Luxury consumer behavior between the different generations BY: XIANGJING YING


Depending on the different social backgrounds, people are segmented to a few part, such as Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennial (Generation Y). According to Debard (2004), “The Millennial Generation is the generation of individuals that were born starting in 1982 ”. “Baby Boomers are those individuals born in the period immediately following World War II–between 1946 and 1964.”(Park,2013). Hence, between Millennial and the Baby Boomers, there are quite different environments for their growth. For example, China developed rapidly after the 1980s. It becomes an affluence country from a backward and poor country. As a result, Millennial receive a number of new ideas from other countries. But Baby Boomers keep their old thought to face the new world. According to the Tri-component attitude model, in the term of purchase, they have several different attitudes and consumer behavior to treat the same merchandises, such as luxury products.

  • The Tri-component Attitude Model
2. The Tri-component Attitude Model


“China recently became the world’s second largest market for luxury goods with an annual increase of more than 30% in 2010”. (Lu,2010) The luxury consumers’ ages are trending to lower. Young people have become the main force to buy luxury products. Compare with Baby Boomers, Millennial will be more eager to have luxuries to mold themselves. “Many Millennial are at the stage in life where they find themselves more actively constructing their identities.”(Trocchia, Saine and Luckett 2014). According to the Tri-component attitude model, the basic learning hierarchy is that thought influences feeling, then results in relevant behavior. Nowadays, more and more Chinese young people think that luxury is a symbol of status. It is a time to build their social circle’s chance. “They want to distinguish themselves from other groups to show that they are a part of a higher social class.” (Srinivasan, Srivastava and Bhanot, 2014). Therefore, influenced by internal and external elements, young people think that one of the ways to improve them is purchasing luxury products to invest themselves, even if some products are beyond their economic ability. Some young people do not like purchasing luxury products, but they may be influenced by several external factors, like their friends or their families. According to the consistency principle, they will change their attitudes or their behavior to keep pace with the other element.

On the contrary, in China, Baby Boomers are senior citizens. Most of them are over 50 years’ old and have been retired. Their social circles have been formed since long time ago and it is hard to change. As a result, improving social interaction is not quite important to them. In general, for Baby Boomers, using luxury is not a way to manifest their identities. They do not have obvious motives to buy it. However, “Older people could be more influenced by family” (Srinivasan, Srivastava and Bhanot, 2014). It could be explained by the experiential hierarchy in the Tri-component attitude model. Their first luxury may be bought by their family members. Feeling lets them think luxury products are quite good merchandises. Then it will lead them to buy more luxuries, even though sometimes they have no concept about some luxuries. Moreover, unlike young people, they do not have to consider the economic capacities, because they have enough money to pay for luxury products.

In addition, Different needs and cognition make different consumer behavior between Millennial and Baby Boomers. With the development of the technology, luxury is not only on behalf of the brands, like Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Cartier. Several digital products are regarded as luxury as well, especially by Millennial, like smart mobile phone, personal computer, car and so on. Trocchia, Saine and Luckett, (2014) state that Millennial are more likely to regard Apple as a luxury brand than Baby Boomers, thus indicating technology is becoming a new category in luxury brand typology. It means that Millennial and Baby Boomers have different cognition in a part of Luxury. At the same time, different cognitive will influence them to inform different conation, then do the different behavior. Millennial and Baby Boomers will choose different luxury products to satisfy themselves. For Millennial, they prefer buying a famous mobile phone, because phones are frequently used in their daily life. But for Baby Boomers, they do not think it is necessary to use high price phone for themselves. They prefer buying some traditional luxury goods, such as bags, clothes, jewelry and so on. Because Chinese Baby Boomers had quite poor life in childhood. To a certain extent, having high-quality products means the high-quality life that they possess.

6. Baby Boomers with Gucci

Comparing with Baby Boomers, Millennial grow up in the information age. They can know a lot of information through Internet. It is quite convenient for them to exchange the newest information. Hence, they have more luxury brands to choose, like Meli Melo, Chiara Ferragni, Loewe and so on. However, as for Baby Boomers, because of the poor childhood, they did not have much knowledge about the Internet, even they did not know how to use digital products to know some information about luxury. Cognitive decides awareness. Millennial has a lot of luxury brands and products to choose, on the contrary, Baby Boomers only know few and quite famous luxuries through surrounding persons. So they only can choose luxuries within a limited range. It reveals limited cognition will produce limited conation and different effects.

