Consumer behaviour, manipulation through reinforcement & perception

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Consumer behaviour, how to manipulate through reinforcement and perception



Consumer behaviour has been hot topic within the marketing industry for a long time now. Knowing the drivers and motivators behind behaviour, gives marketers the insights into how to position themselves, and who to target. People influence people, we know that, but how does it affect a purchase decision?

Social Influence

Why do people spend 100s of pounds on clothes when you can find the same thing down the road in Primark for a fiver? Because of the image we want. It’s a show of wealth. It displays an individuals personality, their likes and dislikes and their standing in society. This is why companies market their products in a certain light, they’re trying to put a meaning to their products, and who’s the best at this? It’s arguably Beats by Dr. Dre. They took an average pair of headphones and turned it into a billion pound company.

Their first marketing activity was sending their headphones to LeBron James, a friend of the co-founder Jimmy Iovine. LeBron James loved them so much, he asked for 15 pairs and handed them out to the 2008 USA Olympic basketball team, what a way to launch ey’. The first images of them arriving at the Olympic games, they all disembarked from the coach sporting the headphones.

Not only did this get them in the press, but it transferred the prestige and standing of the athletes, including LeBron, to the products. People who idolised them or the sport were able to get closer to them, make themselves feel like they’re LeBron by owning these headphones. This is influencer marketing at its finest.

Operant Conditioning

What’s better than someone complimenting you? Not much. We all like a little boost from time to time, your colleague telling you they like your shoes or the bus driver saying your shirt is nice, we love it. Factors like this influence how we think. If the bus driver and your colleague said they wouldn’t wear those shoes, you’d maybe question it next time.

Giving and receiving feedback is a necessity for all members of society, people rarely make a decision on their own. Have you spoken to your partner, friend or even the shop assistant you’re buying with? They’ve all affected your opinion of a product, and I can guarantee someone would have commented or given you some body language which lets you know what they think. This either reinforces your previously held values and opinions or it challenges them, and then you have a decision to make.

From the reverse perspective, if you see someone you like the look of wearing or using something, you transfer your positive perception of them onto the product. Conversely, if you saw someone who you don’t rate positively using something, your opinion of that item may negatively suffer from your bias. To learn more about how ‘Influencers’ affect our decision to buy products, click here.


People within society affect each other in many different ways, and marketers need to understand and be able to manipulate this to the greatest effect for their brand. One correct move can win you over an entire industry.

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