs.

    Social Status and Buying Decisions

    The Impact of Social Status on Buying Decisions

    The impact of social status on buying decisions is a well-researched topic that has garnered significant attention in recent times. Social status is a fundamental determinant of consumer behavior, influencing how people make purchase decisions. Individuals from higher social classes are more likely to purchase expensive goods and services than those from lower socioeconomic groups.

    This fact is due to the perception that expensive items are a symbol of higher social status. In contrast, individuals who belong to lower social classes tend to be more price-sensitive and prioritize acquiring items that fulfill their basic needs.

    The impact of social status on buying decisions is a complex phenomenon that has been studied from various angles. Researchers have used different theoretical frameworks to explain this relationship, including social exchange, social identity, and status consumption theories. Social exchange theory suggests that people make purchasing decisions based on what they stand to gain or lose from a particular transaction.

    They weigh the perceived benefits of a product against the cost of acquiring it. In contrast, social identity theory posits that people buy products to signal their belongingness to a particular group or their uniqueness. Status consumption theory suggests that individuals use the consumption of goods and services to achieve social status.

    Strategies Developed by Marketing Professionals

    Marketing professionals have long recognized the importance of social status in buying decisions and have developed strategies to take advantage of this phenomenon. One such strategy is luxury branding, which involves creating an aura of exclusivity and prestige around a product or service. Luxury brands use premium pricing and limited distribution to create an aspirational image that appeals to the desire for status among consumers.

    Another strategy is social proof, which involves using the perceived opinions of others to influence buying decisions. For example, testimonials from celebrities or social media influencers can create the perception that a product is high-status and desirable.

    The Role of Social Comparison in Buying Decisions

    The role of social comparison in buying decisions is a critical aspect of understanding how social status affects consumers’ behavior. Social comparison theory suggests that individuals evaluate themselves based on their comparison with others in society. In the context of consumer behavior, people compare themselves with others based on their possessions and consumption patterns.

    The process of social comparison can significantly influence the buying decisions of consumers. If an individual perceives that the consumption pattern of others in their social group is higher than theirs, they are likely to engage in consumption to match or exceed their peers’ level.

    The impact of social comparison on buying decisions is evident in how people choose various product categories. For instance, people are more likely to purchase a luxury item to match the consumption patterns of individuals in their social class. Maintaining or enhancing social status is a critical factor that motivates people to purchase products beyond their budget. In contrast, people in a lower social class may avoid products that others in a higher class consume since they believe that it is not appropriate for their position.

    Social comparison may also involve comparing oneself with society’s ideal self-standards or aspirations. Consumers may purchase goods to fulfill their aspirations or ideal perceptions of themselves based on the societal standpoint. The media’s portrayal of the perfect life or body image standard affects consumers’ self-evaluation and motivates them to purchase products that align with their perception of an ideal self-evaluation.

    Overall, the role of social comparison in buying decisions is a critical determinant of how social status affects consumer behavior. By understanding how social comparison operates, marketers can design effective strategies to target consumers in different social classes. By appealing to their aspirations, values, and lifestyle choices, marketers can attract consumers across different social classes, enhancing their brand’s reach and profitability.

    The Influence of Social Norms on Buying Decisions

    The influence of social norms on buying decisions is a critical aspect that marketers must consider. Humans tend to follow the norms and behaviors of their social group for identification and security purposes. Therefore, a product that is popular within a social group may encourage individuals to conform and purchase the item even if they do not initially have an interest in the product. Social norms can also influence what individuals perceive as desirable and admirable.

    Consumers may view products as status symbols or signs of success because their social group has normalized them. Therefore, a marketer can strategically associate their product with a particular social group to increase its desirability among that group. In contrast, marketers must avoid negative associations that may harm their product’s reputation among a particular social group.

    For instance, a product targeted at the youth market that is associated with an older demographic may be negatively perceived by the target market. Consequently, the priority should be to align the brand message with the target market’s values to create positive social norms.”

    Self-esteem and Buying Decisions

    The Impact of Self-esteem on Buying Decisions

    Self-esteem can have a profound impact on an individual’s buying decisions. People with high self-esteem tend to make purchasing decisions that align with their self-image, while those with low self-esteem may be more susceptible to external influences. In fact, studies have shown that people with low self-esteem are more likely to buy products that they believe will enhance their self-image, such as designer clothing or luxury goods. On the other hand, people with high self-esteem tend to make purchases based on their personal preferences rather than trying to impress others.

    Additionally, people with low self-esteem may be more likely to seek out social proof before making a buying decision. They may look to others to validate their choices rather than trusting their own instincts. This can lead to a reliance on peer approval, which can be a powerful motivator in purchasing. Alternatively, people with high self-esteem are more likely to trust their own judgment and make purchases independently, without seeking outside validation.

