Psychology of Consumer Behaviour - GSSC 1026 Introduction

Would you trust your dough with this guy?
Would you buy your vegetables from a giant?

Why do you choose one brand over another?

What is Consumer Behaviour?

Consumer Behaviour


Consumer behaviour is the study of individuals or groups and organizations on how they select, purchase, use or dispose of products services, ideas or experiences to satisfy needs and desires. In other words, it's what happens before a purchase, during a purchase and after the purchase.

Role Theory


The idea that a consumer's behaviour is like actions in a play. We all are actors playing a role when we purchase.

  • Consumers are "actors" on the marketplace stage:much of the consumer's behaviour is similar to actions in a play
  • In life we all have many roles and our consumption practice may be altered by our role
  • we may be students. teachers, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, team member, team leader, etc.


What Impact do Consumers have on Marketing Strategy?

Relationship Marketing Marketers want to create a relationship and maintain it. The marketer is not just interested in this purchase but your future purchases."We have a "relationship" with you."
Database Marketing Marketers use all of the data through tracking of consumer purchases, and behaviour on social networks or websites to create specific appeals. Data comes from a multitude of sources: when you send in a warranty, your points on any card like Air Miles, Optimum, cookies on your computer.

Click here to see how familiar you are you with these icons? ICONS

Click again for--What about these Canadian Icons?

Today's icon is becoming more media savvy. The Geico Gecko for instance knows he is selling you his insurance. Mr. Clean Stays Earnest, But Gecko Is Hip And Mr. Peanut Gets A Makeover while Gecko speaks truth `This is an ad, and we know you know it's an ad. Let's drop the pretense.


Marketing's Impact on Consumers

"Once you "got" Pop, you could never see a sign again the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again. The moment you label something you take a step- I mean, you can never go back again to seeing it unlabeled."
- Andy Warhol from America.
The Campbell's Soup Can: first a product sold to consumers and then elevated to pop culture art status by Andy Warhol
Consumer-Generated Content/User-Generated Content

YouTube generation- where everyday people voice opinions, produce content on social networking sites like facebook, youtube, also mobile site like yelp, foursquare. Consumers create ads, and parodies. Part of Web 2.0, consumers are now more influential in process

Creates a blurred boundary between marketing/consumer/reality.

"Where's the Beef?" Marketer's pitch becomes everyday "meme" expression

A meme is an element of culture that spreads from one person to another within a culture. A meme carries cultural ideas, symbols, or practices an can be spread in writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme.

Memes and Catch Phrases

In 1984 Wendy's was a fast food outlet struggling to standout in a competitive market when a simple little commercial featuring 81 year old, Clara Peller was about to change the fortunes of the company and make an impact on popular culture with it's catch phrase "Where's the Beef" Wendy's annual revenue increased by 31 percent, and  their little slogan even made its way into the 1984 presidential campaign when one candidate used the phrase against his competitor. Peller went on to become a mini celebrity appearing on talk shows and even Saturday Night Live.

The Meaning of Consumption

"Choosey Mothers choose JIF"

"I am a Harley Rider"

Nostalgia: Beetle

Nostalgia: Mini

Nostalgia: 60s pop

"It's slinky, it's slinky.."

see Geico "Chatty Cathy" nostalgia ad

"I take my One A Day, everyday. It's part of my routine."

see Volkswagen "Everyday" Commercial

see the making of the ad Volkswagen Everyday

"It must be LOVE"

What dogs do for love SPDR

Magnum Chocolate ad

The Global Consumer/Virtual Consumption/Consumer as Generator of Content/Social Networks

Viral - Memes

Cadbury Eyebrows

Viral + Social Networks THE OLD SPICE GUY

The Old Spice Guy viral ads were the hit of the summer of 2010. First came the commercials and then came the social networking experiment. The character began responding to specific tweets and facebook comments. According to Jeff Neff of Ad Age, Mr. Mustafa's 186 highly publicized personalized response videos generated more than 34 million views and a billion PR impression in a week, according to P&G. In a single week, views of the personalized ads surpassed the nearly 29 million viral video views of Mr. Mustafa's four TV ads since February. As of July 18, Old Spice, with 94 million views, had become the No. 1 all-time most-viewed sponsored channel on YouTube, Mr. Norton said. Old Spice had eight of the top 11 most-popular videos on YouTube on July 16. In the six days following the start of Mr. Mustafa's personalized videos, he reached more than 100 million followers." ( )

Here he says goodbye and underneath is the case study

How do you follow this up? Well in the summer of 2011 Old Spice introduced their new spokesperson Fabio. But Mustafa wasn't gone, he came back to fight for his position on social media.

mano a mano



Crowdsourcing refers to "the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an "open call" to a large group of people (a crowd) asking for contributions."

Everyday people may be asked to:

  • develop a new technology,
  • carry out a design task
  • refine or carry out the steps to complete a task,
  • systematize or analyze large amounts of data

The idea has become popular in business because it harnesses the power of the crowd. It can be controversial. Wikipedia is an example of something that is crowdsourced.


