The Buying Process: Effects of and on Consumer Mood States

Ronald P. Hill, The American University
Meryl P. Gardner, New York University
ABSTRACT - In recent years, academic researchers have begun to investigate the impact of affective variables on consumer behavior. Much of this activity has focused on the mediating role of mood states and their potential importance for understanding the recall of information, evaluation during decision making, and behavior (Gardner 1985). The purpose of this paper is to look at the mood literature and how it has developed to date. After this brief review is completed, an organizational framework for this literature will be suggested and future research directions will be delineated.
[ to cite ]:
Ronald P. Hill and Meryl P. Gardner (1987) ,"The Buying Process: Effects of and on Consumer Mood States", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, eds. Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 408-410.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, 1987      Pages 408-410

THE BUYING PROCESS: EFFECTS OF AND ON CONSUMER MOOD STATES

Ronald P. Hill, The American University

Meryl P. Gardner, New York University

ABSTRACT -

In recent years, academic researchers have begun to investigate the impact of affective variables on consumer behavior. Much of this activity has focused on the mediating role of mood states and their potential importance for understanding the recall of information, evaluation during decision making, and behavior (Gardner 1985). The purpose of this paper is to look at the mood literature and how it has developed to date. After this brief review is completed, an organizational framework for this literature will be suggested and future research directions will be delineated.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Reviews by Isen (1984) and Gardner (1985) provide insights into the current way the mood literature is organized. Isen concentrated her review on recall, attitude formation and helping behavior. In an attempt to extrapolate from the psychological literature to marketing, Gardner reviewed the research in psychology that investigated the impact of mood states on behavior, judgement, and recall. Her conclusions suggested that:

1. Mood states upon exposure to and retrieval of information may affect an individual's ability to recall the information.

2. Mood states may bias judgements in mood congruent directions since mood-congruent items are more accessible from memory.

3. Positive moods increase the probability that individuals will engage in behaviors with expected positive outcomes, and decrease the probability that individuals will engage in behaviors with expected negative outcomes.

4. Positive moods may increase the likelihood that positive associations to a particular behavior will be accessible in memory, and, therefore, increase the probability that the behavior will be performed.

The consequences of these mood effects were applied to three marketing contests: service encounters, point-of-purchase stimuli, and marketing communications.

Both of these reviews have contributed to our general understanding of the relationship of mood to consumer behavior. However, neither approach is organized in a way that suggests the full range of potential effects of mood on consumers' reactions in the marketplace. Therefore, we suggest that the literature be evaluated utilizing a programmatic approach that explicitly considers the dynamic and interactive nature of consumer behavior. Specifically, we recommend that an investigation of the current research and future opportunities in mood be evaluated through a look at what has been done to improve our understanding of each stage of the buying process. A brief review follows that will begin to stimulate thought in this direction.

MOOD AND THE BUYING PROCESS

The reviews discussed above suggest that the effects of mood on the buying process are quite pervasive. Mood may affect different factors at different stages of the buying process. Further, recent research by Gardner and Mill (1986) demonstrates that mood states have an impact on and are impacted by consumers' activities during the buying process. With this perspective in mind, each stage of the buying process will be examined, focussing on mood effects, examples of current research, and future research opportunities.

Need Recognition

Individuals have a number of utilitarian and emotional needs that they attempt to fulfill through purchasing activities. An example cones from the work of Rook (1986), who found that consumers engage in impulse buying to acquire the things that they desire (utilitarian need) and to feel good or transform a negative mood state (emotional need). Berneman and Heeler (1986) found that shoppers compensate for negative mood states and complement positive mood states through shopping activities.

These studies suggest that consumers' current mood states may be one of their primary motivations for participating in the buying process. Further, they imply that consumers may begin the buying process in an attempt to "manage" their prevailing moots. If this is the case, consumers may consciously or unconsciously attempt to extend a positive mood or transform a negative mood through the evaluation, purchase, utilization and/or disposition of products.

There are several issues that researchers interested in need recognition might investigate. First, we might consider the nature of the moods that trigger the start of the buying process. For example, do consumers look for purchasing to impact their levels of happiness, anxiety, depression, and/or joy? Second, we need to consider the extent to which the search for emotional gratification is pursued consciously or unconsciously. If the search is primarily unconscious, consumers may be more easily manipulated by other actors in their decision environments. Third, we should investigate marketers' ability to influence affective need recognition. The recent research involving attitude toward the ad suggests that marketers have a broad influence over consumers' mood states. If this is true, it will have important implications for marketers in the use of promotional cues in advertisements.

Product Evaluation

Recent evidence demonstrates that the traditional view of consumers' evaluation processes is incomplete (Holbrook 1985). According to this new perspective, affective states play an integral role during decision making. For example, Isen and Means (1983) found that subjects in a positive mood made faster decisions, evaluated fever product attributes, looked at less total information, and were less likely to request an additional look at bits of information than controls. Hill (1986) found that anxiety (a negative mood state) existed in a curvilinear relationship with decision time, amount of information utilized, and the processing mode selected. In other words, moderate levels of anxiety had a "motivational" effect on decision making. Further, Gardner and Rill (1986) found that different mood states (positive versus negative) led subjects to select distinct brand choice strategies.

