Asian consumers display collective behavior

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[Seoul] There is a high degree of diversification among consumers in Asia, but segments within different Asian countries, particularly the wealthy and the young, are converging across Asia, Dr. Doo-Hee Lee of Korea University told delegates to the IAA World Congress in Korea.

Although consumer behavior in each Asian country shows a greater degree of diversity than among European nations, within each Asian country consumers show similarities in their behavior, Mr. Lee says.

This is largely due to the high intensity of collectivism in Asia, versus the individuality that Americans and Europeans exhibit, Mr. Lee says. "Such strong collectivism is what makes Asian consumers form uniformed consumer behavior," he says. "In all types of restaurants in Korea, there is one popular menu - it is 'me too'. The menu everyone chooses is likely to be the one the most senior person at the table selects. In a collective culture, selecting a different menu is considered as displaying a difficult personality rather than an expression of one's own taste."

Within Asian cultures, collectivism is gradually becoming a thing of the past and there is increasingly a diversification of consumer behavior. "For the past couple of years, Asian countries especially the eight dragons have experienced changes in values and social structures due to rapid growth in their economies, advancement in global communication and increase in travel to other countries," Mr. Lee says.

Social classes within Asia are becoming more segmented, resulting in an acceleration of conspicuous consumption and extravagance, even in markets such as China. The main reason for this is increased wealth in Asian countries.

"Individualistic behavior, minimizing consciousness about others and seeking one's own personal taste, is gradually spreading throughout Asia."

Due to this diversification within nations, consumers in different countries with fundamentally different cultures are displaying similar consumer trends between segments."There are very similar consumption patterns between one of the segments in country A and one of the segments in country B," Mr. Lee says.

This is especially noticeable in high income groups and teenagers. "Because high income groups in Asia tend to associate brands with social status, they prefer expensive brands and show a strong tendency towards conspicuous consumption."

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