Unity Marketing conducted a quantitative telephone survey of a statistically representative sample of 1,000 U.S. households to better understand the role of justifiers in the consumer's purchase decision. Consumers were asked about their purchase behavior in 30 different categories of discretionary and luxury products—those products people buy that they don't need. We will look at the results of the survey of product purchases in the next chapter. Here we focus on the critical role that justifiers play in motivating consumers to buy.
In the survey, we asked about the importance of 14 different justifiers for purchasing things that they don't need. Based upon their responses, the most important motivator driving the purchase of discretionary products was to improve the quality of life. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed identified this as a "very important" or "somewhat important" motivator for their purchases in the 37 discretionary product categories. All other motivators, such as pleasure, beauty, entertainment, education, and stress relief, are implicit within the top motivator: to improve the quality of life.
Insights into how products enhance the quality of life result in positioning strategies that play back to consumers' basic beliefs and values.
Improving the quality of life works on different planes within the consumers' psyche. It is a deep concept that marketers need to explore for their particular products and brands. In that exploration, marketers gain tremendous insight into how shoppers perceive the products that they buy as "need fulfilling." Insights into how products enhance the quality of life result in positioning strategies that play back to consumers' basic beliefs and values.
Our research uncovered five different dimensions on which consumer products improve and enhance the quality of consumers' lives:
At the intellectual level, education and knowledge are widely recognized as a principal means for individuals to improve the quality of their life. Education may make it possible for a person to find a better job with greater opportunity for advancement. Education is a tool that enables people to deal more effectively and productively with their world. In our survey, 60 percent of respondents ranked education as a "very important" motivator in the purchase of discretionary products. Most notably, it is a prime motivator for home computer and book purchases.
Health and freedom from pain and disease are physical keys to enhanced quality of life. "If you have health, you have everything," is a common expression. A desire for good health drives consumption of vitamin and herbal supplements, nutritionally enhanced foods and drinks, exercise equipment, and health care. The physical component of quality of life also includes stamina and energy, comfort and safety, and freedom from physical danger. Purchases driven by this motivator include water and air filters, bottled water, home security systems, appliances, and new mattresses with special features. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, this motivator suddenly gained new importance as the threat of death through violence or biological and chemical attacks became a real possibility.
People's spiritual relationship with God, or whatever name they give to a higher being, is a major source of comfort and security. Through the relationship, they have a means to deal effectively with the unknown, the loss of loved ones, and their own impending deaths. The spiritual component enables consumers to become part of the flow of history and to believe that they are not alone in dealing with the travails of life. Purchases that express spirituality include religious goods, books, and memorabilia. Some consumers may reflect their spirituality in the themes they collect such as Christmas and Easter holidays. The U.S. war on terrorism heightens the role spirituality plays in driving consumer behavior. Our enemies proclaim this as a jihad, a holy war of their god against ours. While we do not play into the enemy's hand by buying this spin, the simple fact is that countries, societies, and people at war and in crisis call upon God to strengthen them and give them victory. As the saying goes, "There are no atheists in fox holes," and with our world at war, we will see more and more emphasis on spirituality as a source of strength through the difficult times ahead. "God Bless America" is the motto of this first twenty-first-century war.
While we know material things cannot provide happiness, the act of buying gives many consumers deep emotional satisfaction. There is the buildup of anticipation in planning a discretionary purchase. One of our respondents described it this way: "You get satisfaction, and you're thrilled about where you've just been, and you plan the next one. Greater satisfaction builds more anticipation for the next time."
The emotional component includes the pleasures of love and happiness in the home, freedom from stress, and a home environment that relaxes and provides emotional security. The consumer good itself may not provide emotional satisfaction. However, it enhances and encourages such satisfaction in its acquisition and use. Examples are bath salts, candles, and beautiful home decorations.
Another respondent told us: "There is anticipation in the search for something wonderful, then stress, then ultimate satisfaction when the right purchase is made. Then you want to do it all over again." Products perceived as indulgences respond to the emotional level. In the post-9/11 world, consumers in crisis seek emotional succor and stress relief by purchasing products that promise to provide these things.
Our social connections and network of family, friends, and associates enhance quality of life. Our network confirms that we are not alone, that we belong. Success in the social milieu yields an enhanced quality of life and is one reason why status—that external representation of having achieved social success—is an important motivator for nearly one-third of respondents in our survey. Gift giving is another important aspect of the social component. Our society sanctions numerous gift-giving occasions, from the annual Christmas shopping spree to birthdays and formal occasions such as weddings and anniversaries. Gifting confirms our sense of belonging and yields enhanced quality of life to both the giver and the recipient. As we learn to live with the threat of terrorist attacks, the need for belonging will grow. Home party plans and other forms of direct selling, friend to friend, are perfectly suited to trends at work in our culture today. Home entertaining will also benefit from the new environment.
All consumers are highly driven to make discretionary purchases as a means to improve the quality of their lives, but certain consumer segments are even more responsive to this desire. This justifier motivates both genders equally. However, consumers aged 25 to 34—those who are most likely to be in the midst of career and family building—are in the age segment that rates "to improve the quality of life" as the highest driver for purchases. Black Americans also rate improving the quality of life higher than whites and Hispanics. Households with two or more individuals are more concerned than people living alone about improving the quality of their lives through consumption. Moderate-income households place a greater emphasis on quality-of-life enhancement than do lower- or higher-income households.
Finally, consumers who have completed their education, whether at the high school or college level, place a greater importance on improving the quality of life. On the other hand, those who didn't complete their education, either at the high school or college level, place less importance on quality of life. Presumably, those individuals who make the effort to complete their education at whatever level they decide is appropriate are more motivated by quality-of-life improvement.