Why People Buy

In reading Why People Buy, by John O’Shaughnessy, I found this book to be enlightening about consumers’ behavior, their buying habits, persuasion techniques used in the marketplace, and the role ethics plays behind the scenes of every purchase. Understanding these issues, as well as the pressures, influences, and decisions made by consumers, are what makes this book so interesting.
O’Shaughnessy’s credibility was very evident from the beginning of his book. He is a Professor of Business at Columbia Business School and is author of seven books including Competitive Marketing: A Strategic Approach (1984) and Patterns of Business Organization (1976).
The demonstrations he uses in this book were very convincing on how and why the consumer chooses to buy and what factors influence them. He also addresses the consumer’s relationships, regarding social influences and the marketplace, including the eight hidden needs in the marketplace.
By exploring these eight needs, and understanding our subconscious needs, yearnings, and cravings, we can better identify how they are used in selling.
The eight hidden needs include; selling emotional security, selling reassurance of worth, selling ego-gratification, selling creative outlets, selling love objects, selling a sense of power, selling a sense of roots, and selling immortality.
Within each one of these needs, is a secret want and a dream that we long for as individuals to obtain, and we do it through buying and purchasing goods and services in the marketplace.
O’Shaughnessy is not the only one who agrees with this theory. According to Vance Packard, author of The Hidden Persuaders, these needs are indeed the "psychological values" used by the public when purchasing and buying (56).
But what other factors influence consumers when they buy, or in some cases, to their buying habits being broken.
When it comes to people’s buying habits, and the tradition of repeat buying, there are also pressures leading to their being broken, such as:
People seek more effective or more efficient ways to meet wants.
People like to appear to be open to new ideas. People like variety.
People experience changes in circumstances, such as marriage.
People are aware of well-publicized substitutes. Some of these
factors are always at work influencing the consumer to turn away
from habit (O’Shaughnessy 60).
Some solutions for these factors however, is to try to retain while, at the same time, to convert those that are buying the competitors brands. This is done by convincing the consumer that they are already buying the best. This is easily done though, because consumers want to think that they are already purchasing the best product out there.
One important instrument used to help develop an attitude toward self and toward the best product, is role playing. Certain perceptions toward products or services come from what you have already learned from others or from observing.
But in Gerald R. Miller and Michael Burgoon’s book, New Techniques of Persuasion, "People also have perceptions of themselves. Sometimes the persuader’s object is to change these perceptions, these attitudes toward self" (50).
However, there are concerns about this among several researchers, "The question of concern to these researchers was whether active involvement in such an emotional scene would produce changes in the role players . . ." (Miller & Burgoon 46).
In other words, they are trying to determine if emotional role playing is a viable persuasive technique.
Other concerns with role playing are whether attitudes are altered by roll playing, and whether active involvement in role playing modifies existing attitudes. Results of the Janis and Mann study, conducted in 1965, indicated that it does. It was found that those that actually participated in the roll playing, as opposed to just listening to it on tape, came to see it as more of a reality (Miller & Burgoon 47).
Other factors besides role playing that effect us in our buying behavior are simply our reference groups. "The term ‘reference group’ is used to describe any group to which a person relates his attitudes" (Bettinghaus 78).
This is evident when we see someone within our reference group which holds prestige, buying a product that they see as useful and definitely has far more credibility with them then another product. We are then persuaded to buy and use that same product simply because we are so heavily influenced by that