Special Session Summary Values of Young Asia Pacific Consumers: Consumption, Tradition and Innovation


Siok Kuan Tambyah (2002) ,"Special Session Summary Values of Young Asia Pacific Consumers: Consumption, Tradition and Innovation", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 284-286.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Pages 284-286



Siok Kuan Tambyah, National University of Singapore, Singapore


A constellation of parties (e.g., policy makers, marketers, researchers and academics) have been interested in the value systems of consumers and how these may be used to explain and predict various aspects of consumer behavior. Value systems commit us to action, transcending specific situations, guiding our behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. Studies on values and lifestyles (e.g., Mitchell 1983; Kau et al 1998) focused on organizing and understanding consumers through their values, beliefs, attitudes, traits and aspirations.

Today’s young adult consumers are undergoing dramatic demographic changes and socio-cultural shifts. Across countries in Asia, individuals in their 20s and 30s are considered lucrative market segments which are prominent (i.e., high visibility in consumer markets), unique (i.e., leading particular lifestyles) and attractive (i.e., ample spending ability and willingness). Holland (2000) suggests that there is a rapidly developing middle class, a new generation of Asian consumers who may not be the richest of consumers, but who do have disposable incomes and many uninhibited consumer desires. The consumption of conspicuous products and services has tremendous market potential in Asia, and is considered an emergin phenomenon in transitional economies such as Vietnam. Generally, younger consumers are also posited to be more adventurous in product trial and acceptance of new, innovative products.

This special session highlights the research exploring critical linkages between value systems (both personal values and national values) and particular forms of consumption behaviors, with a special focus on young consumers in the Asia Pacific Region. In all three presentations, the authors will show how examining the value systems of young consumers affords valuable insights into what, how and why people consume.




Siok Kuan Tambyah, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Kau Ah Keng, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Kwon Jung, School of Public Policy and Management, KDI, Korea

Tan Soo Jiuan, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Tambyah et al will present the results of a multi-method study to understanding young adult consumers in Singapore. Data was collected via survey questionnaires and in-depth interviews. To discover the values and beliefs that drive consumption, respondents answered questions related to a myriad of value systems (such as family values, traditionalism, environmentalism, status orientation, materialism, entrepreneurial spirit, communal orientation, e-commerce orientation). In addition, lifestyle variables (relating to leisure activities, media habits, credit card usage, online buying behavior, investment patterns) were covered in the survey. The 12-page survey questionnaire utilized established scales from current literature and which were tested in two previous nation-wide surveys in 1989 and 1996. New items (e.g., relating to Internet and e-commerce usage) were also developed for the 2001 survey. Specific findings pertaining to the 356 young adult respondents (from this completed 2001 nation-wide survey of 1,500 Singaporeans) will be presented.

In addition to the survey, 20 in-depth interviews were conducted with young adult consumers on their perspectives regarding their values, lifestyles and related consumption issues. The interview transcripts were subject to close readings and inter-textual analysis using the hermeneutic logic. Global themes were developed that were representative of the personal meanings the respondents attributed to their consumption choices. Their narratives revealed the tensions between individual expression and conformity to social expectations that were prevalent in a meritocracy-based Singaporean society. They also had to negotiate the constraints placed on them by traditional values and conventions while striving to fulfill their more bohemian aspirations.



Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai, National University of Singapore

Kau Ah Keng, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Kwon Jung, School of Public Policy and Management, KDI, Korea

Shamdasani Prem, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Siok Kuan Tambyah, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Nguyen et al’ research will focus on understanding and measuring status orientations in Vietnam, where traditional values are increasingly challenged by modern values brought about by doi moi (i.e., reforms that have shifted the economy from a centrally planned system into a market economy). The movement toward free markets in transitional economies has generated considerable theoretical and managerial interest in the marketing challenges and issues that are unique to these economies (Batra 1997). The literature suggests that such reforms in Vietnam have eroded the traditional value systems that were premised on a centrally planned and subsidized economy (Boothroyd and Pham 2000, p.151; Fforde 1997; Hoang 1999; and Toyama 2001, p. 20). In addition, it has been suggested that the modern influences brought about by doi moi tended to coexist with many of the values, attitudes and behaviors that are associated with the traditional Vietnamese culture (e.g., Schultz, Pecotich and Le 1994).

Traditional status symbols mainly refer to duc (i.e., morality) and tai (i.e., talent) in which a much higher importance was placed on the former factor (cf. Do 1995). Duc is considered the foundation of one’s personality and often refers to specific aspects of a revolutionary person’s morality such as sacrificing one’s life for the benefit of the country. Tai, though often mentioned in abstract terms, could be perceived as one’s abilities that may be used to bring benefits to the country/community. However, in present-day Vietnam, some modern status symbols such as being rich, owning luxury items, and having a high level of education have taken over.

The literature suggests that the desire for status motivates much of consumer behavior (Mason 1981; Eastman et al 1999). However, there seems to be no clear conceptualizations and measures of status that are relevant to the context of a transitional economy like Vietnam where significant differences in consumers’ perceptions of status/status symbols exist before and after the transition. This research examines the nature and type of status symbols in the past (before doi moi) and at present (since doi moi), and develops scales that measure the status orientations of Vietnamese consumers. Status orientation is conceptualized as consumers’ orientation toward the value placed on symbols of status and on the attainment of higher status. Two sub-constructs are also proposed; traditional status orientation and modern status orientation. They respectively refer to consumers’ orientation toward the value placed on traditional status symbols (before doi moi) and modern (at present) status symbols.