These studies suggest that mood states have an important impact upon the nature of information utilization and evaluation during decision making. Future research should investigate the differential effects across and within positive and negative mood states on decision making. For example, are the effects of anxiety on product evaluations different from anger or depression? Also, we should begin to consider the impact of the decision process on mood states. Is the process of decision making capable of enhancing, extending, or transforming a consumer's mood state? Finally, we should consider the impact of marketer-induced moods upon product evaluations. If marketers manipulate mood, will they improve or reduce the likelihood that consumers will use the information contained in their communications?

Product Purchase

Consumers' mood states may impact what is purchased and how much is purchased. Evidence presented by Berneman and Reeler (1986) suggests that shopping for clothing is often used by consumers to reinforce a positive mood or to counteract a negative mood. Gardner and Hill (1986) found a relationship between mood states, processing style, and product category selected for evaluation by consumers. Further, Rook and Gardner (1986) have demonstrated that a consumer's mood impacts the amount of money spent on impulse purchases.

Taken together, these studies infer that consumer mood states impact the process as well as the content of product evaluations. Future research should begin to evaluate the mood-related conditions that cause certain product categories to come under evaluation. This information would have important implications for marketers who utilize a number of different mood-inducing communications in an attempt to stimulate consideration of their brands. Also, research should investigate the impact of different mood states on the quantity of products purchased by consumers. Much of this research should focus on consumers' resulting quality of life.

Product Consumption

Recent discussions in the consumer behavior literature describe a new orientation termed hedonic consumption (Hirschman and Holbrook 1982, Holbrook and Hirschman 1982). This perspective suggests the following propositions:

(1) Emotional desires may dominate utilitarian motives in the choice of products;

(2) Consumers imbue a product with subjective meaning that supplements the concrete attributes it possesses;

(3) Hedonic consumption is tied to imaginative constructions of reality.

The basis of this approach is that the search for emotional desires is an important motivation for individuals when consuming products. However, the concept of hedonic consumption implies that consumers search for positive emotional gratification. Recent evidence by DePaulo (1985) suggests that many of the products we consume for emotional reasons may lead to a form of "addiction" that might have long-term negative consequences on mental and physical health.

Future research should begin to establish whether there is a link between emotions sought and the actual mood during consumption. Evidence from the mental health literature implies that mood states may vary over the course of mood-stimulated behaviors (Pansau 1984). Consumer researchers should determine whether this is true of consumption experiences and whether these mood changes are consistent with the consumer's emotional needs. Also, these studies should evaluate the impact of different positive and negative mood states on the characteristics of the consumption experience (e.g., the amount, timing, and speed of consumption). The results from these investigations may have important implications for subpopulations such as teenagers and the elderly.

Post-Consumption Stage

Most of the consumer behavior literature involving the post-consumption stage concentrates on the determinants of satisfaction (Barber and Venkatraman 1986). These approaches are concerned with whether or not consumer expectations are confirmed of disconfirmed through the consumption experience. However, the focus of this perspective is on utilitarian needs to the exclusion of affective requirements.

There is a great need to determine the extent to which consumer satisfaction is a function of satisfaction with emotional as well as utilitarian needs. As described earlier, consumers may engage in the buying process for the purpose of enhancing or extending positive mood states, or transforming negative mood states. The degree to which they are successful may have an important impact upon resulting satisfaction levels. Also, DePaulo (1986) states that there are circumstances under which consumption can lead to an increase in the need to consume (a "priming" effect). This implies that some consumers may be in a cycle of continuous need for emotional gratification leading to consumption levels that may be unhealthy. Research investigating the possibility of "emotional" addiction to products is needed.

DISCUSSION

This paper suggests that there is a need to organize the current literature in mood so that future research needs and opportunities can be identified. To this end, we recommend that the stages in the buying process be utilized in an attempt to organize these studies. Further, several general recommendations can be made. First, there is a need to consider the differential effects of mood within and across positive and negative mood states on the buying process. Second, researchers should begin to look at mood as a determinant as well as a result of various stages and activities in the buying process. Third, an attempt should be made to determine the extent to which consumers are aware of their mood-related needs and desires, and whether they consciously or unconsciously utilize the buying process to manage their mood states. Successful studies investigating these issues will greatly enhance our understanding in this area of inquiry.

REFERENCES

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Holbrook, Morris B. (1985), "Emotion in the Consumption Experience: Mr. Blandings Builds a New Model of the Human Consumer," in The Role of Affect in Consumer Behavior: Emerging Theories and Applications, Robert A. Peterson,

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Holbrook, Morris B. and Elizabeth C. Hirschman (1982), "The Experiential Aspects of Consumption: Consumer Fantasies, Feelings, and Fun," Journal of Consumer Research, 9 (September), 132-140.

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