I know why you buy what you buy! Do you?

I bet you know the feeling when you really want to get something. Like a new jacket or just bottle of lemonade! I have learned that theory suggests that as humans and also as consumers we often base our decisions on needs. But what are these needs?

In 1943 Abraham Maslow proposed theory of human motivations – hierarchy of needs.  Hierarchy of needs contains five levels: physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization.

  • We need air, food and water or we die. These kinds of needs are physiological needs and at the same time the most important ones.
  • Safety needs dominate our behavior. We want to feel personally and financially secure.
  • Friendship, intimacy and family are very important because we want to feel loved and we want to belong to something.
  • Respect is one thing that we need and sometimes we do things just to get some esteem and respect!
  • And finally when we have all above we want to be self-actualized.

These same needs have been part of us from the day one. And I guess these same needs still affect our behavior.

I recently read an article that presents a theory that explains why consumers make the choices they do.  It was called: “Why we buy what we buy: A theory of Consumption values” Sheth, Newman and Cross 1991.

The theory identifies also five consumption values which are functional value, social value, emotional value, epistemic value and conditional value. They all have influence on our behavior as consumers. This theory is based on Maslow´s theory among some other articles and studies.

In the article there was one good example that illustrates these consumption values. Let’s think that you just bought a house. What kind of values could be related to your purchase?

  • If you think that a bigger house provides more space you made a decision based on the functional value.
  • If buying the house was based on the fact that your friends are also buying houses the decision is based on the social value.
  • Emotional value comes along if you feel secure in owning a home.
  • Maybe owning a new house provides novelty to you. Then the decision is based on epimestic values.
  • If you think that bigger house enables you to start a family your decision is based on conditional values.

All or just a one of the consumption values can affect on your decision.

So next time when you just got to get something, think for a minute… What are the needs and values that are driving your behavior?


Why we buy what we buy: A Theory of Consumption Values


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4 Responses to I know why you buy what you buy! Do you?

  1. istop2013 says:

    I take you point what you wrote about the feeling when you really want to buy something. Basicly I base my buying decision on some kind of need. This means that I have done some research before doing decision but never thought the theory behind some buying decision. When I built the house it was done to fulfill all those consumption values which was mentioned in the article.

    I have a hoppy which may drive me almost grazy one a year. I may buy whatever useless things I already have or I just don’t need that many. I’m like a maniac to do window shoppings, touch the things etc. I don’t know what is the value to describe that kind of behaviour. I’m a lucky pal because this feelings last only 5 month period of the year.

    I will promise that next time I’m gonna do some purchases I will take some time to think about value related to my behavior.

  2. janneitolonen says:

    I usually (never :D) base my byuing decision on some kind of need..

  3. There was a good points in your blog. The different categories of the needs tells us how the standard of living varies between different countries. Some people are just seeking for the basic needs other don’t know how to spend the money.

  4. maritaparkk says:

    You wrote about the feeling when you really want to buy something. I buy many times something what I want to get and I feel that is right one for me. But do I really need it, it’s very difficult question. I think that my shopping are useful but are those really. Many times answer is no.

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