What Is the Relationship between Consumer Behavior and Motivation?

Erin J. Hill

Consumer behavior and motivation are connected in various ways, the most obvious of which is the fact that consumer behavior is primarily dictated by motivation. When consumers spend money on goods or services, there is something that motivates them to do so. This could be an already existing want or need, or it could be due to effective advertising.

Advertising sets up certain items like fancy cars as status symbols.
Advertising sets up certain items like fancy cars as status symbols.

No matter what the purchase, consumer behavior and motivation are always linked, as there is always a motivation for buying something. Even with items or services a customer doesn't necessarily want, there is still a motivation for buying. Consumers pay their power bills to avoid sitting in the dark. Consumers likewise purchase clothing, cosmetics, new cars, or homes because they are motivated to do so in some way.

Price can be a strong motivator for consumer spending.
Price can be a strong motivator for consumer spending.

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Sometimes consumer behavior and motivation are practical. There are some things people buy no matter what because they are a basic necessity. Food, water, power, gas, and clothing are needed for normal everyday life. In these cases, the motivation to purchase stems from the human desire to live and be comfortable. They are purchased without much thought and consideration because there is no other choice.

In some cases, consumers may buy things because they provide pleasure or meaning instead of fulfilling a need.
In some cases, consumers may buy things because they provide pleasure or meaning instead of fulfilling a need.

At other times consumer behavior and motivation are much more complicated and personal. While many people will want to purchase a car at some point, the type of car is decided upon by more personal motivations. A parent with three kids may want to buy a minivan because they are practical, safe, and get good gas mileage. A teenager may want a shiny red sports car.

A focus on self-image may drive the consumer to buy a car loaded with the latest features.
A focus on self-image may drive the consumer to buy a car loaded with the latest features.

These motivations are typically about more than just finding a good deal or finding something that will do the job adequately enough. Advertising is designed to make consumers crave a product. It sets up certain items as status symbols and elicits certain feelings in the minds of consumers to influence them when making a decision. Corporate branding comes into play as well, as various companies attempt to establish themselves as the go-to brand for specific feelings, needs, or services.

An example of this is the sports car mentioned above. The young teen may want to purchase the car not only because he likes the color or because the price is right, but because it positions him with a certain status. Teen boys who drive a sports car may be portrayed in advertising and in the media as hip, popular, and attractive. The powerful engine of most sports cars also acts to exhibit the boy's own sense of power and growing independence as an emerging adult.

These ideas are not just developed spontaneously in the minds of consumers, but are placed there over time through effective advertising and through movies and other media outlets. Marketing and advertising companies are experts at playing into consumer behavior and motivation, and they use this to their advantage when positioning a brand in the marketplace. It is their jobs to create want in consumers so that they will be motivated to buy.

Sociological factors like age and gender factor into consumer motivations.
Sociological factors like age and gender factor into consumer motivations.

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Discussion Comments

bear78

If I were to start manufacturing or selling something, I would make sure that it's a necessity. People's motivation to buy homes or cars may diminish because of the economy or their financial situation. But people will always have the motivation to buy toilet paper or milk.

I think we can say that consumers will always be motivated to pay for soft goods. These are goods that get used up quickly like food, toiletries and clothing. As long as there isn't too much competition and cost is kept low, manufacturers of soft products will not have to worry about demand. They don't need to try to predict consumer behavior. Consumer behavior for these types of products is known: they will always buy it.

donasmrs

@turquoise-- Sometimes, it's advertisements that make people buy things. But sometimes it's due to popular culture or due to the uniqueness of the product.

My brother for example loves electronics and gadgets. Sometimes he buys a new gadget, not because he needs it or has seen an advertisement for it, but because it's in his interest area. He also has like-minded friends and buying, using and discussing these gadget is a hobby for them. So in that sense, it's also about fitting in.

We can't only buy what we need and in some sense, desiring something for fun can be a type of need as well. We don't need to read books, exercise or pain either. But we do it for enjoyment and it does benefit us psychologically, physically or mentally.

I think that the relationship between consumer behavior and motivation is more complex than we think. It's not just about needing something or wanting something because of an advertisement.

turquoise

I dislike advertising because of its effects on consumer behavior and motivation. There are some products that no one would buy if it weren't for effective advertisement. These products are not necessary and I feel that people waste their hard earned money for these types of things. If they hadn't seen an advertisement for it, I doubt that they would have developed a motivation to buy it.

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