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Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being (8th ed.)20091Michael R.


Solomon. Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being (8th ed.) . Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education 20...

Article  in  Management Decision · May 2009


DOI: 10.1108/00251740910960169

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BOOK REVIEW

Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being. Eight Edition.


Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Michael R. Solomon (2009).
ISBN-13: 978-0-13-515336-9
ISBN-10: 0-13-515336-0

Consumer behavior has established itself as a discipline in its own right – drawing upon many
other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and marketing amongst others.

While Bennett, (1995, p. 59) defines consumer behavior as “The dynamic interaction of affect
and cognition, behaviour, and environmental events by which human beings conduct the
exchange aspects of their lives,” Blackwell, Miniard and Engel (, 2001, p. 6) emphasise product
disposal in their definition of consumer behavior as those “… activities people undertake when
obtaining, consuming and disposing of products and services.”

However, Peter and Olson, (2005, p. 5) see the subject in the light of interactions and exchanges
of experiences. They defined consumer behavior “…involves the thoughts and feelings people
experience and the actions they perform in consumption processes. It also includes comments
from other consumers, advertisements, price information, packaging, product appearance… [in
other words it] is dynamic, involves interactions and…exchanges.” Solomon, (2009, p. 33)
however takes a more holistic view of the concept encapsulating the marketing of a product
offering (broadly defined) from inception to obsolescence - “…[consumer behavior is] the study
of the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use, or dispose of
products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires.”

Although the concept has various definitions, there are some striking commonalities in all these
definitions. For example, it is clear that consumer behavior encompasses three key elements/
considerations – prepurchase, purchase and postpurchase. These elements affect both consumers
and marketers alike. From a consumer perspective, prepurchase issues include “how a consumer
decides that he/ she needs a product, what are the best sources of information to learn more
about alternative choices?” In the purchase situation the consumers need to know whether
acquiring a product is a stressful or pleasant experience and what it says about them. In the
postpurchase stage it would be good for the consumers to know whether the product provided
pleasure, performed its intended function and how it is disposed as well as the environmental
consequences of this disposal. From a marketer’s perspective, however, there is the need to
understand how consumer attitudes towards products are formed and/ or changed, what cues
consumers use in their comparison of products (prepurchase); situational factors that affect the
purchase decision such as time pressures and store displays (purchase); and what determines
whether consumers will be satisfied with a product and thus repeat the purchase, as well as be
willing to share their experiences with others through referrals (postpurchase).

In this Eight Edition of Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being, Solomon highlights the
significance and dynamic nature of consumer behavior in seventeen chapters spread across five
sections - Consumers in the Marketplace; Consumers as individuals; Consumers as Decision
makers; Consumers and subcultures; and Consumers and Culture.

In the opening section, chapter 1 starts off the discourse with the widely accepted notion that
consumers rule! It also identifies consumers as social ‘actors’ on the marketplace stage; notes the
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interdisciplinary nature of the consumer behavior field; and touches upon the inner meanings of
consumption and the impact of public policy and consumerism. Another strong point in this
chapter is that it delves into considerations of the dark side of consumer behavior such as
consumer terrorism, addictive consumption and other negative aspects of the discipline in
practice. Moreover the case study on Mexoryl – a product of the Paris-based skin-care giant
L’Oreal is very illustrative. Mexoryl is a wonder drug that dominates the sunscreen category of
the skin-care market for a very compelling reason - no other product is as effective as Mexoryl as
a UVA blocker. In this case study, Solomon declares that UV rays come in two kinds – UVA
(those that penetrate the outer layer, breaking down skin proteins and damaging cells and DNA as
well as decreasing the skin’s immunity and in turn leading to wrinkles, sagging skins and various
forms of skin cancer amongst others) and UVB (those that burn the skin outright). Thus the
advantage of L’Oreal over competitors such as Neutrogena and Johnson & Johnson cannot be
overemphasized.

In the seven chapters that make up section two, chapter 2 clearly stands out amongst the usual
suspects – namely perception, learning & memory, motivation & values, the self, personality &
lifestyles, attitudes, and attitude changes & interactive communications. In this opening chapter,
Solomon describes the process of consumer perception, where consumers are said to absorb and
interpret information about products and individuals from diverse cultures. Here ‘perception’ is
described as three-stage process that translates raw stimuli (i.e. sights, sounds, smells, taste and
textures) into meaning. It also emphasises that consumers tend to interpret the stimuli to which to
pay attention according to learned patterns and expectations. Key concepts such as hedonic
consumption, subliminal perception, sensory marketing, sensory thresholds, perceptual
positioning and semiotics are also discussed to enable a better understanding of how marketers
use symbols to create meaning (in the case of the latter especially). The case study, The Brave
New World of Subway Advertising is effectively used to highlight the key points raised in the
chapter - how key players such as Submedia, Sidetrack Technologies and MotionPoster have
adopted innovative technology in ‘lighting up dark subway tunnels’ thus turning them into
valuable showcases for major advertisers.

Following on from the learned patterns identified in the previous chapter, Learning & memory is
introduced in chapter 3 where the former is identified as the process by which individuals acquire
the knowledge and experience they apply to future purchases and consumption behaviour. This
chapter also highlights the connections between learning and memory and ‘memory’ - defined as
the ‘storage of learned information’, which is usually incorporated into knowledge structures that
can be reactivated at a later time. Where there is memory, it is expected that learning must have
evoked the process of storage, retention and retrieval of information. The chapter concludes with
a case study Hershey’s versus M&Ms; The War of the Bite-size Milk Chocolates where Hershey
celebrated the 100th year anniversary of its ‘Kiss’ brand in 2007 – driving home its ‘veteran
status’ as America’s favorite and giving Masterfood’s M&Ms a run for its money by so doing.

