The Consumer Motivation Process

Motivation refers to the underlying forces (or motives) that contribute to our purchasing actions. These motives stem from the conscious or unconscious goal of satisfying our needs and wants. Needs are the basic, often instinctive, human forces that motivate us to do something. Wants are “needs” that we learn during our lifetime.


Motivation cannot be observed directly. When we see people eat, we assume they are hungry, but we may be wrong. People eat for a variety of reasons besides hunger: They want to be sociable, it’s time to eat, or maybe they’re nervous or bored.


People are usually motivated by the benefit of satisfying some combination of needs, which may be conscious or unconscious, functional or psychological. To better understand what motivates people, Abraham Maslow developed the classic model shown in Figure 2.6 called the hierarchy of needs. Maslow maintained that the lower physiological and safety needs dominate human behavior and must be satisfied before the higher, socially acquired needs (or wants) become meaningful. The highest need, self actualization, is the culmination of fulfilling all the lower needs and reaching to discover the true self.


The promise of satisfying a certain level of need is the basic promotional appeal for many ads. We all have needs and wants, but we are frequently unaware of them. Before the advent of the laptop computer, people were completely unaware of any need for it. But the moment a consumer consciously recognizes a product-related want or need, a dynamic process begins. The consumer first evaluates the need and either accepts it as worthy of action or rejects it. Acceptance converts satisfaction of the need into a goal, which creates the dedication (the motivation) to reach a particular result. In contrast, rejection removes the necessity for action and thereby eliminates the goal and the motivation to buy.