The Importance to Marketers to understand Human Motivation

Essay, 2003

13 Pages, Grade: 72 = 1,0 (A)



Part 1 - Essay

‘ The importance to marketers of understanding human motivation ’

Not only due to the increasing globalisation, economies in developed countries have an existence of a large scale in differentiated products and services. Furthermore, consumers can not only distinguish between different options of products to cover their needs but also between a large variety of companies which offer often similar products. As every company tries to maximize its sales revenue and hence to extend the market share to gain a higher return-on-investment it is likely that the company which has got the best sound understanding of its customers will be the most successful. Simon (1996) underlines that a company will be the ‘champion’ within its industry if it knows its markets and the needs of its customers very well.

There is little doubt given that a well developed corporate strategy contributes a part of this success, too. However, in satisfied markets in which products show little differences in their values of purpose, it is an imperative for companies to generate extraordinary stimuli and values in their products offered, to gain a higher attraction from consumers.

But what motivates people to prefer a specific product of a certain company instead the similar product of the company’s competitor? Is it possible for marketers to influence the consumer-decision-making process to gain a positive attitude of the specific consumer towards the company’s products?

To understand what is meant by ‘human motivation’ and why motivations of human-beings are important to marketers we should first put things in an appropriate order. What actually means ‘consumer behaviour’? Belch & Belch (1995) define consumer behaviour as ‘the process and activities people engage in when searching for, selecting, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services so as to satisfy their needs and desires’. The figure of the consumer-decisin-process, shown in the appendix, helps to understand where the unit “motivation” can be found within this process.

Whereas the consumer-decision-process describes the decision-process rather from a superficial aspect, the internal-psychological-process (see appendix) shows what happens in the mind of a specific person at the same time. For example a recognition of a problem may be the need to purchase a new car, indeed. But what motivates the person to buy a new car? Is it because a 25-year-old man (single, no kids) wants to improve his life-standard or is it for the reason that a man of the same age (married, 2 kids) wants to have a securer vehicle for his family as he would like to know is family save regarding to a possible car crash?

In relevant literature e.g. Dubois (2000) and in many decision-process-models, for example the Engel, Kollat Blackwell Model (1978), the Nicosia Model (1966) the Howard and Sheth Model (1969) or the Howard-Ostlund Mmodel (1973) the words ‘motive’ or ‘motives’ can be found. But what exactly is the meaning of motivation? Are not all our actions related to motives in a certain extend?

When a company’s marketing department refers to how to motivate a target group to buy the company’s products Fonvielle (1997) recommends that it has first to be considered what people within this target group really want. i.e. what kind of desires does the specific target group have that makes them to buy the products of that this company? Hence, the central question is: How and in what way are motives generated? On the other hand the marketers have to take into account wherefrom these motivations origin.

To explain how motives are generated by human beings, an introduction to a few theories of motivation will follow in the next few paragraphs. Furthermore, some practical examples in relation to these theories will be shown.

Reviewing the literature and theories which relate to human motivation, Felser (2001) mentions different categories of theories. At first there are the so-called mono-thematic theories. These theories assume that human beings only want to satisfy one particular motive. The best known theory amongst these theories is the motive-theory pioneered by Freud (1927). Freud attributes this central motive (sexual lust) to the libido. Other scientists state different single needs to be satisfied. Examples therefore are Adler (1927) who explains that current needs are influenced by experiences in early childhood or Horney (1945) who relates motivations to anxiety.

Related to the Freudian theory Key (1980) shows that marketing applications which use Freudian approaches are investigated on sexual symbols/content by consumesr. Sex sales - a well known term in marketing affairs. The picture on the right illustrates a typical advertisement of German supplier D&W who distributes tuning parts for cars. Without a doubt this advertisement uses obvious Freudian approaches to attract the specific target group. The message is that girls alike the one on the cover like cars equipped with D&W parts. Thus, it should make the potential consumer think that if he uses D&W parts

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Source: to tune his car women alike the one of the cover page will adore him as well.

While investigating advertisements which use mono-thematic approaches of Freud (1927), Adler (1927) or Horney (1945) it is likely to come across advertisements which use (in a more or less hidden way) more than just one of these mono-thematic motives like the D&W ad. Hence, let’s analyze another advertisement found in the internet. It concerns a part of the web page of AAA Alarms. This company supplies alarm systems for private households. The target group of security equipment might be middle aged men who have a family and a own house. What

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are the most important values to be protected in a possible breakout of fire? Obviously (and hopefully) it is the wife and the new blood he wants to protect. Both are shown on this advertisement in a harmonic and protected way. This relates to Horney’s (1945) motive of anxiety. Furthermore there is a slight influence of sexual symbols of Freud’s (1927) motives as the woman illustrated on this ad doesn’t seem to wear clothes.

The fact that advertisements often use more than one of these motives to raise emotions and attitudes shows that marketers have to consider more than just one single motive of a potential target group.

In the last chapter some mono-thematic motives were identified. However, most known theories about human motivations can be allocated to the classification of poly-thematic theories. Those theories try to deliver evidences that needs, motives and hence actions of human beings are linked to a number of several motives.

