Materialism and Attitudes Toward Marketing

Yves Evrard, Groupe HEC
Luiz Henrique Boff, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
[ to cite ]:
Yves Evrard and Luiz Henrique Boff (1998) ,"Materialism and Attitudes Toward Marketing", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 196-202.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Pages 196-202


Yves Evrard, Groupe HEC

Luiz Henrique Boff, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul


This research presents the results of the Brazilian part of an international project which aims to analyze, on a comparative basis, the links between materialism and attitudes toward business marketing practices.

The research design applies, to a sample of 125 Brazilian executives, scales which have been developed in preceedingly published research.

After introducing the conceptual framework, a phase of construct validation examines what parts of the scales demonstrate transcultural validity; it leads to the identification of seven dimensions (respectively 4 for materialism and 3 for attitudes toward marketing). Then links between these dimensions and several individual characteristics are examined. Finally, the structure of relationships between materialism and attitudes toward marketing is analyzed.


World-wide economic evolution has led in many markets to strong changes of consumer behaviors. The issue of globalization vs. localization (or "glocalization") of markets has emerged as a ajor one. These behavioral changes are linked with modifications of consumption ideology, and particularly, attitudes toward business marketing practices. One purpose of this research is to measure, with a comparative perspective, such attitudes and to examine if they are influenced by individual characteristics of consumers (demographics or psychological orientations) and cultural (value systems) or structural (level of the marketing systems) characteristics of societies.

Materialism has emerged since a few years as a major topic in consumer research. This concept characterizes the general relationship between an individual and the material world surrounding him; it is distinct from other approaches which characterize the relationship of a consumer with a product class (for instance, involvement) or with a brand (for instance, loyalty). Two main approaches of consumer research on materialism has followed opposite orientations: one predominantly psychological orientation has conceptualized materialism as a personality trait rooted in the importance of the role of objects in subjective personality (Belk, 1985); one predominantly cultural orientation characterizes materialism as a value, part of a general value system (Richins and Dawson, 1992).

Materialism is often considered as linked to marketing phenomena both at an individual and at a societal levels. At the individual level which will be the focus of this research, two opposite alternate hypotheses may be elaborated:

H1: A materialist orientation will positively influence attitudes toward marketing;

H2: A materialist orientation will negatively influence satisfaction with the marketing system.

H1 is based on the critiques to the "consumer society" which frequently associate materialism and marketing orientation ; it is also supported by the fact that materialist individuals place more value on things than others and are more sensitive to the buying side of consumption-related pleasure (Richins, 1994). H2 is based on preceding research in the field of quality of life which has evidenced negative relationship between materialism and satisfaction (for instance, life satisfaction, cf. Wright and Larsen, 1993) ; it is also supported by observations which have shown that high materialists are less happy with various aspects of their lives (Richins, op. cit.) and that materialism is positively correlated with social anxiety (Wong, 1997).


Although, this research phase has been realized only in Brazil, its perspective includes ulterior extensions to international comparisons. We have used scales which have been elaborated in preceding researches, mainly in North America [Some scales have already been applied to other cultural contexts (cf., for instance, Ger and Belk, 1990).] instead of developing scales specifically adapted to the Brazilian cultural context.

Four scales have been selected for this purpose:

- three among them bear on materialism; the two scales, mentioned in the theoretical section, corresponding to the two main conceptual orientations (Belk’s Materialism Scale, which will be further referred to as Belk; Richins and Dawson’s Material Values, Mat); an additional scale is Possession Satisfaction Index, Psi, which has been developed by Scott and Lundstrom (1990) and aims to measure satisfaction with possessions, conceptualized as derived from materialism and attitude toward money;

- the Index of Consumer Sentiment toward Marketing, Ics (Gaski and Etzel, 1986), has been used to measure the attitudes toward business marketing practices.

The conceptual structure of these four scales will be presented later on in the section dealing with constructs validation.

3.1. Questionnaire

The questionnaire includes four sections, one for each scale whose item numbers are: 20 (PSI), 18 (Mat), 24 (Belk) and 20 (Ics). Questions format was 5-points Likert type agree/disagree rating scales (this format is similar to the one used for original scales). Items wording have followed a double translation procedure from English to Portuguese [The wording of the items - original (English) and translated (Portuguese) - may be obtained from the authors.]. The questionnaire was completed by individual characteristics.

3.2. Sampling

The sample of respondents was based on convenience sampling of 125 participants of professional development programs of Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Ufrgs), Porto Alegre, Brazil [Data were collected as part of an applied project of the Phd Program of Business Administration Department of Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Ppga/Ufrgs); the authors want to thank the other participants to this project: Carin Schmitt, Dorval Olivio Malman, Jose Antonio Antunes Valle Junior, Marina Keiko Nakayama and Ronaldo Bordin, and also Carlos Mello for his special contribution.]. This sample, whose description is presented in Table 1, is not representative of the whole Brazilian population but includes persons at a life stage more appropriate for studying consumption phenomena than students samples which has been used in other researches on this subject.