    It is worth noting that self-esteem can also be influenced by factors such as socioeconomic status and cultural background. For example, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds may have lower self-esteem due to systemic inequalities and a lack of access to resources. In turn, this can influence their purchasing decisions as they may be more likely to make purchases that they believe will elevate their status in an attempt to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. Similarly, people from certain cultural backgrounds may value certain products or brands more, which can influence their purchasing decisions.

    In conclusion, self-esteem can have a powerful influence on buying decisions. While people with high self-esteem tend to make choices based on personal preferences, those with low self-esteem may be more susceptible to external influences and seek out validation from others. Understanding the role of self-esteem in buying decisions can help businesses tailor their marketing strategies to better resonate with their target audience and ultimately drive sales.

    The Role of Self-image in Buying Decisions

    Self-image plays a vital role in the buying decisions of individuals since it influences their self-esteem and social status. Self-image significantly impacts how individuals perceive themselves, their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors toward themselves and others. The way individuals see themselves and how they believe others perceive them is a crucial determinant in their buying behavior. People with high self-esteem and a positive self-image tend to buy products or services that enhance their image and social status.

    In contrast, people with low self-esteem may buy products that they perceive to improve their image and gain acceptance from others. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between self-image and consumer behavior. Individuals with a positive self-image are more likely to purchase products that they perceive as enhancing their image or status, while those with a negative self-image may purchase products that they think will hide their flaws or compensate for their low self-esteem.

    Thus, companies use advertising and marketing strategies that appeal to the self-image of their target market to influence their purchasing decisions positively. By promoting products using images, messages, and advertising that suggest a particular lifestyle or image, companies can influence the self-image of individuals and encourage them to make purchasing decisions that align with their self-image and, therefore, increase their self-esteem and social status.

    The Influence of Self-affirmation on Buying Decisions

    The influence of self-affirmation on buying decisions is a crucial aspect of understanding how self-esteem affects consumer behavior. Self-affirmation refers to the process of emphasizing and reminding oneself of positive aspects of their identity, such as personal values or achievements. A high level of self-affirmation has been found to reduce the need for external validation, which in turn lessens the influence of social status on buying decisions.

    The impact of self-affirmation on buying decisions has been extensively researched, and studies have shown that individuals with high self-esteem tend to make more positive and thoughtful decisions when purchasing products or services. This is because they are less likely to base their decisions on external validations, such as social status, and more likely to evaluate products based on their intrinsic value.

    Another important aspect of the influence of self-affirmation on buying decisions is the role of marketing and advertising. Ads that emphasize self-affirmation, such as those that promote self-care or self-improvement, can be particularly effective in influencing buying behavior among individuals with high self-esteem. This is because such ads appeal to the need for self-enhancement and self-validation, both of which are key components of high self-esteem.

    On the other hand, marketing and advertising that rely on social comparison to promote products or services may be less effective among individuals with high self-esteem, as these individuals are less likely to base their buying decisions on external validation and more likely to focus on intrinsic value.

    Overall, the influence of self-affirmation on buying decisions highlights the importance of understanding the role of self-esteem in consumer behavior and the need for marketers to consider the impact of self-affirmation when crafting their campaigns.

    Practical Implications

    Marketing Strategies for Targeting Consumers Based on Social Status and Self-esteem

    Marketing strategies targeted toward consumers based on social status and self-esteem have become an increasingly popular approach for businesses looking to maximize sales and profits. Companies use psychographic data to tailor advertising and promotional messages to individuals with different socioeconomic backgrounds or levels of self-esteem. These strategies involve the segmentation of consumers into various groups based on their perceived values, beliefs, and personalities.

    Marketers use different marketing campaigns to target these groups with products, services, and messages that align with their values and define their social identity. Different marketing approaches are used based on the consumer’s status or self-esteem. For individuals of high social status, marketers may use a luxury marketing approach, featuring high-quality products with exclusive features and advanced technology which emphasize exclusivity, social class, and status.

    Conversely, a self-esteem-based approach may be more effective for consumers with lower self-esteem, emphasizing the personal attributes that will make them feel better about themselves. Businesses need to be sensitive to ethical considerations when targeting consumers based on social status and self-esteem. Companies need to take into account the implications of using these strategies in a way that leads to discrimination or negative treatment of particular groups.

    In addition, businesses must consider the potential negative impact of their marketing strategies on consumers’ emotional and psychological well-being. Companies should remember that using psychological techniques that exploit or manipulate the consumer’s status or self-esteem may lead to backlash and negative publicity. Marketers must be transparent and responsible when targeting certain groups to ensure that the consumer is not misled.

    Future research directions for marketing strategies concerning social status and self-esteem includes investigating how consumers are influenced by the marketing campaign to change their buying behavior, how different types of products affect sales with marketed to different social classes and self-esteem groups, and how consumers react to promotions aimed at their social status and self-esteem.

