Based on the information Breaking The Brand gathered from interviewing the users of genuine rhino horn in Viet Nam, we know that status and belonging to a high-status peer group are key motivators for rhino horn consumption. This was also the conclusion of work done by TRAFFIC in Viet Nam – see here.
The best way of stemming consumption in these primary user groups involves undermining the role of rhino horn as a medium for communicating prestige, both in general and more specifically within the user’s peer group or the peer group they aspire to be a part of.
The primary user of genuine rhino horn – high status male: Analysis of the businessman (high status male) user group in Viet Nam shows the groups focus is the symbolic value of rarity and expense. They perceive that acquiring a rare product is associated with money, power and skill. Similarly, a rhino horn gift is used to demonstrate respect and competence when negotiating deals and initiating new business relationships. Gifts are also used to influences and obtain preferential treatment from those in positions of power or gain advantage so recipient must reciprocate accordingly.
In contrast to Western culture, where self-concept is largely individualistic, in Vietnamese culture self-concept is much more interdependent – group membership conveys status and defines ones identity. Of course membership of groups also coveys’ status in Western society, but, in the main, we have placed the individual above the group in terms of our identity; especially in recent decades. Probably the group in Western culture that most closely matches the Vietnamese user of rhino horn is the sports team, where individual team members don’t stand up to challenge inappropriate behaviour from another team member (binge drinking, aggression, sexual violence etc.) for fear of rejection from their peers.