Consumer Psychology: Meaning & Significance

Consumer psychology is one of the newest fields to develop over the last few decades. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the influence their decisions have on others so the need to understand their behavior has never been greater. The most influential individuals are found in advertising and marketing, but this doesn’t mean that consumer psychology can't apply to anyone, anywhere.

What is Consumer Psychology?

Consumer psychology is the study of the actions people or groups take when they choose, pay for, utilize, or discard goods, services, concepts, or experiences to satiate their wants and desires. The choice to consume usually comes after a number of processes, including need identification, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase analysis. Consumers may short-circuit this logical process by choosing items or services based on heuristics, such as "Choose a well-known brand name," especially when their involvement with the product or service in question is limited.

In fact, a lot of consumer behavior—including gambling addictions, stealing, and even shopping itself—is highly unreasonable and can really hurt the person making the decision. The field of consumer psychology emphasizes the significance of individual and social factors that influence customer choices for goods and services. Psychographic elements, such as personality features, frequently play a significant influence in addition to demographic variations such as age, stage in the life cycle, gender, and socioeconomic class.

Consumer psychology is the study of the actions people or groups take while choosing, purchasing, utilizing, or discarding goods, services, concepts, or experiences to satiate wants and desires. The field includes a wide range of consumer experiences, including hip-hop music, celebrities like Madonna, democracy, canned peas, massages, and canned peas. From physiological needs like hunger and thirst to love, prestige, and even spiritual fulfillment, needs, and wants must be met. Consumers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from an 8-year-old kid pleading with her mother for Pokemon cards to a major business executive choosing a costly computer system.

The Historical Context Leading to The Advent of Consumer Psychology

Beginning in the latter decade of the 19th century, our 65-year historical survey of the study of consumer psychology begins. The study of consumer psychology developed out of a particular interest in advertising and the effects it has on consumers. The American advertising industry was firmly established by the second part of the 19th century. Its industry development matched the nation's industrial development. The first systematic advertising in the United States dates back to colonial times and was boosted by the emergence of urban newspapers

The emergence and development of the advertising agent, the advertising copywriter, and ultimately the advertising agency occurred throughout the second half of the 1800s. Numerous ad clubs, associations, trade publications, and codes of ethics were created as a result of the newly discovered necessity for professionalism (Wiebe, 1967). Two schools of advertising evolved at this time (reflecting, but not to be confused with the dominant theoretical perspectives in economics and psychology). The first school was founded on a logical understanding of man, the potential customer who carefully considered marketing messages before making purchase decisions. Simply letting people know that an item was available and what it might be used for was the aim of advertising. This logical viewpoint was in line with the traditional economic theory that holds that individuals are self-interested and naturally want to maximize earnings while also appreciating their time. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the focus was on affordable pricing and key selling elements.

The non-rational perspective overtook the rational school by 1910, which had previously dominated thought in the 1890s and the early 1900s. Followers thought it possible that individuals may genuinely be persuaded to buy products by manipulating their emotions. The psychological method of analyzing audience response to advertising was considerably more welcomed and accepted at this institution. Psychology's recent emphasis on the unconscious and motivational states, as well as on the mechanical reinforcement of behavior (e.g., Freud, 1924–1969), also contributed to the non-rational school of thought (e.g., Watson, 1913).

What do Consumer Psychologists do?

Researchers, consultants, managers, administrators, and policymakers are consumer psychologists. The bulk of them are employed by universities, but a rising number of them are also working in public and private sector management and policy roles. The majority of consumer psychologists who work in academia are employed at business schools, but there are also those who are employed in departments and schools with an emphasis on advertising and communication.

What is the Importance of Consumer Psychology?

For marketers and company owners, understanding the psychological elements that influence customer behavior is a significant challenge. Understanding how purchasing decisions are made, who purchases particular goods, and how goods or services are consumed or experienced are all topics of consumer behavior research. Even for specialists in the topic, research has demonstrated that it may be challenging to forecast how psychology would affect consumer culture. The intention-action gap, or the discrepancy between what customers say and what they really do, is being studied more thoroughly thanks to new research approaches like consumer neuroscience and ethnography.

In order to understand consumer attitudes and to better understand how the market responds to price changes, it is important to consider factors like

  • social marketing,

  • customized marketing,

  • brand-name shopping, and

  • the consumer's perception of the price of the good.

This perception is directly expressed as the consumer's sensitivity to price. Furthermore, effective brand management requires building strong relationships with the target market. The product or service itself, as well as its appearance, cost, and packaging, are examples of tangible brand management components. Consumer interactions with the brand's goods or services as well as experiences they have with it make up its intangible components. Brand managers may create the most successful and effective branding and advertising strategies with the use of this market research

What are some psychological influences on consumer decision-making?

Consumer behavior is influenced by psychological factors or the consumer's underlying motivations. The choice to buy anything can be part of this process, too. An association between a brand and a buying incentive is how a brand preference or consumer brand attitude is defined. Consumer psychology incentives might be negative, such as a desire to avoid discomfort or pain. Positive motivations include the desire to get a reward, such as sensory enjoyment.

Abraham Maslow created one method for comprehending both sorts of motives. According to their relative importance, the five levels of requirements are described by Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A broad paradigm for comprehending human motivations in a number of circumstances is Maslow's method. motivations, including three good ones.

The term "involvement" in marketing literature refers to the consumer's desire to learn more and involvement in the choice-making process. Consumers who experience a minor psycho-social loss as a result of a poor decision are said to have a "low participation" in their purchase decision. When psychological and social risks are thought to be quite substantial, a buying choice is categorized as high involvement. The degree of customer participation is influenced by a number of variables. These can include the product category, the product's social visibility, the consumer's past experience with the category, and the perceived risk of unfavorable outcomes in the case of a poor selection.

There are several underlying decision-making types that, according to some theorists, may be recognized. A consumer psychology theory with eight variables in the decision-making process was established by Sproles and Kendall in 1986. These elements include habit, price sensitivity, brand awareness, quality awareness, novelty seeking, and fashion awareness

The authors created a taxonomy of eight different decision-making styles based on these variables. There are four of these: the "Brand-conscious," "Recreation-conscious," or "Hedonistic" styles; the "Quality conscious or Perfectionist" style; and the "Price conscious" style. The decision-making styles of "Novelty or fashion-conscious," "Impulsive," "Confused (by too many choices")," and "Habitual or brand loyal" are also covered.

How is Consumer Psychology Used by Marketers

Marketing and brand managers may make more informed time and money decisions by doing market research on the psychological elements influencing customer behavior. Brand managers develop ways to turn a suspect into a prospect, a buyer into a customer, and a customer into a brand evangelist. The goal of brand management is to build an emotional bond between a business, its goods and services, and its clients and stakeholders. Understanding the significance of consumer psychology can aid in these judgments made by brand managers and marketing managers who attempt to control the brand image.


It's difficult to determine which psychological field "owned" consumer psychology. It was clear from their drawings that these pioneers saw themselves as "applied" psychologists. Rarely did the terms "industrial" or "organizational" psychologists occur? However, the study of the consumer was integrated into the broader context of the study of business due to the broader interests of people like Munsterberg, Scott, Strong, and Poffenberger, who together pushed well beyond a solitary concentration on advertising and selling response. As consumer psychology was classified as a subfield of industrial/organizational psychology for a long time, at least up to the 1950s

Updated on: 16-Jan-2023


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