Threadless is a clothing company with a popular e-commerce website selling a unique brand of T-shirt designed by you, for you - literally. They have no designers and pay no attention to trends. Anyone can design a T-shirt.The designs are posted and voted on by the community on its website. Designs with the most attention and votes get produced and sold on the website. Threadless crowdsources the design and then produces and sells them.

See a video

Read how Vitamin Water company Glaceau used crowdsourcing to find a new flavour. Read what the Design Community says about Crowdsourcing in Wired

How much of our lives is influenced by marketing? Are our perceptions about reality shaped by marketing?

Is what we see real?

"Since when did Fred look so much like the Dough Boy?"

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR)
is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery - creating a mixed reality. R enhances the real physical environment by overlaying virtual elements. These elements can be information or images seen through displays, augmented reality devices like Google Glass or through the camera or app on a smart device.

Examples are

  • the layered on field displays on a football filed during a match as seen on television,
  • the ads seen behind the batter during a baseball game during a television broadcast. Ads are virtually placed.
  • an app or display that layers information or images over the real world. (seeing how a sofa in a store looks in a picture of your home, seeing how clothes look on you without trying them on
  • pointing your smart phone or smart device at printed image and seeing images, text or video that adds information to the scene

With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive. Artificial information about the environment and the objects in it can be stored and retrieved as an information layer on top of the real world view.

See Esquire's Augmented Reality Issue

  • Where real life is layered with information through the camera view of a smartphone. AR Browsers like Layar and Wikitude. These browsers and other applications like FourSquare use Geotagging and Geolocation to locate users and information that has been tagged at certain locations. The smart phones use the GPS and compass in the phone for user to check into locations and send and receive information.

There has been an explosion of interest bringing augmented reality applications and browsers to mobile devices with GPS, cameras and compasses. Mobile AR can create a new level of mobile interactivity in gaming, travel, retail, social networking and education applications. A view facing north on New York's Madison Avenue might show the name of a store with a special offer, the nearest ATM machines or subway entrances, or information and links to an historic building. You might find the nearest locations of subways or bars or be able to see virtual displays of information about objects. (source:

See how Stella Artois is using AR

Or this one from 2015 Augmented Reality Campaign for Walking Dead

Marketing/Business Ethics

Does the previous heading sound like an oxymoron?
Do marketers give people what they want or tell people what they should want? Are people less happy because of the gap they see in what the media tells them they need and what they actually have?

Do marketers create artificial needs?

Organizations that monitor, regulate advertising

Non Profits

Woman caged

Ad reads: "Would you donate your body to fashion?" Tell them you gave at the office.

Women of color make up a small percentage of "fashion" imagery and when they are depicted, they are often made to look wild, threatening or animal-like.

Gucci ad "Sponsor Starving Models by Buying our Clothes" advertising campaign.

Not an answer to eating disorders!


Another organization that examines ads was formerly known as The Commercial Closet and now is known as AdRespect. They are a non profit educational project that explores "the range of representations of gender and sexuality in print and advertising." The organization does not enforce rules or attempt to pressure offenders; instead they honour excellence in LGBT portrayals, and  try to raise ad industry awareness of the issues of homophobia and transphobia.Their best Practices Guidelines show how to create respectful representations of LGBT people.

From their website,

"Advertising is a powerful medium. Although LGBT-inclusive commercials are still relatively rare, they have tremendous power to promote visibility and change hearts and minds. That’s why it is so vital that advertising is inclusive of the LGBT community while avoiding homophobia and transphobia. AdRespect is here to educate, entertain, encourage best practices and bring awareness."


Big Brother is Watching - Privacy

Behavioral Targeting (Cookies, Flash Cookies, RFID)

There's a common phrase that has been making the rounds for a few years. It goes something like this "If you're not paying for it, you're the product" or "When something online is free, you're not the customer, you're the product." The basic idea is that these so-called "free" online services are not really free. The cost may be our privacy. When consumers use these "free" services, money is made on the massive amounts of data extracted from the users. In this section we'll be talking about the techniques companies and marketers use to know us online. For them this is not the dark side, but for the consumers, these techniques may feel like a step too far into our private lives.

Behavioural Targeting

Behavioral targeting refers to a method of tracking frequent and popular searches made by a browser using sophisticated Internet technology. The purpose of behavioral targeting is to deliver more relevant advertisements and links to a browser based on what a computer perceives to be their interests and priorities of a user.

Every time we visit a website information is collected about us. One quarter of most popular sites place "cookies" on your hard drive to track information on you. This is called Behavioural Targeting.


But now it will take more than deleting cookies on your computer because there are also Flash Cookies that are stored in a more obscure place on your computer and they can reinstate the information of traditional cookies. If you use Firefox there is an addon called Better Privacy that will remove them For more information see the Wired article here

Addressable Advertising

Addressable advertising is sending a message or media content to a specific device or customer based on their address. The address of the customer may be obtained by searching viewer profiles to determine if the advertising message is appropriate for the recipient. The use of addressable advertising allows for fast and direct measurement of the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Personalized Viewer-specific Content, Behaviour-based Profiling, One example of this would be sending different ads to different households who may be viewing a program. The ad sent to each household would be specifically targeted to them.

