Plastic surgery can be discussed as one of the most actively developing consumer trends not only in the Western society but also in the Arab society because today the concept of beauty serves as the socially significant factor. From this point, modern people who choose plastic surgery are motivated by their need for the public recognition and the specific need for affiliation.
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Therefore, such benefits of plastic surgery as the ‘perfect’ body and face are associated not only with the high self-esteem but also with the high social status. As a result, those persons who choose plastic surgery are motivated by the social standards of beauty and by their personal vision of the desired self.
In this context, the paper aims to discuss the underlying need for plastic surgery services, the social and individual factors affecting the consumer behaviour, and the implications for businesses and public relations professionals. The focus of young people on plastic or aesthetic surgery can be discussed as a modern consumer trend because today young females and males are concentrated on a kind of ‘body ideology’ (Holliday & Cairnie, 2007, p. 57).
As a result, the popularity of plastic surgery as a way to achieve the perfect body is typical not only for the Western countries but also for the Arab world where the beauty of the body was traditionally discussed as a sociologically significant aspect (Khraim, 2011, p. 23).
From this point, it is important to explore how such a consumer trend as plastic surgery develops in such different cultural contexts as the Western and Arab worlds. The purpose of this consumer trend analysis is to examine the persons’ motivation to purchase plastic surgery services and to list the manifestations of the trend; to explain social and individual consumer factors that are associated with a trend; and to discuss the implications of this trend for the society.
The Underlying Need for the Trend
In order to analyse the new consumer trend in detail, it is necessary to focus on the discussion of the consumers’ motivation as the main force to influence the certain behaviour. Today, the industry of plastic or aesthetic surgery should be discussed in the context of the beauty industry rather than in relation to the sphere of medicine.
The reason is that the consumers’ motivation regarding purchasing plastic surgery services has changed significantly during the recent years (Markley Rountree & Davis, 2011, p. 1028). Previously, individuals chose plastic surgery because of physiological needs and as a result of the physicians’ prescription. The situation has changed, and today young people choose plastic surgery focusing on the ideas of self-esteem and self-expression because of the necessity to “remake the self” (Holliday & Cairnie, 2007, p. 59).
In addition, it is possible to state that the development of the trend as the focus on achieving the normative beauty standards is characterised by two stages that are associated with changes in the individuals’ motivation. Three decades ago, plastic surgery was mainly chosen by celebrities and persons having the high social status who intended to avoid showing the signs of senescence and demonstrated their social success (Holliday & Cairnie, 2007, p. 58).
However, this trend typical for the developed Western cultures also reached the Arab world a decade ago (Khraim, 2011, p. 24). Today, young people all over the world choose plastic surgery not because of the necessity to support their high social status but also because of the need for affiliation and the desire to attract the attention.
In this context, it is important to analyse the desire for plastic surgery with references to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and to the three-factor theory of needs. The focus on plastic surgery is a developing trend because it has several peaks, and it is characterised by changes in the underlying motivation.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, modern people prefer plastic surgery because of their need for recognition that is closely associated with the need for identification (Svatosova, 2013, p. 15). As a result, young people choose surgery because they need to succeed in life and receive the recognition of the other persons. Changes in appearance can contribute to the social status and the persons’ feeling of significance (Borelli & Casotti, 2012, p. 380).
Thus, young consumers see plastic surgery as a way to increase self-esteem and win the love of the other people. This motivation is usually latent, and it is explained with references to the three-factor theory of needs (Svatosova, 2013, p. 16). Therefore, it is possible to state that those consumers who prefer plastic surgery demonstrate the extreme need for affiliation because aesthetic surgery is discussed as the way to build effective relations with other people.
It is also important to note that motives that influence the consumer’s behaviour regarding plastic surgery are usually emotional in their nature because users of these services choose them without references to possible risks (Markley Rountree & Davis, 2011, p. 1029). The orientation to receiving the perfect body or face is a driving force in this situation.
The consumer’s goal in this case is to receive the desired satisfaction and increase individual self-esteem. It is also appropriate to mention that availability of plastic surgery services is a modern tendency associated with innovations in the beauty industry such as the use of botox injections (Borelli & Casotti, 2012, 380). Therefore, the manifestations associated with this trend are the positive ‘transformation’ of a body, long-term emotional and psychological benefits, and availability of services.
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Social and Individual Consumer Factors
The population’s behaviour in relation to the consumption of plastic surgery services can be influenced by both social and individual consumer factors. Social and cultural factors influencing the consumer behaviour usually include values, beliefs, and the reference to the social status. In the Western world, the image of a successful person in the society is associated with the image of a beautiful person (Markley Rountree & Davis, 2011, p. 1028).
In this context, influencers of the public attitudes to plastic surgery are celebrities, rich public persons, and key players of the show business. These persons influence the consumers’ behaviour because they are concentrated on the role of the embodied capital as a status symbol (Lindridge & Wang, 2008, p. 497).
Furthermore, researchers speak about the “sociological significance of saving face” in the modern society that is a cause of popularity of plastic surgery today (Lindridge & Wang, 2008, p. 499). Thus, it is important to state that youth and beauty are discussed today as the values, and persons with perfect bodies and faces are considered as more successful in their social lives.
