Living in a celebrity-mediated social world: The Chinese experience

Kara Chan, Department of Communication Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University
Cong Zhang, Department of Communication Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University

Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of peers and media celebrities on young people's endorsement of materialistic values in China. As the Chinese culture is said to be collective, it is expected that social relations, both personal and celebrity-mediated, play an important role in the establishment of consumption values. Design/methodology/approach A survey of 299 university students in Beijing aged 18 to 24 was conducted using a structured questionnaire. Constructs were measured using established scales. Findings The paper finds that peer communication and susceptibility to peer influence were positively related to social comparison. Motivation for viewing advertisements was positively related to imitation of celebrity models. In turn, both social comparison and imitation of celebrity models were positive predictors of materialism. Research limitations/implications The city selected for this study is highly advanced in terms of economical and advertising development when compared with most other Chinese cities. Practical implications As the paper argues that materialism is a negative value orientation, the current study sheds light on de-marketing to young consumers. Media educators should help young consumers to reflect on how their purchase decisions are influenced by the social relations, including both personal interaction and celebrity-media communications. Discouraging upward social comparison and imitation of idols is expected to discourage the endorsement of materialistic values. Originality/value The paper offers insights about the complex patterns of youth attitudes in a former socialist society migrating to a capitalist society. It is a pioneer work on the study of influence of celebrities on materialistic value orientations. © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited