Consumer Behaviour Essay

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Consumer Behaviour Essay

Art consumers in the modern world have increased their buying capacity of art as paradigms shifts to knowledge and information based concepts. Cultural diversity and technology are developing new forms of art and ways to market these art pieces to a wider range of art consumers. However, there is no room for complacency in art managers of art galleries. It is still best to incorporate sound motivational theories that guide marketing efforts towards being robust, effective and efficient.

Three motivational theories had been highlighted forming a well-rounded strategy to approach art gallery marketing. Maslow’s heirarchy of needs gives a step-by-step escalation of man’s satisfaction levels. It was noted that although art cannot satisfy physiological needs, consumers can still be motivated to buy art as objects to satisfy their needs of self-esteem, belongingness and need to self-actualize. McGuire’s advice on motivating people offers looking into the cognitive and affective factors of man’s thinking process. The more art gallery marketing efforts cater to affective faculties of their consumers, the more selling will take place. And lastly, the theory of Freud has been chosen as another guidepost in defining what makes the consumer buy. Innate biological elements found in man such as sexual desires is the most commonly known Freudian motivation that is closely related to selling art.

Construction of marketing strategies to sell art does not end in incorporating concepts from these motivation theories. These motivations must further zoom in on the consumer eventually. The way to fine tune the marketing strategy is to incorporate concepts found in the five-step decision making process that all consumers go through. As the art buyer goes from recognizing his need to gathering information that will lead him to a possible purchase, to evaluating criteria affecting his possible purchase, to his actual purchase and to coming up with insights that happens during his post purchase, the marketing strategy of the art gallery is put into a test.


The art market is slowly evolving. Art has evolved into many forms and galleries have transformed to accommodate a wide range of consumers. With the entrance of innovative technology, cultural diversity and faster access to information, art galleries been challenged to study and understand consumer behavior of this widening niche.

“For the last few years, the media have trumpeted contemporary art as the hottest new investment. At fairs, auction houses and galleries, an influx of new buyers–many of them from the world of finance–have entered the fray. Lifted by this tidal wave of new money, the number of thriving artists, galleries and consultants has rocketed upwards.” (Spiegler, 2006)

But amidst all this buying frenzy, sellers have remained steadfast to the consumer behavior theories that guide the markets. Buying behavior theories have not changed and remained formidable in figuring out what buyers want, why they want, how they avail of these wants and the factors that affect these decisions. Consumers of art hold special focused studies. Consumers who buy art also buy gas, groceries, basic services and insurance. Though there is culture in gas, groceries, basic services and insurance, these commodities does not directly fall under art. Art products and services are born out of a cultural industry. These consumers have their own consumer behaviors.

“Consumer behavior is the process involved when individual or groups select, purchase, use, and dispose of goods, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy their needs and desires. It is important that marketers understand consumer behavior because wants and needs are satisfied best when marketers understand the behaviors of consumers.” (Hawkins, 1998) Therefore, appropriate buyer behavior theories must be employed to so that marketing strategies to sell products in art galleries will be most appropriate, effective, efficient and economical.


Marketing strategies start with knowing the product or service. Characteristics of these items for sale will be essential in finding the consumers who would want to buy them. Art encompass a wide variety of products and services. Art galleries themselves have evolved into stores that sell different art genres depending on how one beholds something as art, from the flea markets selling antiques to the fine art galleries bidding by the millions.

Applied and decorative art are products found in advertising, architecture and urban design. Crafts, jewelry, fashion, industrial, product and interior design fall under this art category. Entertainment art provides enjoyment services such as film, recording and TV programs.

“Fine art is motivated by ‘art-for-art’s-sake’. It is the primary research and development segment of the arts industry. It generates ‘enlightenment’, i.e. it sheds light on the nature of the human condition – on the individual and society. “It is primarily in the fine arts that new talent and technique are developed; new scripts and scores created; and, new images and styles set. Results of fine art ‘R&D’, like the results of scientific research, are sometimes adopted by for-profit enterprises in and out of the arts industry. And, as in pure science, fine art is not financially self-supporting. The right to fail is an essential artistic and scientific freedom – a freedom that requires patience and risk-taking on the part of patrons, investors and audiences.” (Chartrand, 2000)

Heritage art subsumes all kind of art. It feeds contemporary art and is the one that sets standards of the following generations. This art inspires creators and enriches artists through its integration of scarcity and aesthetic value while employing a sense of social relevance and cohesion. “Between 1969 and 1989, heritage art yielded the highest return of all financial investment opportunities (The Economist July 1, 1989). Furthermore, theft of antiquities is the most lucrative international crime. Ounce for ounce, an antiquity can be more valuable than drugs. It can yield a higher return, at lower risk of being caught, and generally produces less jail time if one is convicted” (Chartrand 1992a).


A person who walks into an art gallery is differently motivated compared to a person who walks into a McDonald’s burger store. A company who buys a 10 million art work does so with objectives different from its putting up a building worth about the same cost. Consumers of art are motivated differently and theories defining these motivations can help marketing strategist clear marketing goals and activities.

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) has been one of the century’s great inspiration in personality theories. The Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as illustrated in Figure 1 has helped both researchers, scholars, scientists and most specially marketing executives on how to motivate clients and consumers. Maslow believes that man is motivated based on the level of satisfaction he can achieve at a particular time when the product or service is offered him. And the levels of satisfaction starts from getting his physiological needs, then his safety needs and subsequently his belonging needs, esteem needs until he arrives at his self-actualization.

Figure 1. Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs (Boeree, 1998)

“Maslow suggested the intuitively appealing notion that humans must satisfy the most basic objectives before they can move onto “higher level” ones. Thus, an individual must satisfy physiological needs (such as food and liquid) before he or she will be able to expend energy on less fundamental objectives such as safety. Only when basic objectives have been met will a person move on to seek such objectives as love and belonging, and only a small minority of people make it as far as seeking self-actualization.” (Boeree, 1998)

Art consumers at the art galleries are motivated to satisfy a certain level of need as illustrated in Maslow’s diagram. Art definitely cannot be eaten and cannot quench physical thirst. Consumers who are still struggling to satisfy their physiological needs in the normal circumstances will not buy Art. Art buyers are usually motivated to consume art to satisfy safety, belongingness, need for self-esteem and to perform their self-actualization.

A person will buy art to safeguard savings. Certain works of art appreciate in value as the artist becomes more popular or when he dies. More than once, the cultural scene has witnessed these value increases and rich people have coveted owning these masterpieces not for their artistic magnificence but more for their financial value. A person will buy art to satisfy belongingness especially if he or she finds himself trying to get into company of art buyers. Belongingness would sometimes overpower physical hunger especially in these modern days when people have gone towards the limits of individualism isolating themselves from social groups that provide comfort in belongingness.

In the early years of high art, kings and queens would have their portraits painted by in house artists such as Michael Angelo and Da Vinci. These portraits help a person increase his self-esteem. Coffee shops, banks and other commercial establishment hang works of art in their walls not so much for decorative purposes but these products increase the company’s self-esteem. Their clients are able to admire the company knowing that the company they chose is of the cultured type and can afford these works of art.

Based on the Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, the marketing strategy must realize that in order for art galleries to sell their products, it has to appeal to the motivations of the people walking into the gallery. These gallery visitors are basically interested in art and the curator must work on satisfying needs. Marketing campaigns must cater to satisfying client’s need to raise his self-esteem or need to satisfy his belongingness. Strategies such as knowing the client’s kind of groupie or the client’s thoughts of himself will be a few effective tactics towards forging a sale.


Though highly controversial and continuously debated upon by psychoanalysts, Sigmund Freud has been the most popular theorist of the century due to the sexual nature of his findings. Basically, he suggests that “(1) much behavior has a biological basis which is (2) often sexual in nature, and (3) that early experiences in childhood will have a profound, but unconscious effect on later life–e.g., people who are rejected in an early, “oral” phase of development may become “oral retentive” and end up as wine connoisseurs later in life.” (Hawkins, 1998)

For Freud, people are motivated by their sex drives. Though some sectors of the scientific communities do not believe this, advertising, film and marketing have used the Freudian theories and have remained successful in the promotion and selling of their products. Cars, cigarette, alcohol and other vices have used sex at one point or another in their commercials, posters or corporate IDs. MTV’s have evolved into using pretty boys and sexy girls to get the maximum buying power of teenagers and young adults. Even new generation anime features voluptuous heroes, heroines and villains. Wonder Woman has never been as seductive and Superman has been redrawn to sport more muscles that spell musk.

Though Freud never really thought sexuality in the new millennium context, evolutionists understands this kind of sexual motivation due to the inherent nature of human beings to help the species survive and sustain power over the natural kingdom. The only way to keep from extinction is to continue procreation. In Darwinian logic, motivation to procreation is as sensible as breathing.

Sex has always helped sell art. Art from ancient Greece such as sculptures Adonis or Venus were sometimes seen as pornographic. Though these artworks of nudity became monuments of great cities and tourist destinations that earn millions of dollars, parent of little children still become uneasy explaining nudity in these kinds of art works.

Marketing art with tactics from the Freudian theories that sex sells would make marketing of art forms planned in a way that it attracts sexual motivations from the buyers. Art galleries, when opening an exhibit usually employs wine, beautiful ladies in little black dresses and music that appeals to the possible clients. This type of marketing style that is guided by Freudian motivation theories supports art works that have sexual undertones already in them. Bar owner Schrager narrates the reason for buying an artwork.

“According to Schrager, the decision to commission Clemente for the ceiling mural and lamps was an easy one. “I love Clemente’s work, and I thought a ceiling mural would be appropriate for the place and location. For me, a lot of Clemente’s work has sexual undertones, and I thought it would fit in perfectly in the bar.” (Silberman, 2001)


McGuire’s psychology of motivation stems from his cognitive and affective experimentations. Thinkers are seen to carry out directed-thinking tasks. These thought systems in people illustrate their motivations. “Five dimensions that together provide an inclusive description of thought systems were identified. Two dimensions are cognitive: (1) size; and (2) cognitive-affirmational bias. Two others are affective: (3) affective desirability bias; and (4) people-favorability bias. The fifth dimension is (5) cognitive-affective congruence.” (McGuire, 2006)

McGuire believes that affective stimulus influence the cognitive aspect of human motivations more. Men and women have different thought patterns since they react differently to stimulus. Knowing this, it is important for art galleries to note who has the buying power when couples walk into the gallery to purchase the artwork. At culturally diverse markets, art managers need to address what could stimulate affective motivations in their clients. Sometimes, talking to an art manager who understands the client’s affective stimulus like race or culture is effective.

“More buying power translates into more art-buying ability. Art dealers and publishers are keenly aware of this. But what they also need to understand is that while African Americans are looking to buy more high-quality art, they’re also looking to buy from dealers and publishers who understand them and will cater to them.” (Hagan, 2004)


Equipped with the three motivational theories above, the next important part of the marketing strategy is integrating the promotional or advertising activities to the five stages of the decision making process that each art buyers goes through whenever they are in making a decision whether to buy, to buy later, or not to buy.


Problem recognition is the stage where the buyer becomes aware of his need. Awareness of needs does not happen like magic. Need is stimulated. The client must be aware of his need from its unconscious state to the conscious and articulate status. Commercials that stimulate problem recognition are effective because they can visually show what the client does not have and therefore, just by looking at advertisement, the client realizes his lack of that product thereby moving towards the process of coveting the product for himself. A blank wall will stimulate a need to buy art. An empty corner can stimulate a person to acquire a statue. Occasions and celebrations from birthdays to monthly anniversaries to grandmom or grandpop days and other more outlandish occasions can also create the rationale to make the consumers think of buying art.

The second phase is where the client begins to look for information that will lead him into being able to find the product or the service that can quench his need. In the case of art galleries, a person must be able to find the art gallery. This ease of art gallery access will be attained with proper promotions and advertising. Art gallery accessibility geographically will also be essential in attracting buyers who are currently looking for information so satisfy their needs. The Internet is the latest virtual shop where buyers from around the world can be tuned in at the same time. With the Internet platform as marketing tool, selling is definitely without borders and without pressure of time. The buyer from spread of mouth information can also acquire details on how to locate the art gallery. Employers had always stressed good service because positive feedback is the gateway of businesses.

With the information at hand, the consumer goes to the third stage of the decision making process which is the evaluation stage where alternatives are ranked. “This stage establishes the criteria for evaluation, features the buyer wants or does not want. Rank/weight alternatives or resume search. May decide that you want to eat something spicy, indian gets highest rank. If not satisfied with your choice then return to the search phase. Can you think of another restaurant? Look in the yellow pages etc. Information from different sources may be treated differently. Marketers try to influence by “framing” alternatives.” (classnotes, 2006)

Art galleries’ marketing strategy must make sure that the criteria set by its consumers are achieved. After product characteristics, price is usually the next criteria that the client considers. For art, the prices depend on a flexible standard. Other pieces are “priceless” while other art products are set by how the community valuates the artist. This is where the talent of the art manager or the curator comes in. Framing the art product, literally and figuratively spells putting on more weight on the piece or turning the off the client’s needs which will surely fail selling the product when the fifth decision making process starts.

