Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being (8th ed.)

Nnamdi O. Madichie (Assistant Professor of Marketing, College of Business Administration, University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 22 May 2009



Madichie, N.O. (2009), "Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being (8th ed.)", Management Decision, Vol. 47 No. 5, pp. 845-848.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Consumer behavior has established itself as a discipline in its own right – drawing upon many other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and marketing amongst others.

While Bennett (1995, p. 59) defines consumer behavior as “The dynamic interaction of affect and cognition, behavior, and environmental events by which human beings conduct the exchange aspects of their lives,” Blackwell et al. (2001, p. 6) emphasize product disposal in their definition of consumer behavior as those “… activities people undertake when obtaining, consuming and disposing of products and services.”

However, Peter and Olson (2005, p. 5) see the subject in the light of interactions and exchanges of experiences. They defined consumer behavior “… involves the thoughts and feelings people experience and the actions they perform in consumption processes. It also includes comments from other consumers, advertisements, price information, packaging, product appearance … [in other words it] is dynamic, involves interactions and … exchanges.” Solomon (2009, p. 33) however takes a more holistic view of the concept encapsulating the marketing of a product offering (broadly defined) from inception to obsolescence – “… [consumer behavior is] the study of the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use, or dispose of products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires.”

Although the concept has various definitions, there are some striking commonalities in all these definitions. For example, it is clear that consumer behavior encompasses three key elements/considerations – prepurchase, purchase and postpurchase. These elements affect both consumers and marketers alike. From a consumer perspective, prepurchase issues include “how a consumer decides that he/she needs a product, what are the best sources of information to learn more about alternative choices?” In the purchase situation the consumers need to know whether acquiring a product is a stressful or pleasant experience and what it says about them. In the postpurchase stage it would be good for the consumers to know whether the product provided pleasure, performed its intended function and how it is disposed as well as the environmental consequences of this disposal. From a marketer's perspective, however, there is the need to understand how consumer attitudes towards products are formed and/or changed, what cues consumers use in their comparison of products (prepurchase); situational factors that affect the purchase decision such as time pressures and store displays (purchase); and what determines whether consumers will be satisfied with a product and thus repeat the purchase, as well as be willing to share their experiences with others through referrals (postpurchase).

In this eighth edition of Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being, Solomon highlights the significance and dynamic nature of consumer behavior in seventeen chapters spread across five sections: Consumers in the Marketplace; Consumers as individuals; Consumers as Decision makers; Consumers and subcultures; and Consumers and Culture.

In the opening section, chapter 1 starts off the discourse with the widely accepted notion that consumers rule! It also identifies consumers as social “actors” on the marketplace stage; notes the interdisciplinary nature of the consumer behavior field; and touches upon the inner meanings of consumption and the impact of public policy and consumerism. Another strong point in this chapter is that it delves into considerations of the dark side of consumer behavior such as consumer terrorism, addictive consumption and other negative aspects of the discipline in practice. Moreover the case study on Mexoryl – a product of the Paris‐based skin‐care giant L'Oreal is very illustrative. Mexoryl is a wonder drug that dominates the sunscreen category of the skin‐care market for a very compelling reason – no other product is as effective as Mexoryl as a UVA blocker. In this case study, Solomon declares that UV rays come in two kinds – UVA (those that penetrate the outer layer, breaking down skin proteins and damaging cells and DNA as well as decreasing the skin's immunity and in turn leading to wrinkles, sagging skins and various forms of skin cancer amongst others) and UVB (those that burn the skin outright). Thus the advantage of L'Oreal over competitors such as Neutrogena and Johnson & Johnson cannot be overemphasized.

In the seven chapters that make up section two, chapter 2 clearly stands out amongst the usual suspects – namely perception, learning and memory, motivation and values, the self, personality and lifestyles, attitudes, and attitude changes and interactive communications. In this opening chapter, Solomon describes the process of consumer perception, where consumers are said to absorb and interpret information about products and individuals from diverse cultures. Here “perception” is described as three‐stage process that translates raw stimuli (i.e. sights, sounds, smells, taste and textures) into meaning. It also emphasizes that consumers tend to interpret the stimuli to which to pay attention according to learned patterns and expectations. Key concepts such as hedonic consumption, subliminal perception, sensory marketing, sensory thresholds, perceptual positioning and semiotics are also discussed to enable a better understanding of how marketers use symbols to create meaning (in the case of the latter especially). The case study, The Brave New World of Subway Advertising is effectively used to highlight the key points raised in the chapter – how key players such as Submedia, Sidetrack Technologies and MotionPoster have adopted innovative technology in “lighting up dark subway tunnels” thus turning them into valuable showcases for major advertisers.

Following on from the learned patterns identified in the previous chapter, Learning and memory is introduced in chapter 3 where the former is identified as the process by which individuals acquire the knowledge and experience they apply to future purchases and consumption behavior. This chapter also highlights the connections between learning and memory and “memory” – defined as the “storage of learned information”, which is usually incorporated into knowledge structures that can be reactivated at a later time. Where there is memory, it is expected that learning must have evoked the process of storage, retention and retrieval of information. The chapter concludes with a case study Hershey's versus M&Ms; The War of the Bite‐size Milk Chocolates where Hershey celebrated the 100th year anniversary of its “Kiss” brand in 2007 – driving home its “veteran status” as America's favorite and giving Masterfood's M&Ms a run for its money by so doing.

