Consumer Mind Set: Motivation

Seminar Paper, 2003

17 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Motivation
2.1 Theoretical Background
2.2 Factors Influencing Motivation
2.3 Theories of Motivation
2.3.1 General Theories of Motivation
2.3.2 Midrange Theories of Motivation

3 Implications for Practitioners
3.1 Measuring Motivation
3.2 Implications for Marketing

4 Summary


1 Introduction

We know nothing about motivation. All we can do is write books about it.

Peter F. Drucker

Motivation is a hypothetical construct serving to explain the stimuli of human behavior[1], i.e. it describes what “makes people tick”. Hence, understanding motivation is of vital importance whenever one interacts with other people. In the field of business it is especially relevant in organization science and marketing. While organization science emphasizes the motivation of employees, marketing focuses on the motivation of consumers in order to enable a company to design products which meet consumers’ needs and wants. In this context “[t]he investigation of motivation is central to understanding the acquisition, consumption, and disposition of goods, services, and ideas.”[2]

Taking into account the fundamental role of motivation as a key driver of human behavior, Professor Drucker’s claim would indicate that marketing managers would largely have to rely on luck when designing and marketing their products. However, the situation concerning targeted marketing activities does not seem to be so bleak, if one considers that some companies consistently outperform others. Merely attributing this to a luckier marketing department therefore seems inappropriate. Hence, it is the aim of this paper to probe Professor Drucker’s opinion and shed some light on the different aspects of motivation in consumer research. This requires taking into account the theoretical background of motivation, as well as an analysis of the problems practitioners face when measuring this hypothetical construct. Moreover, one has to investigate how they use these results to derive appropriate marketing strategies.

For this purpose, the paper is organized as follows: The second section – without claiming to be exhaustive – provides an overview of the theory necessary to appreciate the importance of motivation. The third section turns to the practical implications considering the collection of information on motivation and the exploitation of this data for marketing purposes. The paper finishes with a summary of the obtained results.

2 Motivation

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

Jim Rohn

Considering the vast spectrum of human behavior it is immediately evident that there have to be a lot of facets to motivation. Consequently, the following subsections aim at providing a deeper understanding of motivation. After examining the theoretical background of motivation, factors influencing motivation are briefly discussed. This serves as a foundation for the analysis of various theories of motivation, which try to shed more light on why people act the way they do.

2.1 Theoretical Background

“Motivation refers to an activated state within a person that leads to goal-directed behavior. It consists of the drives, urges, wishes, or desires that initiate the sequence of events leading to a behavior.”[3] Thus, motivation consists of two components: a drive or arousal and a goal-object. A drive is an internal state of tension which produces action in order to reduce the tension. A goal-object is something whose acquisition will reduce the tension. Consequently, it provides the direction to channel the action.[4]

Motivation begins with the presence of a stimulus which evokes arousal or drive. This inner drive state can trigger various reactions. Arousal can be felt physiologically (autonomic arousal), be of cognitive nature (cognitive arousal), or creates affective reactions in consumers (emotive arousal).[5] Affective reactions, i.e. feelings, can be described as a “class of mental phenomena uniquely characterized by a consciously experienced, subjective feeling state, commonly accompanying emotions and moods.”[6] With regard to consumer behavior, the result of the inner drive is the desire for goods or services. The arousal causes a person to act, i.e. it triggers a certain behavior. While autonomic and emotive arousal can directly evoke a corresponding behavior, cognitive arousal is usually followed by further cognitive activity in order to determine appropriate actions. In this context, approach motivation is the desire to attain the goal‑object, i.e. approach goal-objects are sought. In contrast to this, avoidance motivation is the desire to protect oneself from the goal-object. Finally, the outcome – the experience of a new state – is evaluated and, should the person feel satisfied, feedback is given to calm the drive. Should the outcome fail to satisfy the person, the feedback triggers the process anew.[7] As marketers want people to buy their products, it is naturally their aim to have them perceived as approach goal-objects by consumers. The following figure summarizes the above discussion.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: A model of the motivation process[8]

