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Psychological Influences on Consumer Decision Making:

Mahendra Singh
Centre for Business Administration, CUJ, ranchi

Source: Schiffman and , Kanuk, Wells and Prensky,
Peter and Olson, Loudon and Bitta


Needs are the essence of the marketing concept.

Marketers do not create needs; they however, make the consumers
more keenly aware of unfelt needs.

People tend to experience the same kinds of needs and motives; they
simply express these motives in different ways.

Thus, an understanding of human motives is very important to


All consumer behavior begins with motivationthe process by which
an individual recognizes a need and begins to take action to satisfy it.

A need, in turn, is the discrepancy between an individual's current state
and some ideal state that he or she desires, that ideal state being a

Needs and goals are both necessary to motivate an individual to take

Consumer motivation is the drive to satisfy needs and wants, both
physiological and psychological, through the purchase and use of
products and services.

Consumer motivation can be viewed as a process through which needs
are satisfied.


Needs and Goals are Constantly Changing:

Needs and goals are constantly growing and changing in response
to an individual's physical condition, environment, interactions with
others, and experiences.

As individuals attain their goals, they develop new ones.


Some of the reasons why need-driven human activity never ceases
include the following:

-A Needs are never fully satisfied.
-New needs emerge as old needs are satisfied.
-Success and failure influence goals.
-Substitute goals.

Multiplicity of Needs:
A consumer's behavior often fulfills more than one need.

In fact, it is more likely that specific goals are selected because they
fulfill several needs.

Needs and goals vary among individuals

Arousal of Motives:

Most of an individual's specific needs are dormant much of the

The arousal of any particular set of needs at a specific point in time
may be caused by:
a) internal stimuli found in the individual's physiological
condition: hunger need.

b) emotional or cognitive processes: Cognitive: A young woman
who dreams of becoming a successful business leader may enroll
in graduate business school. Emotional: An advertisement that
provides reminders of home might trigger instant yearning to speak
with one's parents.

c) stimuli in the outside environment. For example, sight or
smell of bakery goods, fast-food commercials on television etc.

A most potent form of situational cue is the goal object itself. Eg. a
man may suddenly experience a "need" for a new car when
passing a dealer's display window.



a. Maslows Hierarchy of Needs:

Dr. Abraham Maslow, a clinical psychologist.

Maslow's theory postulates five basic levels of human needs, which
rank in order of importance from lower-level (biogenic) needs to
higher-level (psychogenic) needs.

It suggests that individuals seek to satisfy lower-level needs before
higher-level needs emerge.

An Evaluation of the Need Hierarchy:

Wide acceptance in many social disciplines.

The five levels of need postulated by the hierarchy are sufficiently
generic to encompass most lists of individual needs.

Critics, however, maintain:

Consumers have many needs and goals and often act to satisfy
them simultaneously. At any given moment, a consumer may be
working to satisfy many needs and will not consider the relative
levels of those needs.

Despite these criticisms, Maslow's hierarchy is a useful tool for
understanding consumer motivations and is readily adaptable to
marketing strategy:

For example:

- individuals buy houses, food, and clothing to satisfy
physiological needs;
- they buy insurance and radial tyres to satisfy safety and
security needs.
- almost all personal care products (cosmetics, mouthwash,
shaving cream) are bought to satisfy social needs.
- luxury products such as furs, jewels, or big cars are often
bought to fulfill ego needs, and
- education, college training and professional courses are ways
of achieving self-fulfillment.
Relevance for marketers:

-The hierarchy offers a useful, comprehensive framework for
marketers trying to develop appropriate advertising appeals for
their products.

It is adaptable in two ways:

1. It enables marketers to focus their advertising, appeals on a
need level that is likely to be shared by a large segment of the
prospective audience;

2. It facilitates product positioning or repositioning.

1) Segmentation Applications:

-The need hierarchy is often used as the basis for market segmentation,
with specific advertising appeals directed to individuals on one or more
need levels.

For example, soft drink ads directed to teenagers often stress a social
appeal by showing a group of young people sharing good times as well as
the advertised product.

2) Positioning Applications:

-Deciding how the product should be perceived by prospective consumers.

Most manufacturers of luxury cars use status appeals and self-actualizing
appeals (Chevrolet) or even social appeals ("The whole family can ride in
luxurious comfort").

3) Versatility of The Need Hierarchy:

This implies the usefulness of the need hierarchy in designing promotional
programs to show how workable appeals for a single product can be
developed from each level.

Consider, for example, the potential promotional appeals for home
exercise equipment.

-an appeal to physiological needs: would show how the home exercise unit
can improve body tone and health;

-a safety appeal would demonstrate how safe the equipment is for home
(and solo) use.

-a social appeal might show how much fun it can be to exercise with a
friend or even how a streamlined figure would encourage social

-Self-esteem is easily demonstrated through a narcissistic appeal such as
"be proud of your body."

Finally, an appeal to self actualization may suggest to career couples that
they deserve the convenience and the luxury of home exercise after a long
and challenging workday.

b) Sheth's Consumer Motives:

-Developed as a classification scheme to predict consumer
decisions in travel;

Jagdish Sheth's consumer needs model applies equally well to
most other products.

Sheth isolated five dimensions of motivation, each oriented to
the achievement specific goals.

a) The functional motive: involves the utility of a product or service or the
function it performs.

b) The aesthetic/emotional motive : the appearance or attractiveness of a
product or service.

c) The social motive: the status or esteem value of a product or service.

d) The situational motive: the unexpected benefit of a product or service,
such as discounted price or immediate availability.

E) The curiosity motive: the interest aroused by a product or service.