Buying and disposing discussed in chapter 10, reiterates one of the key planks of consumer behavior definition – disposal. Probably a bit misplaced – having come seven chapters early – the chapter nonetheless suggests implications for marketers and public policy makers on how best consumers may rid themselves of “no‐longer‐required” products. In this chapter also the implications of the purchase and postpurchase concerns are deftly dealt with in sections touching upon insights into the shopping environment, reasons for shopping, retailing as theatre, instore decision making and atmospherics, as well as postpurchase satisfaction. The expert insight by Professor Cele Otnes of the University of Illinois (see p. 407) on GM's Saturn brand “delivery ceremony” is also very illustrative. She presents a case example of how retailers tend to use in‐store rituals to shape consumers’ experiences to the extent that “customers talk about the Saturn delivery ceremony long after they have left the dealership.” While this expert insight is used to illustrate the purchase situation, the case study on is used to evaluate the postpurchase and/or disposal component of consumer behavior in its inherent definition. The case study Giving and Receiving on demonstrates how Freecycle, a website dedicated to sustainable marketing dealing with consumers disposal efforts by encouraging recycling on the internet. The company is one of the most popular nonprofits destinations in cyberspace to the extent that the renowned Time Magazine dubbed it “one of the coolest” websites. Indeed Solomon uses this case study rather effectively Freecycle notably connects people with items to give away with those that may need them and vice versa – operating very much like eBay but for free to the extent that its members nicknamed it “Freebay!”

In section 4, chapter 13 demonstrates how membership of a social class may affect how consumers spend their income. The chapter stresses that a “… person's desire to make a statement about his social class, or the class to which he hopes to belong, influences the products he likes … ” This underlines the fact that products can be used as status symbols to communicate real or desired social class. Overall the effect of income and social class on consumer behavior is captured and effectively used to explain how purchasing patterns have evolved and are perhaps still evolving. Thus, it may be a big mistake to assume that only the rich should constitute a market segment, as social class, which involves more than absolute income, is also a way of life. The clear implication here is that income alone is not a good predictor of consumer behavior. Clearly “the rich” can be segmented based on attitudes, values, preferences and more instructively on “how they spend their money”. Solomon provides an illustration of these differences by highlighting the divergent spending patterns of rich segments such as the “old money” and the “nouveau rich”. Other key concepts are also documented in this chapter include status symbols, consumer confidence, social mobility and class structure across the world ranging from America, through China, Japan, the Middle East, the UK and India.

In the final section, chapter 17 ends with a big question mark – “Does global marketing work?” Before asking this question, however, the chapter highlights America's hegemony in global consumption – “Western (and particularly American) culture has a huge impact around the world, although people in other countries don't necessarily ascribe the same meanings to products as [Americans do] … ” The chapter also touches upon topics such as culture production systems, high culture and popular culture, product placement, the diffusion of innovations, fashion system and fashion life cycle – cultural differences relevant to marketers. Other concepts such as culture production, systems, high culture versus popular culture, the fashion system models (psychological, economic, sociological and medical), cycles of fashion adoption, variations in the fashion lifecycle (through innovation, rise, acceleration, decline and obsolescence), and the transition from the fad to the classic are also discussed.

However, the emphasis of this text is too American and therefore of limited relevance to students outside North America. There are not enough examples or illustrations from other regions of the world on parade in the text and as a consequence this may limit the international appeal of the text.

In the end, though, it is persuasive to argue that Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being provides a comprehensive, concise and relatively well‐balanced account of the current thinking in consumer behavior. It uses up‐to‐date examples from the real world, ranging from Mexoryl in the opening chapter to Starbucks in the closing chapter. The book also has some instructive pedagogical features across its 17 chapters – from case studies at the end, to key terms, review questions and more importantly “expert insights” from seasoned academics highlighting their individual views – in short sections tagged “CB As I See it” – on chapters that inform their past or ongoing research (i.e. the areas of interest or expertise). This textbook – if my opinion is anything to go by – is a must read, suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students of consumer behavior and therefore worthy of adoption as a “secondary reading” at worst and a core text at best.


Bennett, P. (1995), Dictionary of Marketing, American Marketing Association, Chicago, IL.

Blackwell, R., Miniard, P. and Engels, J. (2001), Consumer Behavior, 9th ed., Southwestern, Mason, OH.

Peter, J. and Olson, J. (2005), Consumer Behavior and Marketing Strategy, 7th ed., McGraw‐Hill, New York, NY.

Solomon, M. (2009), Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being, 8th ed., Pearson Education Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Further Reading

Blythe, J. (2008), Consumer Behaviour, Thomson Learning, London.

Solomon, M., Bamossy, G. and Askegaard, S. (2006), Consumer Behaviour: A European Perspective, 3rd ed., Pearson Education, Harlow.

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