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Consumer Psychology and How It Plays a Role in Marketing

By Robyn Clare


Read Time: 3 Minutes

Sally wanders into Clicks to purchase her monthly toiletries. She pauses at the makeup kiosk she would ordinarily have simply passed by. Her eyes swiftly scan the different brands on display, she then bends down to pick up a bottle of Rimmel Foundation. Pleased with her choice, she nods her head and turns away, disregarding the other products displayed. Sally wasn’t planning on purchasing cosmetics today, so what changed her mind? Furthermore, what motivated Sally to choose that particular brand? Which criteria do consumers base their decisions on, if any at all? This is where Consumer Psychology comes into play. It seeks to identify the factors that motivate the consumer’s choices. A notable influence is marketing, among other external factors. The following guidelines explain the different approaches used in marketing, and how they influence buyers.

Consumer psychology

1. Consumer Behaviourism

Behaviourism is the first method in consumer psychology.  It suggests that people’s actions can be driven by an outside influence.

Thoughts, actions and feelings are categorised as behavioural tendencies, and can, therefore, be influenced by external elements, like media. This means that if you favour a particular brand and you see a commercial which features an actress you admire using this product, you are more likely to buy this product. You identify with the featured actress, giving you the illusion that you are alike to the person displayed on the TV screen, if you are using the product featured, of course.


This perspective suggests that it is our own thought processes pointing us to certain brands. For example, Sally might watch an advertisement on television. She will appreciate it artistically but not necessarily get pulled in by the influence the advert is trying to have over her. She respects the brand for the work that went into the creation of an advert she enjoyed watching.

At the store, she might look at the packaging of all the different brands and base her decision on product presentation. Most importantly, this approach relies on Sally looking at her own experiences and past relationships with each brand to sway her decision, rather than allowing the brand to dictate how she should feel.


The social theory suggests everyone has two identities. Our personal identity is determined by the elements that interest us, like hobbies and skills, traits which make us unique.

Social identity is the perceived identity of an individual within a group. An individual may adjust his identity to “fit in”. Examples of these groups include lifestyle groups, religious groups and educational groups. Advertising to the individual in a group using this strategy sells the idea that the consumer will be more accepted, admired or envied by others if they have a certain product.


One way to better understand the reasoning behind a consumer’s purchase is to look at Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This hierarchy of needs is illustrated on a ladder with the most basic needs of consumers at the bottom rung, being the first priority of consumers, ascending to more luxurious categories. The ladder is set out as follows:

  1. Physiological: The basics such as food, water, and sleep. This is the bottom rung. Consumers will always spend their money on basic survival needs first.
  2. Safety: The need for physical safety, a roof over your head, and security.
  3. Belonging: The need for affection, friendship and also a desire for group acceptance.
  4. Esteem: This is a need for self-respect and recognition. The need for status.
  5. Self-actualization: The desire for self-fulfilment (e.g. personal growth and artistic expression).

Consumers dedicate their time and money towards satisfying their physiological needs first. You could use this as a priority chart, with the lower rungs on the ladder being the more urgent priorities of consumers. Identifying where your product is categorised on this ladder will help you to identify the most appropriate marketing strategy to appeal to your target market.

The importance of understanding your customers

Consumer psychology plays an important role in marketing and understanding the individual’s needs and desires, and understanding what motivates certain consumers to purchase particular products. For example, if you know your target audience comes from a lower LSM, their main concern would be affording necessities and getting “more for less”.

A consumer’s prior experience with the quality of service, the product itself and the shop’s location influences how a customer feels, playing a huge role in the purchase decision. That is why it is so important to identify your target market and understand their needs before you decide on your marketing approach.

Implementing a marketing strategy for your business

Brand Candy understands that consumer psychology theory plays an important role in the marketing of your brand, and our job is to assist you in understanding your customers’ needs in order to present your product or service in the most favourable light.

If you’d like us to prepare a marketing strategy for your business, book a session with us here. And for those with a strategy already in place, why not join our next WordPress 101 course or Content Marketing course to ensure your implementation is on point!