Millennial: new and fashion brans

8.Chiara Ferragni
9.Meli Melo

Baby Boomers: traditional and famous luxury brand



Although there are different consumer behaviors between Millennial and Baby Boomers, they still have several similarities, when they face to luxury. Because now, they are living in the same social environment.

Firstly, They all have some same concepts about luxury and want to satisfy themselves by buying luxury. For example, luxury means high price, high quality and not everybody can possess it. According to the basic learning hierarchy of the Tri-component attitude model, Cognitive influences conative and behaviors. Through self-awareness and hearing some information from others and information mediums, people think that luxury products mean the good merchandises and could improve their life’s quality. Hence, they are all willing to buy luxury products to enrich their life by their self- awareness. In the other words, whether it is Baby Boomers or Millennial, they all have the same internal motive - satisfy themselves, when they buy luxury. “luxury goods enable consumers to satisfy their functional and psychological needs” (Trocchia, Saine and Luckett, 2014). So, buying luxury products is a exhilarating behavior for them.

15. Luxury brings satisfaction
16.Millennial and Baby Boomers

Secondly, both of Millennial and Baby Boomers are want to be respected by others. “Respect and superiority generate the fundamental need to be respected by others and having their respect as a key indicator of social superiority in China.” (Degen, 2009). Influenced by their surrounding environment. They find that somebody who possesses luxury products, people will be more willing to have communication with him. “The more famous and expensive the brand, the more recognition they get.”(Degen, 2009). Therefore, In order to get more recognition, their cognition control their conation to tend to imitate other person’s consumer behavior - behavioral Learning. As mentioned above, Baby Boomers do not have obvious intention to buy to change their current social circle, however, it does not mean that they do not want to have respect from others who are in their social circle.

Thirdly, Millennial and Baby Boomers all care about whether luxury products that they possess are common or not. If they find that there are many persons possess the same luxury products like themselves. They will be unsatisfied with this products. “The luxury buyers stop buying these products when they become common among other people.”(Srinivasan, Srivastava and Bhanot, 2014). According to the experiential hierarchy of the Tri-component attitude model, the feeling can influence thought and behavior. When they find that luxury can not distinguish themselves from other persons, they will not buy it anymore.


To sum up, using the Tri-component attitude model’s three interactional elements: cognition, conation and affect. It could explain the different generations - Millennial and Baby Boomers in China has several differences and similarities when they face to consumer luxury products. Because they have the different environment of growth and same environment live now. They all have several same concepts about luxury and same attitude to treat it. Buying luxury, not only can satisfy themselves, but also can get respect from society. To be honest, their behavior has more or less vanity, due to the present society of China. Moreover, in the modern society, more and more digital products become a new luxury category. Except for traditional luxury brands, lots of technological brands are popular with Millennial. Hence, in the different period, people has different the attitude, cognitive and consumer behavior to treat the luxury.


  • Reference

- Debard, R. (2009) "Millennials Coming to College." New Directions for Student Services Summer 2004: 33-45. WilsonWeb. Siena College, Loudonville. [accessed 1 March 2017]

- Degen, R, J. (2009) Opportunity for luxury brands in China. Journal of Brand Management, 6(3/4) 75-85. Available from [accessed 18 March 2017]

- Lu, X. (2010)Luxury consumer behavior in Mainland China: What exists behind the facade of new wealth? Available from: [accessed 22 March 2017].

- Park, A. (2017). Baby Boomers: Not the ‘Healthiest Generation’ | Available from: [accessed 18 March 2017].

- Srinivasan, D., Srivastava, D. and Bhanot, P. (2014). Attitudes of young Indian consumers towards luxury brands. IOSR Journal of Business and Management, 16(7) 87-97. Available from [accessed 22 March 2017]

- Trocchia, P., Saine, R. and Luckett, M. (2014). I’ve Wanted A BMW Since I Was A Kid: An Exploratory Analysis Of The Aspirational Brand. Journal of Applied Business Research (JABR), 31(1), 331-344. Available from;sequence=1 [accessed 18 March 2017]

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XJ Ying

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