Purchasing a personality : a case study of cellular phone consumption by South African students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
John Grainger, Simon.
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This dissertation examines youth consumer culture in South Africa through a case study of cellular phone consumption. The hypothesis is that it is possible to draw some conclusions about identity formation, particularly among young people, by examining how they use cellular phones. Two methods were employed to understand three key research questions regarding the youth (aged 18-25). They were: Why do youth use cellular phones and what gratifications do they experience? From a marketing perspective, what web promotions are in place to target this youth market? How do the youth respond to these messages? The first method utilised a questionnaire investigating young people‟s perceptions, sampled from a group of students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). This objective was to reveal why young people have cellular phones and how they respond to marketed messages encouraging cellular phone consumption. The second method applied a semiotic analysis of the South African oligopolistic cellular networks' websites. This showed how marketers perceive their youth segment and how they harness the Internet as a marketing medium. Significant findings that foster consumption were presented regarding this youth sample. One such finding is that self expression is articulated through consumption. This is particularly evident in the purchasing of cellular phones and airtime and how the purchasing decision reflects the individualisation of self. Further, the importance of social institutions emerged with family instilling or attempting to instil discernment regarding diligent and necessary spending. The opposite is evident with peer pressure influencing unnecessary consumption. Lastly, advertising emerged as a central driver in creating brand awareness and stimulating the consumption of cellular phones and packages amongst this youth segment. Against the research results discussed, relevant literature gave support and further insights into youth consumer culture. This dissertation provides, and concludes with, a deeper understanding into the dynamics of youth and their cellular phone consumption in South Africa, particularly in an area where there has been very little research.