Influences on the Consumer

More complex variables such as confidence and the personal interpretation of the individual’s beauty/attractiveness may give us more insight into the underlying psychological and sociological purchasing patterns of today’s consumer. The first hand research for this topic will be carried out with a questionnaire designed and created by the members of the group and thereafter each part will be worked on and analyzed mutually. Many question why sex appeal is used so frequently in advertising, never becoming an outdated phenomenon of the past like so many other techniques.

The study of consumer behaviour is very much connected with the area of psychology. Few people know that when being subjected to advertising they may be influenced on a far greater scale then they could ever imagine. The first aspect which must be taken into consideration is sex. In our current modernized lives where survival is a word used less frequently, many forget about the urges humans have inherited over thousands of years.

Abraham Maslow’s diagram of the hierarchy of needs displays the ranking of necessities for human survival, “The basis of Maslow’s theory is that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs…” (Anon, 2007) It is observed that once a human fulfills a need, he then progresses to the next level to ultimately strive to reach the last level which is self actualization. The first level deals with physiological needs which encompasses breathing, food, water, sleep, homeostasis, excretions and last but not least, sex.

This drive that humans have, which plays a fundamental role in survival, can help justify why marketing experts use sex appeal as a vital part in advertising their products. With this valuable knowledge, advertising professionals are able to reach their target customers on a subconscious level. The use of sex can be compared to shock advertisements such as those in anti-smoking or obesity campaigns. In terms of marketing, all publicity can be beneficial to the company so the main objective is to shock.

Kandarp Baxi, the accounts director for Chase advertising states the following about the use of sex appeal; “There is little that the product is offering that is different from others. When technological differentiation is neither noticeable nor long-lived, you need to improve the intangible experience. Put simply, the attempt is to position them to shock” (Seth, 2005). Studies have shown that sex in advertising can generate feelings of happiness, risk-taking and pleasure all desirable traits for the distributor of the product.

During a study at Stanford University, a group of male students were asked to look at revealing sexual images of women and were then given money to gamble with on a random chance game. Either a dollar or a dime could be won, though the chance of winning was always the same. The men who had looked at provocative images were more likely to make greater financial risks then those who were shown neutral images (office supplies) or scary images (snakes and spiders) which generally risked less.

Brian Knutson, a psychologist at Stanford expresses “it’s all about the power of emotion and arousal and our financial decisions… What really matters is that the sexy woman is having an emotional impact. That bleeds over into your financial decisions. ” (Borenstein, 2008) I’m sure many have experienced the need to buy when they are unhappy. This materialism is more prominent in consumers with lower self esteem. People that do not feel positively about themselves are generally more insecure and therefore try to fill this emptiness in their lives with products.

Sex appeal in advertising can negatively impact the consumer which lacks self confidence as the overly styled images of beautiful and sensual faces act as bait. The more unhappy one is, the more one will depend on products and buyable commodities to ease this self doubt. A study conducted by researchers from the university of Illinois and Minnesota stated that “By the time children reach early adolescence, and experience a decline in self-esteem, the stage is set for the use of material possessions as a coping strategy for feelings of low self-worth. (Sato, 2007). The article also explains that a lot in terms of societal happiness has changed over the past 50 years, “Yet as societies become richer, they do not become happier. In fact, the First World has more depression, more alcoholism and more crime than fifty years ago. ” Along with the need to earn more to be able to consume more comes a range of problems which use the consumer as their prime target. Compulsive shopping is a disorder continuously affecting insecure consumers.

This sickness was discovered by German psychiatrist, Emil Krapelin and is “characterised by an irresistible urge to buy items that are either unneeded or unwanted…most compulsive buyers are young women who spend excessive amounts on clothing, shoes and makeup. ” (Andreasen Et. Al, 2006) Here one can identify that these affected have self low esteem as they are purchasing mass amounts of products that have been designed and created to increase the physical appearance of the consumer. It is assumed that between 1. and 2% of our population are affected by this disorder (Day, 1997) University of London psychologist Kevin Gourney found that “63 per cent of people with a shopping problem went on a spree when they felt depressed” (Day, 1997) When describing why most of compulsive shopping sufferers are women he blamed marketing strategies “They are also deluged with advertising for clothes, cosmetics and perfumes”. Andreasen. N, Black. D (2006) Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Pub. Inc, pp. 360