    Additional research can be conducted on the consequences of using social status and self-esteem as a targeted marketing strategy. Research can be conducted on the extent to which exclusive or prestigious branding enhances buyer preference for luxury products and the relationship between such branding and consumers’ motivation to pursue social status.

    Researchers could also investigate the effect these strategies have on consumers’ well-being and how the use of self-esteem-based marketing can help build long-term customer relationships.

    Ethical Considerations in Using Social Status and Self-esteem in Marketing

    When utilizing social status and self-esteem in marketing strategies, ethical considerations must be taken to ensure that consumers are not taken advantage of or misled in their purchasing decisions. To begin with, it is necessary to assess whether the chosen marketing tactic respects the consumer’s free will and self-determination. For instance, if an advertising campaign explicitly targets vulnerable groups to sell products, it could be viewed as unethical.

    Secondly, it’s important to consider whether the marketing strategy jeopardizes the consumer’s dignity or self-respect in the eyes of their peers or society as a whole. In some instances, attempting to appeal to consumers’ social status or self-esteem can promote negative or unattainable standards, leaving consumers feeling inferior or ashamed. Thirdly, marketing tactics aimed at exploiting social status or self-esteem to manipulate consumers can result in severe long-term damage both to the individual and society.

    It is possible for marketers to utilize social status and self-esteem ethically without exploiting or manipulating consumers. One option is to design informative marketing tactics, enabling consumers to derive value from a product or service without explicitly relying on social status or self-esteem. Another alternative is to use positive reinforcement to associate a specific product or service with self-esteem or social status in a non-exploitative or suggestive way.

    Finally, marketers should consider offering customers incentives that are not solely associated with social status or self-esteem, such as practical or economic benefits that satisfy important customer needs.

    Future Research Directions

    Future research directions should concentrate on differentiating the effects of social status and self-esteem on buying decisions and examining how these impacts differ in various cultural and social contexts. Researchers could conduct more extensive surveys and experiments to recognize the connection between psychological factors such as self-esteem on people’s buying behaviors.

    Future research could also investigate how people from different social standings interact with online and offline advertisements and the effect of social media on the connection between social status, self-esteem, and purchasing. Future studies could examine the possible consequences of targeted marketing techniques that use social status and self-esteem and the ethical and moral issues associated with this approach.

    Furthermore, future investigations could explore how socially excluded or stigmatized individuals respond to advertising messages centered on social status and self-esteem. The study could also look into the type of marketing messages that resonate with individuals from different social classes and their impact on consumers’ buying behavior. Future research might also examine social media platforms’ role in enforcing consumer behavior.

    Despite the growing attention on the role of social status and self-esteem in buying, there is still much to explore. Therefore, future studies could also examine how the use of innovative marketing techniques and technologies, such as virtual reality, could enhance the relationship between social status, self-esteem, and buying behavior.

    Social Status and Self-Esteem Influence on Buying Decisions: FAQs

    1. How does social status influence buying decisions?

    Social status often affects the choices and preferences of consumers regarding product quality and brand. Individuals with higher social status tend to buy luxurious and high-end products or services to demonstrate their social standing, while those with lower social status are more likely to choose economical alternatives to fulfill their basic needs.

    2. Does self-esteem have any impact on consumer behavior?

    Yes, self-esteem plays an essential role in influencing consumer behavior. People with higher self-esteem are less susceptible to external stimuli and tend to trust and follow their own decisions. On the contrary, individuals with lower self-esteem may buy products or services to enhance their image and self-worth.

    3. Do social status and self-esteem have any connection?

    Yes, social status and self-esteem are often interlinked. High social status can increase an individual’s self-esteem, while low social status can have an adverse impact on self-confidence. At the same time, individuals with higher self-esteem may tend to earn more, have a better job, and afford a higher social status.

    4. How can companies use social status and self-esteem to influence consumer behavior?

    Companies can leverage social status and self-esteem to create effective marketing campaigns that target specific consumer segments. Offering luxury products, discounts, and personalized experiences for high social status and high self-esteem customers, while providing economical or functional solutions for those with low social status and low self-esteem.

    5. Can social status and self-esteem influence impulse buying?

    Yes, social status and self-esteem can lead to impulse buying. Individuals with higher social status or self-esteem may shop more impulsively and purchase goods to validate their social status or self-worth. Moreover, advertising appeals or sales promotion tactics that refer to luxury lifestyles, premium branding, and exclusivity can trigger impulsive buying for consumers.

    6. Is there a relation between social status, self-esteem, and brand loyalty?

    Social status and self-esteem can affect brand loyalty as well. People with higher social status and self-esteem may remain loyal to high-end brands and perceive them as a reflection of their status and self-worth. On the other hand, individuals with lower social status or self-esteem may opt for more affordable brands and switch between them depending on their financial status or self-image.

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    Hanson Cheng

    About the author

    Living in Portugal with my wife and puppies.
    Scaling online businesses and sharing lessons learned on this website and in our email newsletter.

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