The scale development paradigm recommended by Gerbing and Anderson (1988) was employed in developing the status orientation measures. First, items of status symbols were generated through 27 personal interviews with consumers and experts in the field, two focus groups (in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City), an open-ended survey questionnaire administered to 30 consumers, and an extensive literature review. The initial checklists had more than 80 items. After dropping redundant and ambiguous items, the 24 remaining items in these checklists were subjected to further refinement through a survey of more than 100 consumers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The final checklists of status symbols were used to develop the corresponding scales of traditional status orientation and modern status orientation. A 10-item scale measuring traditional status orientation focused mainly on duc’s aspects such as devoting one’s life for the benefit of the country and the people, leading a simple and clean life regardless of fame and wealth, and caring for others more than for oneself. The 9-item scale measuring modern status orientation, on the other hand, places an emphasis on being rich and wealthy, a high-income earning ability, a high level of education, and having a wide relationship network. These items, after being judged by several experts for content validity, were subjected to further purification through examining item-to-total correlations and performing exploratory factor analysis on a additional survey of more than 100 consumers. The remaining items were then subjected to confirmatory factor analysis (using AMOS 4) to assess the scales’ unidimensionality. After that, reliability of the scales was evaluated using Coefficient Alphas.

Although the results from assessing convergent and discriminant validity of the two sub-constructs were acceptable, further cross-validation of the measurement models using additional samples is necessary to provide a final version of the scales. In addition, the nomological validity of these two sub-scales needs to be evaluated by examining their relationships with other constructs in the context of a full structural equation model (see Anderson and Gerbing 1988).



Daniel John Chesson, Southern Cross University, Australia

Daniel Chesson will present his research that focused on the relationships between values systems on consumer dispositions to purchasing newly innovated products. Consumer dispositions to purchase innovative products are influenced by demographic, socio-economic, psychographic, and cultural factors. Innovators (those who purchase innovation before the rest of society) are identified as having a higher disposable income, a higher education, a professional career, and a greater exposure to mass media than the average consumer (Goldsmith and Newell 1997; Kautz and Larsen, 2000). Innovators actively devote significant time, energy, and financial resources to new product adoption because they want to be at the cutting edge of product advancement (McCorkle, Alexander and Reardon, 2001). Little research has been conducted to identify relationships between value systems and Consumer Innovativeness. The few theories and frameworks that have been developed in this area have resulted from research in Europe, Canada, and Africa. The current research expanded existing theoretical frameworks by incorporating findings from the Asia Pacific Region.

Building on Steenkamp, Hofstede and Wedel (1999) and Daghfous, Petrof and Pons (1999), a self-administered questionnaire survey was constructed to measure three pertinent constructs, that of Personal Values, National Values, and Consumer Innovativeness. The research instrument contained four sections, utilizing a hybrid of measurement instruments including Rokeach’s (1973) 18 Terminal Values, Hofstede’s (1980) National Values, and research performed by Daghfous et al (1999) to measure Consumer Innovativeness. To assist in ratifying 'pure national samples,’ the research built on the measures implemented by Garcia-Sordo and Baren (1999). The research instrument was personally distributed to more than 500 university students completing an undergraduate business degree in Australia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Undergraduate business students were selected in an attempt to mitigate variances in demographic, socio-economic, and psychographic characteristics, which were reported to have an influence on Consumer Innovativeness.

Steenkamp et al (1999) proposed that two basic bipolar dimensions constitute fundamental Personal Values, which have a pertinent impact on Consumer Innovativeness. The first bipolar dimension measures 'Conservation’ versus 'Openness to Change,’ and the second bipolar dimension measures 'Self-Transcendence’ versus 'Self-Enhancement’. An analysis of the data supports the findings reported by Steenkamp et al (1999) and Daughfous et al (1999) suggesting that Resultant Openness to Change shares a positive relationship with Consumer Innovativeness. In addition, the research suggests that there is an inconsequential relationship between Resultant Self-Enhancement and Consumer Innovativeness, thereby further supporting the findings of Steenkamp et al (1999). Building on the findings from Steenkamp et al (1999), this research suggests that Personal Values account for a portion of variance in Consumer Innovativeness.

As this research was a cross-national study, the relationships between National Values and Consumer Innovativeness were also examined. Hofstede (1980) identified four bi-polar National Values, that of Power Distance (high/low), Uncertainty Avoidance (strong/ weak), Individualism/ Collectivism, and Masculinity/ Femininity. This research supports the theoretical framework forwarded by Steenkamp et al (1999), suggesting that National Values do contribute to some of the variance in Consumer Innovativeness. This research suggests that a positive relationship exists between Uncertainty Avoidance and Consumer Innovativeness, and between Power Distance and Consumer Innovativeness. However, the relationship between Individualism and Consumer Innovativeness, and that between Masculinity and Consumer Innovativeness, could not be confirmed. Additional academic and managerial implications, along with the limitations and opportunities for future research will be discussed during the presentation.


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Tambyah et al’s research was made possible with a research grant from the National University of Singapore. Nguyen et al’s research was funded by a USAID grant. Chesson’s research was made possible by funding from AustAsia Group Limited, and the supervisory support of Professor Angele Cavaye.



Siok Kuan Tambyah, National University of Singapore, Singapore


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002

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