Migration and marketing: The consumer acculturation of Italian-Australians

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Business and Law

First Advisor

Nadine Henley

Second Advisor

Madeleine Ogilvie


This thesis explores, through the lens of marketing theory, the migratory experiences of a group of Italian–Australians. Migration is generally accepted as a life-changing event, and, as such would be classified as a consumption activity of higher involvement than most consumption activities discussed within the marketing literature. The research employs an interpretivist qualitative methodology and adopts a multiple method constructivist approach to searching for, gathering and analysing data. This methodology is employed to accommodate the exploratory objectives of the study, and the personal and life-changing nature of migration. From an extensive literature review of migration and marketing three classic marketing theories were selected as guiding frameworks for the collection and analysis of data: (1) Firat and Dholakia‟s (1982) four dimensions of consumption patterns; (2) Rogers‟ (1963) theory of adoption; and (3) Sheth, Newman, and Gross‟ (1991) theory of consumption values. As there is great diversity in the source of Australian immigrants a purposeful sampling technique was employed to provide interpretable data. Immigrant families from the Italian regions of Abruzzi-Molise were selected as this group have a number of characteristics of value to this study. The characteristics include: a considerable gap exists between the consumption patterns of their natal and host communities; sufficient time has passed to allow the original immigrants and their families to reflect on their acculturative journey; and they still maintain strong links with their natal communities. Multiple qualitative techniques were employed during primary data collection. Primary data was collected in both Italy and Australia to gain a natal and host perspective. An iterative investigative approach was employed to compare primary and secondary work, to discover different perspectives, and to identify emergent themes. The major finding is that migration is a consumption activity that cannot be classified within the „textbook‟ convenience, shopping, or specialty product classification. Migration is not just the journey from one place to another; it is the journey from one set of consumption patterns to another. The costs and benefits of migration cannot be fully measured in financial terms and, for many, the evaluation process is an ongoing and cumulative process. Migration is a liminal process where the migrant must separate themself from their natal community and then establish themselves in a host community. Therefore, migration involves the establishment of an old-new hyphenated identity; hyphenated to indicate a life in two-parts. Migration involves the choices of what possessions to divest and what to keep, a passage, and then the acquiring of new possessions. However, unlike less involved consumption activities, all future consumption activities are a consequence of the migratory decision. Therefore in addition to the convenience, shopping, and specialty consumption activities the researcher calls for a new classification „seminal consumption activities‟. This study identifies that migration has three distinct time zones pre-migration, migration, and post-migration. Each of the time zones correlates with a respective stage of the buyer decision process pre-purchase, purchase and product delivery, and post purchase. Furthermore, a number of other three part marketing concepts demonstrate a relationship to this process: the three temporal types of involvement (situational, response, and enduring involvement); the three stages of liminality (pre-liminality, liminality, and post liminality; and the three decision qualities (search, experience, and credence decision qualities). The relationships are discussed in detail within the thesis. The seminal nature of migration and the acculturative reflections of the participants benefited one of the guiding theories. As a result, the Sheth et al (1991) theory of consumption values is advanced, new qualities of value3 are uncovered and a number of theoretical and practical gaps are discussed. An emergent conceptual framework that extends the Sheth et al. (1990) theory is discussed and presented. The thesis supports scholars who argue that there is a relationship between values1 and value2 for money. It also supports those who propose that whilst a person‟s values1 are enduring, estimations and assessments of value2 are more situational dependent. The enduring nature of values1 was displayed through the practise and preservation of natal consumption activities, and, the situation nature of value2 was displayed through the creation of a value2 hierarchy of consumption activities. Exploring this seminal consumption activity and the acculturation of Italian-Australians uncovered a number of insights that are important to marketers. However, they are particularly important to marketers operating in a multi-cultural marketplace. Marketers, like other members of a society, are often enculturated to the consumption activities of the dominant ethnic group; as such they can be blind to the dynamics and opportunities of a multi-cultural marketplace. This thesis highlights that the acculturation process is a two-way process where the attractive consumption activities of migrants are retained, and, then often adopted by members of the host society. Migration is generally accepted as a life-changing event, however, in multi-cultural societies, like Australia, migration is also society-changing event. Therefore, migration can be a seminal event at both an individual and a societal level; characteristics which are particularly rewarding to marketers.

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