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Common Consumer Preferences of the Wealthy

Posted by on Jun 28, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

We often talk about the rich, watch the rich on TV, and even try to imitate them. But how well do we know what they like (and dislike)? To find out, I went through Scarborough Research’s PRIME Lingo database, an immense collection of consumer research data. To find suitable collections of wealthy persons, I grouped adults age 35 and over together from the richest zip codes in the New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Nashville areas. The zip codes collected are a balance of urban and suburban locations, and also balanced politically. These themes will be explored in future posts.

It is nothing new to report that the affluent like to drive Lexuses and Jaguars. What I will do is report some findings that are not immediately obvious. Some of the findings will not be surprising, but others will be somewhat at odds with the perception of who the rich are.

Some similarities among all the subgroups:

Gambling: The rich generally do not gamble. They have low rates of playing slot machines, table games, watching casino shows, and frequenting casino bars. The only casino activity where they resemble the general population is attending an upscale restaurant attached to a casino, a standard of newly built casinos. The high rollers table may make for good James Bond movie settings, but that runs against the typical pattern of who frequents casinos.

Hotels: The hotel chains the affluent like the most are Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton, Embassy Suites, and surprisingly, Hampton Inns. Hampton Inns are an odd choice considering they are limited service hotels that cater to travelers on a budget. The category leader in the field is Holiday Inn, and while the rich are less likely than average to stay in one, it is still the most common hotel chain for them to check into. The rich sometimes aren’t so different from the masses.

Soft drinks: Soft drinks are another common facet of American life that aren’t popular among the wealthy. This is likely because they are older and soft drinks are more likely to be consumed by children and teenagers. There are regional exceptions such as Coke being very popular in Atlanta, and Dr. Pepper being widespread in the Dallas area. Both beverages are headquartered in the immediate areas, and conceivably the executives at Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper could be part of these subgroups. If any soft drinks are popular, they are caffeine free beverages.

Alcohol: Among all Americans nationally, more name beer as their alcoholic beverage of choice than wine. Among all of our subgroups, wine is more popular than beer, sometimes much more so. Their second choice is beer and the third choice is liquor. Their propensity to name beer as their first choice is less than average and their preference for liquor is above average.

Credit cards: You would think the wealthy would have less need for credit cards. You would be wrong. The wealthy across the board are more likely to use credit cards, in almost every case including traditional big name brands, gasoline credit cards, and department store credit cards. It would seem intuitive that the rich could pay for more out of pocket, but the convenience (and safety) of paying without cash has appeal with the rich.

NASCAR: To be blunt, the rich shun NASCAR. In many of the northeastern locations, the amount who expresses even slight interest is only around 5-10 percent. It might be expected that rich Manhattanites aren’t fans of stock car racing, but even the elite in some of NASCAR’s hotbeds are not very interested. There are more fans in Nashville, Atlanta, and Texas than the northern cohorts, but they are among the least interested fans in their areas. There could very well be a class-based judgment against NASCAR.

Branded sports apparel: Sporting merchandise such as jerseys, t-shirts, and athletic paraphernalia are less likely to be worn by the rich. This is true of all the major sports leagues. The one exception is college sports gear. Here, the affluent are more likely than average to own apparel. It may be the case that they buy a shirt to root on their alma mater come college football or hoops season, but they won’t wear jerseys of the local pro teams.

Satellite radio: All of the subgroups are much more likely to listen to satellite radio. Depending on the subgroup, anywhere between one fifth and one third of respondents listened to satellite radio in the past week. The general population total averages around 10 percent.

Cable channels: The relevant point here is that the rich are less likely to watch TV. All subgroups were more likely to watch business channels like CNBC. There is a wide preference for watching cable news. Turner Classic Movies and National Geographic Channel are disproportionately popular in most (but not all) markets. Otherwise, nearly every other channel scores lower with the rich than with their fellow viewers. Perhaps being a couch potato is incompatible with being wealthy.

Online activity: If the rich aren’t watching TV, perhaps they decided to shift their leisure time online. The wealthy are more likely to use most common internet functions. Across the board, the wealthy are more likely to do such activities as using online auction sites, read blogs, play fantasy sports, pay their bills, and even use online dating sites. The only sorts of activities they are less likely to do are online gambling, look for jobs, and play video games.

These are some of the characteristics that are broadly similar among differing classes of the wealthy. In future posts, I will explore differences based on political affiliation and the urban/suburban divide.

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