The fourth stage is the purchase stage. The buying value is affected by three possibilities as the client decides from whom to buy, when to buy or if the client decides not to buy. Purchase from art galleries will be affected by the terms of sale, credibility of the establishment and return policies. Tax information on artwork is an important information that will tip the scales towards the sales. A news clipping shows reaction of buyers and galleries on impositions of added tax to art pieces. “Paying an 8.8 percent tax on art doesn’t discourage him or his wife, Virginia, from buying, but he said he could imagine “it would slow some people down.” That’s what worries the Seattle Art Museum.” (Hackett, 2005)

The atmosphere of the art gallery, and happiness of the shopping experience influences the time of sale. Some galleries maintain calmness in the gallery depicting unstressful experience for the buyer. Especially with purchases of millions of dollars, the atmosphere must be as much stress free as possible.

The last stage of the process is the post purchase stage where the client reflects on the purchase that he did. The buyer usually compares the purchase with his expectations based on the need he originally formed. In the post purchase stage, either the art consumer is satisfied or unsatisfied with the purchase. Customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction is affected by his value perceptions.

Art buyers know there is inherent value in art works. Physically, art is just a piece of paper or canvass with pigment but the images and visualization that the artwork shares to the consumer is what is of value that have been purchased. For artwork, one piece may create more value to another person depending on the level of beauty value he gets from the work of art. His satisfaction therefore depends on the value that the art product or experience in buying the artwork communicates to the buyer.

Art galleries are cultural venues where patrons are soon established. The repeat-purchase behavior found in the art galleries must be high and excellent because these repeat buyers are also automatic promotional agents of the art gallery. Appreciating an art piece in a hotel lobby, an interested consumer would normally ask where the piece was bought. And that is first lead of the art gallery that happens outside the gallery.

Patrons of the art help in lessening the cognitive dissonance of art consumers. When there is a feeling of anxiety after purchase, the consumer looks for elements outside his decision that would help him be assured of his purchase and publicity of the art gallery’s success or social responsibility or how famous people patronize the gallery helps in relieving cognitive dissonance in post purchase stages of consumer decision making process.


Everyone buys art at one time or another. The time and cost of art that an individual buys depends on his motivations as incorporated in many studies in consumer behavior backed by psychological discourse and experimentations. With the need for the art industry to profit and keep the industry afloat, marketing strategies benefit from these motivational theories.

It is safe to note that whenever a painting or a piece of art lands in a hotel lobby, or a financial establishment, a museum or simply in a living room wall, much human activity has been put into it that basically further increases it
s social and cultural value.


Boeree, George. 1998. Abraham Maslow. Retrieved October 31, 2006 from

Chartrand, Harry Hillman. 2000. The Public Life of the Arts in America
Joni Cherbo and M. Wyszomirski (eds),
Rutgers University Press, April 2000

Classnotes. 2006. Consumer Buying Behavior. Retrieved October 31, 2006 from

Silberman, Vanessa. 2000. Results of Consumer Survey Shed Light on Art Buying Behavior. Art Business News, Nov, 2000

Hagan, Debbie. 2004. Black buying power shows strength in art: growing incomes and more national exposure of African-American art translates into a widening base of art buyers – news. Art Business News, Jan, 2004

Hackett, Regina and Michelle Nicolosi. 2005. Art collectors fault state agency on tax issue. Seattle Post – Intelligencer Reporters. Friday May 27, 2005. Retrieved October 31, 2006 from

Hawkins, Del I., Roger J. Best, and Kenneth A. Coney (1998), Consumer Behavior: Building Marketing Strategy, 7th ed., Boston: McGraw Hill.

McGuire, William J. & Claire V. McGuire, Yale University. 2006. Cognitive versus affective aspects of phenomenal thought systems focused on persons. Retrieved October 31, 2006 from

Spiegler, Marc. 2006. Time to Reform the Art Market? The Art Newpaper. Retrieved October 31, 2006 from

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