Nowadays, the popularity of ‘selfie’ and social networks increases chances of being assessed by other people in terms of appearance, and the role of beauty as a social symbol grows. Borelli and Casotti state that modern young consumers usually refer to the positive feedback of other persons belonging to the same reference group (Borelli & Casotti, 2012, p. 379).
Thus, reference groups play the key role in affecting consumers’ behaviours all over the world. For instance, women in the UAE traditionally consume a lot of cosmetics, and plastic surgery received popularity as one more option to preserve beauty (Khraim, 2011, p. 24). Although in the Arab world families are the most significant reference groups, the females’ focus on advantages of plastic surgery can also be discussed as influenced by changes in the social vision.
While referring to individual factors that affect the consumption of plastic surgery services, it is important to discuss the role of gender, age, consumers’ motives and expectations. Females are discussed as more focused on the benefits of plastic surgery than males, however, the recent studies demonstrate the changes in the men’s vision of plastic surgery (Holliday & Cairnie, 2007, p. 58).
According to Holliday and Cairnie, men began to choose plastic surgery because of their internal and latent motives to focus on demonstrating their youth and physical power (Holliday & Cairnie, 2007, p. 59). Age also influences the consumer behavior because it is possible to determine several categories of consumers of aesthetic surgery.
The first group includes young persons who aim to make their appearance ‘perfect’, and the second group includes persons who aim to preserve their youth and avoid signs of senescence. The factor of consumers’ motives and expectations is also important to affect the specific behaviour. Consumers choose the plastic surgery while focusing on the desired self.
In this case, the choice of plastic surgery services is often discussed as a result of the individual’s dissatisfaction with appearance which can cause a lot of psychological problems (Borelli & Casotti, 2012, p. 380). From this point, this consumer trend is the reflection of the persons’ changes in the vision of their appearance’s role for the personal life and self-esteem. Thus, Lindridge and Wang point at the decreased importance of “social relationships with an increased focus on an inherently self-centered individual” (Lindridge & Wang, 2008, p. 497).
In this context, it is possible to state that trend-setters in this situation are young experiencers who need to look good, who follow fashion, and who have the income to cover the plastic surgery costs. Discussing the internal individual factors, it is necessary to state that young consumers become impacted by the need for self-expression and by their desire to increase self-esteem.
The Implications of the Trend for Society
Businesses and public relations professionals have several options for using the trend of consuming plastic surgery services in the society. Although people often conceal the fact of using plastic surgery, a range of services associated with innovative aesthetic surgery methods are discussed as attractive for the public.
The reason is that the focus on the beautiful body is one of the social phenomena typical for the 21st century (Holliday & Cairnie, 2007, p. 57). Many modern businesses propose beauty and plastic surgery services because the demand for services has increased with reference to the changes in the availability of plastic surgery.
Today, people can spend less money to change their appearance with the help of aesthetic surgery, and they have more opportunities to have the successful or satisfied results (Borelli & Casotti, 2012, p. 381). That is why, public relations professionals in many beauty salons and medical centres can address to self-centered individuals who are expected to change their appearance in order to satisfy their specific internal needs.
Thus, public relations professionals can apply the discussed trend while focusing on the consumers’ identity. Today, human bodies can be considered as the part of the social symbolism because there are differences between the public perception of beautiful and unattractive bodies.
These tendencies can be actively used by businesses in order to attract more attention to services and products that serve to increase the individuals’ self-esteem (Lindridge & Wang, 2008, p. 497). The popularity of plastic surgery among young people who prefer to have some new experiences and who are focused on their appearance can also be used by public relations professionals in spheres that are not associated directly with medicine and cosmetics. Thus, plastic surgery services are often used today as gifts or in the context of health tours.
As a result, businesses can manipulate the persons’ focus on their appearance in promoting specific services proposed by the company who provides the gift or sponsors the health tour. The manipulation of the public’s focus on the ideal beauty is characteristic for modern public relations professionals who can attract the target audience’s attention with proposing options for changing the appearance.
Furthermore, it is possible to refer to the promotion of services that are supportive or associated with plastic surgery (Markley Rountree & Davis, 2011, p. 1029). The focus on the availability of aesthetic surgery can be discussed as an advantageous marketing strategy for businesses because it is possible to attract more consumers.
In this context, the trend of consuming plastic surgery services is associated with the individual emotional vulnerability (Lindridge & Wang, 2008, p. 497). As a result, emotional appeals work more successfully in case of using this consumer trend than the focus on the reasons.
Plastic surgery is an interesting modern consumer trend because of a range of positive and negative factors associated with the persons’ choice of these services. It is important to state that individuals in the Western and Arab world choose plastic surgery because of significant changes in the society.
The globalisation of the focus on a body as a value in the modern world led to accentuating the role of appearance for the success. In this context, consumers motivated by both external and internal factors choose plastic surgery because it is the most advantageous approach to changing their appearance.
Such ‘transformations’ are associated with changes in the persons’ vision of self, and the perfect appearance can be discussed as the need for the successful life and for the high social status. As a result, the popularity of body-enhancing services becomes advantageous for businesses that can use the focus on beautiful images as the core for the marketing strategy.
Plastic surgery can be considered as a new trend that changes the traditional vision of the human body and its role in succeeding in the personal and professional life.
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