Ads based on something we just did will produce a specific ad for us. For example, you buy a coffee at Tim Horton's in the morning, ads appear before you for things that will go with your coffee.

Watch how AT&T talks about Addressable Advertising

It is no longer just cookies that are tracking us, now marketers are using invisible techniques called Fingerprinting that use information about our devices to identify and track us.

Fingerprinting includes looking at the different characteristics of our mobile devices; for example our screen resolution, operating system and computer model. They triangulate this information figure out our location and follow us as we browse the web and use different apps. When they get enough info they can create a profile in a way similar to a fingerprint. This particular type of tracking happens in the deep background so we don't know about it. Every time we install something on our devices that item first learns about our system. Safari browser and Firefox have some protections against fingerprinting and there are some browser ad dons that can block fingerprinting. (Source


We innocently fill out forms to enter a contest, or fill out warranties, but does the information go where we think it does?

Computer Chips

Did you know that some companies put a computer chip in their products. It's called RFID technology. Marketers are also harnessing the power of NFC (Near Field Communications) to wirelessly transmit data between devices. A scan from your cell phone can quickly transmit data to your device.

The Minority Report is upon us, but Billboards in the US can now track what radio stations cars have tuned, see the story Billboards are Listening (inside link) and in 2010 in Japan facial recognition software checks faces and sends messages to passers by and RFID technology could identify buying preferences. See more in my blog post

According to Ken Hardy Marketing Professor at Western hypersonic sound communication is the next thing Coming from a source like a billboard, the sound will not be heard until it bounces off an object- a person. The voice could be that of a celebrity spokesperson.

According to marketers in 2011 are using a new system called Footpath to track shopper's cell phone signals during their travels inside malls, "It uses monitoring units distributed throughout a mall or retail environment to sense the movement of customers by triangulation, using the strength of their cell phone signals. That data is collected and run through analytics by Path, and provided back to retailers through a secure website." The data can be used to encourage sales. Footpath the signal fingerprint of the phone and gives a record of where the phone has travelled. Data from this can be combined with other sources of data like surveillance video or point-of-sale transaction to potentially get a detailed profile of the phone's owner. Some suggest that this type of tracking may be illegal in the US. see more here)

Addictive Consumption

  • Buying can be an addiction. People become addicted to drugs, but they can become addicted to buying: shopaholic, internet junkie, stock trading addiction
  • Gambling is becoming an increasing problem in Canada with over 340,000 people from Ontario admitting to a gambling problem.
  • Yahoo has a support group for Shopping Addicts (outside link)-the site leaves cookies, and has a flashing banner ad at the top to click to Yahoo Shopping!!
  • Foran article on shopping addiction click the following How to Manage Compulsive (outside link) Shopping by an Indiana University professor

Compulsive Consumption

True Life "I'm a Compulsive  Shopper"

Illegal Activities


Graffitti The joy of not being sold anythingMost people agree that North American culture is very wrapped up in the world of buying. How many holidays can you think of that don't involve buying of things? As we have seen on the previous pages, we can not escape advertising messages. We've seen too that some people actually become addicted to buying. Are we too defined by our possessions? Anti-consumerists would say yes!

Anti-consumption can be defined as an ideology against the continual buying and consuming of products. Anti-consumerists believe that advertising plays a role in shaping our values and culture and is responsible for perpetuating the idea that the more possessions you have the more fulfilled you will be. There are a number of different types of anti-consumerism practices. Let's look at a couple of examples:

Culture jamming is used to disrupt or subvert by defacing or altering ad material as a form of political expression. It is a movement against conformity. For more information on culture jamming see ADBUSTERS

Adbusters is one organization involved in the anti-consumerist movement. They describe themselves this way, "Adbusters is a not-for-profit magazine fighting back against the hostile takeover of our psychological, physical and cultural environments by commercial forces." Adbusters is known for their spoof ads, culture jamming and activism. For example Buy Nothing Day, a global day of protest against consumerism, and the Occupy Movement.

AdbustersAbsolut Impotence
Adbuster spoof ad
Adbuster spoof ad

Adbuster Spoof Ads above and culture jamming activities below

 Adbuster Ad
sign no SUV, fake parking tickets followed
Adbuster spoof ad
Adbuster grass on strett
grass in parking space
Adbuster sticker
Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping

There's an evangelical mission afoot- It's the Reverend Billy's Unholy War on Consumption -known for his Retail Interventions...''We must exorcise this cash register,'' 'We are drowning in a sea of identical details!'' his Church of Stop Shopping and their performance art -guerrilla marketing activism may be coming to a Starbucks or Walmart near you.

Reverend Billy, a mix of preacher, televangelist and activist, is a persona adapted by anti-consumerist performance artist Bill Talon. He works along side his Stop Shopping Choir to extol the evils of consumerism and advertising. Through their activism the group has been arrested numerous times

Follow our curated Psychology of Behaviour Page on

Reference as noted above and: Solomon, Michael R., Zaichkowsky, Judith and Rosemary Polegato. Consumer Behaviour: Buying, Having, Being. Canadian Edition. Toronto: Pearson Canada



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