The three next sections will present the main results of this research: construct validation, links between materialism and attitudes toward marketing, and links of these constructs with individual characteristics.


4.1. Scales Theoretical Structure

The theoretical (i.e., exhibited by preceding research) structure of each selected scale is the following:

- Belk defines materialism as the importance a consumer attaches to worldly possessions; the scale includes 24 statements and identifies three subtraits: [An ulterior version of Belk's scale includes a fourth subtrait: preservation (Michen, 1995).]

- Possessiveness: inclination and tendency to retain control or ownership of one’s possessions;

- Nongenerosity: unwillingness to give possessions or share possessions with others;

- Envy: displeasure with the superiority of another person in happiness, success, reputation, or the possession of anything desirable;

- Mat (Richins and Dawson’s Material Values Scale) defines materialism as a centrally held consumer value; it includes 18 statements and identifies three themes:

- Possessions as defining "success": the extent to which one uses possessions as indicators of success and achievement in life, both in judging themselves and others;

- Acquisition "centrality": the extent to which one places possession acquisition at the center of one’s life (i.e., this lends meaning to life and guides daily endeavors);

- Acquisitions as the pursuit of "happiness": the belief that possessions are essential to satisfaction and well-being in life;

- Psi (Scott and Lundstrom’s Possession Satisfaction Index Scale) is based on the idea of possession satisfaction as derived from materialism and attitude toward money; it includes 20 items; its dimensionnality has not yet been clearly assessed;

- Ics (Gaski and Etzel’s Index of Consumer Sentiment toward Marketing Scale) has been designed to provide a "barometer of how marketing is doing in the eyes of the consumer public"; it includes 20 items reflecting composite opinion about four aspects corresponding roughly to the four elements of the marketing mix.

4.2. Construct Validation Process

Construct validation process has followed several steps:

- for each scale, an exploratory factor analysis has led to a comparison of observed dimensions with theoretical dimensions of the initial scales;

- selection of the dimensions which exhibit transcultural validity, i.e., which are similar in both empirical and theoretical structures;

refinement of these dimensions through assessment of reliability (Cronbach alpha);

assessment of discriminant validity between the selected dimensions through a factor analysis in which were included only the items pertaining to these dimensions.

4.3. Results

The main results are the following:

- for Belk scale, the observed structure was rather atomized (9 eigen-values superior to unity) [These results are similar to those obtained by other researchers (Ger and Belk, op.cit.; Ellis, 1992; Michen, op.cit.).] and, even with constraining a three factor solution, very dissimilar from the initial structure; it has been dismissed from further analyses;

- for Mat scale, two dimensions identical to the initial structure have been identified through factor analysis-"acquisition centrality" and "acquisitions as the pursuit of happiness"; the items pertaining to the third dimension of the initial scale-"possessions as defining success"-did not exhibit consistent structure, which may be interpreted as cultural differences on the ways to express success;

- for Psi scale, two dimensions including 12 out of the 20 initial statements have been retained; these dimensions may be labelled as "value expressiveness of wealth" and "importace of wealth and material goods and their contribution to happiness";

- Ics scale exhibits the strongest intercultural validity among the four scales which were included in this research; factor analysis of Ics shows four dimensions quasi-similar with the ones of the initial scale (after elimination of 3 items); these dimensions may be interpreted as (a) service quality of the retailing system, (b) dissatisfaction with market conditions and more specifically product quality, (c) favorableness to advertising [This advertising scale was exactly identical to the original one.] and (d) price scale which reflects mainly price equity.

The 8 dimensions identified through the phase of factor analyses were submitted to reliability analysis, which led to further elimination of a few items. Table 2 exhibits the final number of items and Cronbach alpha values for each dimension; it also shows the mean values for each facet (recalculated to take values in 1-5 interval, 1 meaning total disagreement and 5 total agreement).

The last step of construct validation was a factor analysis which includes the 40 items (out of 82 included in the survey) which constitute these 8 dimensions. Results [The matrix of loadings have been skipped from the final version of the paper due to space constraints, but was included in the original paper submitted to the reviewers.] showed both internal consistency and discriminant validity for 7 out of the 8 dimensions. The items composing Icsd (price equity) did not load on the same factor; this result added to the low alpha value observed for this dimension led to its elimination for further analyses; the inconsistency of the price dimension may be explained by the time period in which the survey took place (the implementation of an economic stabilization plan which has reduced the monthly inflation rate in Brazil from almost 50 percent to less than 3 percent). So the two next sections will bear on 7 dimensions of materialism and attitudes toward marketing.


The respondents’ individual characteristics which have been included in this research may be classified into three main categories: demographics (age, gender, family size, residence area); variables with socio-cultural orientation (area of educational specialization, religious practices); variables characterizing respondent’s professional activity, more specifically the firm where this activity takes place (sector, size, type, i.e., public or private).