The most famous theory which describes a number of motives is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943). This theory postulates five basic levels of human needs, arranged in a hierarchy based on their importance. These needs in order are physiological needs (hunger, thirst, sex), safety needs (security/protection), social needs (sense of belonging, love), esteem needs (self-esteem, recognition, status), self-actualization needs (self-development, and realization).

According to Maslow’s theory , the lower-level physiological and safety needs have first to be satisfied before the individual moves on to satisfy higher order needs like self-esteem and self-actualization. However, Belch & Belch (1995) argue that ‘it is unlikely that individuals move through the need hierarchy in a stair-step manner. Lower levels needs are an ongoing source of motivation for consumer purchase behaviour. However, since basic physiological needs are met in most developed countries, marketers often sell products that fill basic physiological needs by appealing to consumers’ higher-level needs.’

To prove this statement a typical TV-spot of instant- food manufacturer Maggi can be analyzed. As it is likely that a potential viewer does not hunger (physiological need) it [the advertisement] refers to a higher need; in this case to the social belonging to a group.

As found out in the mono-thematic chapter, here again marketers tend to cover more needs than just one

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single need. Successful marketers figure out what the most important wishes and values of a specific target group are and use these wishes/needs and motives in their ads.

However, and as Maslow’s theory is used very often to define needs and motives, Mullen & Johnson (1990) argue that Masolw’s model is not applicable for marketers and their campaigns. On the one hand Mullen & Johnson (1990) point out the that the lowest two needs of Maslow’s theories (Physiological needs/Safety needs) are used only very rarely in nowadays advertisements because hunger and general insecurity don’t exist in developed countries anymore. Furthermore Muller & Johnson (1990) state that is very problematic to generate a proper impact on buying decisions using the top three needs (Social needs, Esteem needs and Self-actualization) because there are too many differentiations in all target groups. Beside this Schütte & Ciarlante (1998) found out that Maslow’s model can’t be easily adapted to all cultures in the same way as there are contrasting hierarchies of needs in every culture.

Most of the above mentioned and described theories (often released 50 years or more ago) contain an approach from the psychological perspective to define drivers, needs and motives and thus human behaviour. However, most of these theories don’t explain how and why we generate positive or negative emotions. Häusel (2001) mentions that up-to-date more than 2,000 different structures of personality and more than 500 motives, instincts and drives can be found in psychological approaches. Thus, it is not unlikely for marketers to loose overview if each of those theories is considered and tested if they are suitable for proper advertisements related on specific products.

Hence, there is a demand from marketers on much more effective and easier to see through models. Thus, it has to be mentioned that there are also other scientific areas which refer to describe human behaviour, needs, desires and motives in a more tangible way. One, relatively new area, is the neuropsychiatry. Scientists like Beeckmans & Michels (1996) or Mega & Clummings (1997) state in up-to-date researches that a specific region of the human brain is responsible for the way we behave and thus how motivations are being generated. They state that it is the amygdale, the centre of the so-called limbic system which assesses external stimuli and translates them into emotions and hence into motives by using chemical substances (neurotransmitter) in a certain extend. All these neuropsychiatrists attribute inborn, intuitive and unconscious emotions to the way we behave - and how we make decisions.

Many theories from different perspectives about what motivates human beings were shown above. Although, there is a large diversity in this issue some conclusions for marketers can be made.

1. Motives stand at the beginning of the buying-decision-process. If marketers

understand how to activate these motives by using the right external stimuli it [the stimuli] can lead to positive emotions and hence to a positive attitude to the product offered.

2. Ajzen (1988) states that consumer’s motivation is related to activities of the

organism. As consumers normally aren’t activated towards specific products or consume, it is the task of advertisement to lift this level of activity. Hence, advertisement can use the emotions, motives and attitudes of consumers to gain higher attraction.

3. As Perrottet (1994) mentions that ‘mass markets of the industrial age are

crumbling to pieces’ marketers should not tend to accept the theoretical motives of Maslow & Co. generally. Marketers should rather identify the different life styles within their target groups and deviate their motives.

4. Most people in industrialized countries neither are driven by basic needs like

physiological needs (e.g. hunger) nor by the need of physical security. Hence, the advertisements which uses only basic needs to gain attraction may not have a big impact on motivating a consumer. Referred to O’Shaughnessy (1987) people in the industrial-world rather tend to have a ‘good vision of life’. Thus, advertisement should be equipped with issues which link to a ‘good life’.

5. The problem how motives can be generated by advertisements in the highest

extend and hence with the biggest impact, is explained by Greenwald & Leavitt (1984). They state that the degree of the impact depends on the involvement of the consumer and divide involvement in the following four different categories:


Excerpt out of 13 pages


The Importance to Marketers to understand Human Motivation
Oxford Brookes University
72 = 1,0 (A)
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ISBN (eBook)
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Importance, Marketers, Human, Motivation
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Anonymous, 2003, The Importance to Marketers to understand Human Motivation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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