A status symbol is a possession that indicates the social position of the owner in the community. In most instances, such a possession is costly, and as such, it is indicative of the possessor’s economic capability. There have been great disparities with regard to the items that are considered to be status symbols in various societies. Nevertheless, status symbols are dominated by luxury goods as they are the possessions that distinguish the owners from the rest of the society. They, therefore, include big and spacious houses, latest car models, and expensive clothes. It is for the same reason that affluent individuals opt for penthouses, condos, lavishly constructed mansions, as well as villas. This paper enquires into the idea of social symbolism that emanates with the ownership of cars, especially those that defined as luxury brands. Specifically, the paper evaluates the range of information that a car conveys with regard to the social position and identity of the owner in the community. As such, the aim is to affirm that cars, in addition to being vehicles, are status symbols.
Status Symbols and the Society
Status symbols have a tendency to change with time. For instance, some time back, possession of a large library of books was regarded as a status symbol. However, advancement in technology has altered this belief, and as such, books place the owner in an average class of citizens. This means that status symbols are defined as per the prevailing cultural values in the community. Most commercial societies attach the value to monetary possessions as well as other categories of wealth. These societies, therefore, treasure the things, which are acquired through wealth including the latest car models, fine clothing, and luxurious houses. On the contrary, societies that engage in hunting and pastoralism would tend to value bravery more than technological advancement. Battle scars, therefore, take the position of cars and houses in commercial societies. As much as cars would prompt curiosity, hunters and pastoralists would not attach the same level of status like the commercial societies. The conditions of individuals’ bodies are, at times, regarded as status symbols. As much as societies regard possessions like cars to be status symbols, being fat and pale is also regarded to indicate wealth or prosperity. People consider the fat and pale as those who engage in less manual labor despite having enough to eat. There are other societies that consider being thin and tanned as status symbols, arguing that the individual in question does not have to work in-doors for extended hours.
Cars as Status Symbols
In the recent times, people have been regarding possessions as presentment of identities. For instance, those who wish to be seen as sport fanatics shop for clothing that depict sport teams. In this case, consumer products symbolize the manner in which individuals wish to portray themselves to others. The wealth of an individual helps in defining his/her public appearance. This has, therefore, lead to the popularity of French and Italian designer clothing and accessories. In the recent times, luxury cars have been among the most idolized status symbols. Expensive cars appeal because unlike clothing, which may be cheap yet presentable, luxurious cars can be flaunted by their owners as, in addition to being expensive, they are mobile. Contrary to the clothing brands, expensive brands of cars are widely known, and; therefore, almost everyone in the society has the capacity to gauge the economic status of the owner. Additionally, an individual does not have to be an expert with technology to tell cars apart on the basis of their models. Cars, therefore, fit into the symbolic framework with ease as compared to other categories of luxury goods.
Such expensive commodities as cars symbolize affluence in circumstances, where they are out of reach for the people in low economic classes. They, therefore, serve to indicate that the owner can afford to pay for pricy goods. As the utility of status symbols is attached on their high prices, the increase in price does not diminish demand for commodities. In the contemporary settings, cars are mainly considered being representations of economic wealth. Additionally, the society has come to attach masculinity, vitality, and power to car ownership. In this case, cars facilitate the creation of identities. This is especially so since, with the emergence of the material culture in the contemporary societies, people have begun to regard cars to be status symbols. Different societies regard the material culture and status symbols differently. The variation results from the difference in technological and economic development in the societies being considered.
Luxury branding has been an important activity in the contemporary commercialized societies, especially for consumers. It has become important for people to view luxury commodities in isolation as well as relation to the regular possessions. Luxury brands are associated with creativity, craftsmanship, high quality, premium pricing, innovation, as well as precision. These attributes enables the owner to get the satisfaction of owning items with additional psychological benefits, such as prestige, sense of high status, and esteem. These benefits remind the owners that they are the members of an exclusive category of people who can pay for pricey items. Luxury car owners know that the sellers target individuals at the top of the wealth spectrum. The targeted elite are, therefore, price insensitive, a situation that drives them into spending on possessions that demonstrate their opulence, as opposed to necessities. It is for this reason that prestigious brands command an unwavering customer loyalty, a scenario that most people regard illogical.
Luxury goods are, therefore, status symbols that appear to categorize those that have made it in life from the rest of the society. Owners are motivated by the desire to appear successful, and this prompts the marketers of these commodities to communicate messages that emphasize on acceptable exclusivity. In some instances, luxury automobiles offer an enhanced level of comfort as compared to the mainstream vehicles. For instance, some of the enhancements include wood-grained dashboards and leather upholstery. Moreover, these automobiles emphasize safety and comfort, a situation that makes them be regarded as status symbols for conspicuous consumers. Additionally, luxury cars provide better handling and higher performance. The socio-economic status of the owners is emphasized by the exterior badges that help identify the engines. Such badges are unnecessary as far as the normal functioning of the car is concerned. However, they help inform curious observers that these cars have higher-performance engines. According to Burkhart (2006), the reputation that luxury cars have in the market necessitates the enhancement of comfort and safety amenities. These amenities include the DVD entertainment, electronic stability controls, as well as the anti-lock brakes. These enhancements increase the prices of cars to a level, which is unattainable by many consumers. Such a situation, therefore, distinguishes the owners from the rest, a scenario that places them in a unique class in the society thereby making cars become status symbols.