Links between these variables and the seven constructs have been examined through one-way Anova where the dependent variable was the construct and the independent variable each individual characteristic. Results (see Table 3) show evidence of a number of significant relationships between the nine individual characteristics and the seven constructs representing materialism and attitudes toward marketing: 14 links (out of 63, i.e., 22%) are statistically significant at the .05 level. The structure of significant links is rather revealing:

- demographics only influences materialism;

- socio-cultural variables are exclusively linked to attitudes toward marketing;

- variables characterizing respondent’s firm are almost exclusively linked to materialism.

If we look further to the direction of these relationships [This section's commentaries bear on statistically significant relationships; directionality of the other relationships has also been examined to check coherency.] (see Table 4), we may observe that:

a) demographics:

acquisition centrality diminished with age and with family size (these two vaiables being linked); this may be interpreted as that when age increases the importance of material possessions is relativized, for instance, substituted by family pleasures, but also that older persons have already acquired more possessions that people who are at the beginning of their professional life.

men think more than women that happiness comes from money and material possessions;

value expressiveness of material possessions as a sign of status and social prestige is more important for people who live in the cities or its suburbs than for people who live in the country.





b) socio-cultural variables:

- the area of educational specialization strongly influences attitudes toward marketing (see Table 3); the categories which exhibit more extreme positions on this issue are on one side Medicine graduates (who have the highest score on the service quality evaluation scale but are also most hostile to advertising) and on the other side Business graduates (which are the most favorable to advertising);

- religion also influences attitudes toward marketing (but unexpectedly not the materialist orientation); there is an opposition between people who consider themselves as religious whatever degree and non-religious people, the later being significantly more critical with services and products presently offered on the market;

c) characteristics of respondents firm:

- interviewees belonging to industrial and commercial business firms give more importance to the acquisition of materialism possessions than those who are working in the services or financial sectors (this may be interpreted as an opposition between firms which are centered on production of material goods and those whose activity is focused on "immaterial");

- analysis of the influence of firm size on materialist orientation evidences the existence of an u-curve; respondents working in a small and middle-size businesses give more importance to the role of material possessions, when micro businesses and large firms are situated at significantly lower level;

- finally the firm type is, in this group of variables, the most influential one (4 significant links out of 8); a strong cultural barrier may be observed between public organizations and private firms; respondents working in the private sector are more inclined towards materialism, particularly on the dimensions reflecting relationship between money or material possessions and happiness; they are also significantly more favorable to advertising.






Figure 1 shows the intercorrelations [The numbers in Figure 1 indicate bivaried correlation coefficients; further analysis will try to validate these interrelationships through the use of Lisrel-type structural analysis.] between the 7 dimensions of materialism and attitudes toward marketing. One may observe that the highest correlations are the ones among the 4 dimensions of materialism; this confirms that these dimensions, although exhibiting discriminant validity as showed in the construct validation section, may be considered as the facets of a general concept. Internal coefficients within the attitudes toward marketing are situated at a lower level; global satisfaction with market conditions (Icsb) appears to play a central role and is positively linked to both perceptions of service quality and favorableness.

Examination of the links between materialism and attitudes toward marketing shows coherent patterns:

- perceptions of vendors service quality are negatively influenced by the two facets reflecting materialism stricto sensu, i.e., importance of wealth and material goods;

- satisfaction with market conditions (and more specifically product quality) is also negatively influenced by three out of the four facets of materialism; materialist consumers are more dissatisfied with actual market conditions;

- a favorable attitude toward advertising (Icsc) is induced by the components of materialism which reflect beliefs about links between wealth and material possessions and happiness (Psib and Mata); advertising may be looked at as a reinforcement agent of the associations between materialism and happiness.

Finally, both hypotheses stated in the theoretical section are, at least partially, conforted by these observations; materialism is both positively and negatively linked to the attitudes toward marketing but these links are differentiated with the components of the marketing system:

- materialist orientation positively influences attitudes toward advertising, and not the other components of the marketing system (H1);

- materialist orientation negatively influences satisfaction with services and product quality and more generally with market conditions (H2).


The main results of this research are:

- identification of subdimensions of existing scales which demonstrate transcultural validity;

- evidence of links between these dimensions and individual characteristics (namely, between materialism and demographics and variables characterizing respondent’s firm; and between socio-cultural variables and attitudes toward marketing);

- examination of the relationships between materialism and attitudes toward marketing which has shown the existence of both positive and negative links according to the components of the marketing system.

Two main limits of this research may be identified:

- based on the perspective of international comparison, only existing scales have been used; these scales may not capture specific cultural traits;

- the nature of the sample prevents the extension of the conclusions to the whole Brazilian population.

Finally, several directions of future research may be identified:

- one is, obviously, with the purpose of cross-validation, to extend this research to other countries and other types of sample;

- other directions should deal with a better understandin of the links between materialism and attitudes toward marketing: materialist individuals have been shown to be more favorable to advertising, but what about their sensitivity to persuasion? Persons with a stronger materialism orientation exhibit lower satisfaction with market conditions, this phenomenon may result from higher expectations and induce differences in levels and processes of satisfactions with specific products and services.


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