Buying and Disposing discussed in Chapter 10, reiterates one of the key planks of consumer
behavior definition – disposal. Probably a bit misplaced - having come seven chapters early - the
chapter nonetheless suggests implications for marketers and public policy makers on how best
consumers may rid themselves of ‘no-longer-required’ products. In this chapter also the
implications of the purchase and postpurchase concerns are deftly dealt with in sections touching
upon insights into the shopping environment, reasons for shopping, retailing as theatre, instore
decision making and atmospherics, as well as postpurchase satisfaction. The expert insight by
Professor Cele Otnes of the University of Illinois (see p. 407) on GM’s Saturn brand “delivery
ceremony” is also very illustrative. She presents a case example of how retailers tend to use in-
store rituals to shape consumers’ experiences to the extent that “customers talk about the Saturn
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delivery ceremony long after they have left the dealership.” While this expert insight is used to
illustrate the purchase situation, the case study on Freecycle.org is used to evaluate the
postpurchase and/ or disposal component of consumer behaviour in its inherent definition. The
case study Giving and Receiving on Freecycle.org demonstrates how Freecycle, a website
dedicated to sustainable marketing dealing with consumers disposal efforts by encouraging
recycling on the internet. The company is one of the most popular nonprofits destinations in
cyberspace to the extent that the renowned Time Magazine dubbed it “one of the coolest”
websites. Indeed Solomon uses this case study rather effectively Freecycle notably connects
people with items to give away with those that may need them and vice versa - operating very
much like eBay but for free to the extent that its members nicknamed it “Freebay!”

In section 4, chapter 13 demonstrates how membership of a social class may affect how
consumers spend their income. The chapter stresses that a “…person’s desire to make a statement
about his social class, or the class to which he hopes to belong, influences the products he
likes…” This underlines the fact that products can be used as status symbols to communicate real
or desired social class. Overall the effect of income & social class on consumer behaviour is
captured and effectively used to explain how purchasing patterns have evolved and are perhaps
still evolving. Thus, it may be a big mistake to assume that only the rich should constitute a
market segment, as social class, which involves more than absolute income, is also a way of life.
The clear implication here is that income alone is not a good predictor of consumer behaviour.
Clearly ‘the rich’ can be segmented based on attitudes, values, preferences and more instructively
on ‘how they spend their money’. Solomon provides an illustration of these differences by
highlighting the divergent spending patterns of rich segments such as the ‘old money’ and the
‘nouveau rich’. Other key concepts are also documented in this chapter include status symbols,
consumer confidence, social mobility and class structure across the world ranging from America,
through China, Japan, The Middle East, UK and India.

In the final section, chapter 17 ends with a big question mark – “Does global marketing work?”
Before asking this question, however, the chapter highlights America’s hegemony in global
consumption – “Western (and particularly American) culture has a huge impact around the
world, although people in other countries don’t necessarily ascribe the same meanings to
products as [Americans do]…” The chapter also touches upon topics such as culture production
systems, high culture and popular culture, product placement, the diffusion of innovations,
fashion system and fashion life cycle – cultural differences relevant to marketers. Other concepts
such as culture production, systems, high culture versus popular culture, the fashion system
models (psychological, economic, sociological and medical), cycles of fashion adoption,
variations in the fashion life cycle (through innovation, rise, acceleration, decline and
obsolescence), and the transition from the fad to the classic are also discussed.

However, the emphasis of this text is too American and therefore of limited relevance to students
outside North America. There aren’t enough examples or illustrations from other regions of the
world on parade in the text and as a consequence this may limit the international appeal of the
text.

In the end though, it is persuasive to argue that Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being -
provides a comprehensive, concise and relatively well-balanced account of the current thinking in
consumer behaviour. It uses up-to- date examples from the real world, ranging from Mexoryl in
the opening chapter to Starbucks in the closing chapter. The book also has some instructive
pedagogical features across its 17 chapters – from case studies at the end, to key terms, review
questions and more importantly ‘expert insights’ from seasoned academics highlighting their
individual views - in short sections tagged “CB As I See it” - on chapters that inform their past or
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ongoing research (i.e. the areas of interest or expertise). This textbook - if my opinion is anything
to go by - is a must read, suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students of consumer
behavior and therefore worthy of adoption as a ‘secondary reading’ at worst and a core text at
best.

References:
Bennett, P. (1995) Dictionary of Marketing (Chicago, IL: American Marketing association).
Blackwell, R., Miniard, P., and Engels, J. (2001) Consumer Behavior. Ninth Edition. (Mason,
OH: Southwestern).
Blythe, J (2008) Consumer Behaviour. London: Thomson Learning.
Peter, J., and Olson, J. (2005) Consumer Behavior and Marketing Strategy. New York, NY:
McGraw-Hill. Seventh Edition.
Solomon, M, Bamossy, G., and Askegaard, S (2006) Consumer Behaviour. A European
Perspective. Third Edition. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education.
Solomon, M. (2009) Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being. New Jersey, Upper Saddle
River: Pearson Education Inc. Eight Edition.

Nnamdi O. Madichie, PhD

Assistant Professor of Marketing


College of Business Administration
University of Sharjah, UAE

Book Review Editor

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