Consumer motivation, personality and perception

By John Dudovskiy

Consumer motivationMotivation, personality and perception belong to the list of central themes in the area of consumer behaviour. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943) is one of the most significant theoretical frameworks in the area of human motivation and this theory relates to the study of consumer behaviour in a direct way. Maslow (1943) divides human needs into five layers arranged in a hierarchical manner: psychological, safety, social, and esteem needs.

In simple terms, the core idea behind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943) can be explained in a way that businesses need to appeal to the most immediate and urgent needs of customers in order to generate sales. For example, an individual who is yet to satisfy his or her safety needs is not motivated to purchase products and services associated with high social status, thus individuals belonging to this category should not be targeted for premium range of products and services. From this perspective, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943) is related to segmentation, targeting and positioning practices to a certain extent.

Personality represents another important physiological variable with certain implications on consumer behaviour and personality elements or traits include self-confidence, sociability, adaptability, deference etc. In-depth knowledge about important aspects of personalities of target customer segment allows businesses to manipulate with elements of marketing mix in general and promotion element in particular in terms of making an effective appeal.

For example, marketing research findings of a premium brand watch manufacturing company may indicate that the majority of representatives of target customer segment are highly ambitious individuals aspiring to top management positions in multinational corporations. This information can be used to impact consumer behaviour by engaging in product placement marketing strategy via displaying the use of the premium watch by highly successful senior managers in various media productions.

High levels of subjectivity of consumer perceptions create challenges and opportunities for businesses at the same time. The main business challenge resulting from subjectivity of consumer perception relates to the possibility of customer dissatisfaction as a result of a wide range of factors not directly related to the quality of products. In other words, even when a product is of a high quality and has an advanced set of features and capabilities offered for a competitive price, consumer may still become dissatisfied by perceiving the levels of customer services to be unsatisfactory.

On the positive side, on the other hand, businesses can benefit from high levels of subjectivity of consumer perceptions by investing on their brand image and associating the brand with the values of target customer segment. For example, Nike, a global sportswear developer and seller benefits from subjectivity of consumer perception to a considerable extent with positive implications on the bottom line i.e. profitability.

Nike’s slogan ‘Just Do It’ integrates aspirations and values of its target customer segment in an effective way planting the perception of value and quality in customers’ mind and therefore the brand is able to sell its products for premium prices.



Maslow, A.H. (1943) “The Theory of Human Motivation” Psychological Review, Vol.50, Issue: 4.

Category: Consumer Behaviour