2.2 Factors Influencing Motivation

As is evident from the discussion in the last subsection, there are various ways of reacting to a stimulus. These will be influenced to a certain extent by personal and situational variables. Furthermore, it is not even clear if the same situation constitutes a stimulus for different people. For some it may be extremely important and, thus, create a strong drive state or arousal, while the situation may be irrelevant to other people and consequently will hardly evoke any feelings or actions. Finally, this may also cause people to react differently with regard to approach and avoidance motivation. Obviously, the whole motivational process is subject to a number of underlying influences, which may have a considerable effect on the outcome. Hence, it seems worthwhile to closer investigate factors potentially influencing motivation. For this purpose, the following figure provides an overview of this aspect. In addition, two examples are elaborated on below.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: Factors influencing motivation[9]

Nobel Prize-winner Gerald Edelman conducted extensive research about consciousness and the mind. He argues that although certain connections in the brain are predisposed by genetics, the actual pattern of those connections is unpredictable, as those that prove most helpful in the outside world will become stronger and those that prove unhelpful will weaken and disappear. Thus, consumers are uniquely shaped by cultural and social settings and constantly adapt to a changing environment. He concludes that “[m]otivations are likely to be both unique to an individual and variable across social and cultural environments more than we previously thought.”[10]

A study undertaken by Jennifer Aaker and Bernd Schmitt underlines these findings: The authors conducted an experiment requiring Chinese and American participants to rate a product and its advertising campaign which was either described as having primarily differentiation or assimilation associations. They showed that the Chinese participants rated the product significantly higher when they saw the campaign stressing assimilation associations, while the American participants rated the product higher when they were exposed to the differentiation campaign. Thus, the drive or arousal created by exposure to this stimulus obviously depended on the fit between cultural values and the marketing campaign. In both cases, a better fit makes the product a stronger approach goal-object.[11]

Research by Montrose S. Sommers has shown that members of a high social stratum describe their self significantly differently than do members of a low stratum. Pairing this self-image or self-conception (for simplicity it is assumed to be positive or negative) with brand images (again positive or negative), one can distinguish between four different scenarios. Self-esteem motivation will lead people to buy products with a positive brand image. Self-consistency on the other hand will lead people to buy products which are in line with their self-conception. If both of these effects work in the same direction, the overall purchase motivation will be an approach motivation for a positive self-concept and brand image and an avoidance motivation for a negative self-concept and brand image. If the effects work in opposite directions, the purchase motivation is not a priori clear.[12]

The following table summarizes these results:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Table 1: The effects of self-esteem and self-consistency motives on purchase motivation[13]


[1] Confer W. Kroeber-Riehl, P. Weinberg, Konsumentenverhalten, 7. Auflage, (München, 1999),
p. 141

[2] J. Mowen, Consumer Behavior, (Upper Saddle River, 1998), p. 160

[3] Ibid, p. 160

[4] J. Sheth, Customer Behavior, (Fort Worth, 1999), p. 342

[5] Confer ibid, p. 343

[6] J. Mowen, opus cited, p. 162

[7] Confer J. Sheth, opus cited, pp. 343 f.

[8] Adapted from ibid, p. 343

[9] Figure was developed by the author and is mainly based on the discussion in E. Arnould,
C. McDaniel, opus cited, pp. 389 ff.

[10] Ibid, pp. 389 f.

[11] Confer J. Aaker, B. Schmitt, Culture-dependent assimilation and differentiation of the self – Preferences for consumption Symbols in the United States and China, in: Journal of cross-cultural psychology, Vol. 32, No. 5, September 2001, pp. 564 ff.

[12] Confer M. J. Sirgy, Self-concept in consumer behavior: A critical review, in: The Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Dec., 1982), pp. 289 f.

[13] Taken from ibid, p. 290

Excerpt out of 17 pages


Consumer Mind Set: Motivation
University of Hamburg
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
1224 KB
Consumer, Mind, Motivation
Quote paper
Christoph Stockstrom (Author), 2003, Consumer Mind Set: Motivation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Consumer Mind Set: Motivation

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free