Conceptual Consumption: Select a Cookie

Imagine yourself at a table together with a friend. Between you on the table, there is a cookie. You can see it. Big, round, with brown chocolate-crisps and crunchy nuts. Oh yes, you can see it clearly, right?

But how, from a psychological standpoint, do you see the cookie? You and your friend can see it totally different. You might be aware of your health and see the cookie as equal to poison. Your friend might be sustainability-focused and only eat the cookie if it is Fair Trade and organically produced with a small carbon footprint.

Imagine now how a dog would look at the same cookie. Would the dog see it in the same way as you or your friend? Probably not.

How do you see the cookie?

In consumer psychology, we make a difference between several kinds of consumption. The knowledge about them, make you more aware of your customers decision making and choices. We do, for example, draw a distinction between physical consumption and conceptual consumption. Physical consumption fulfill our basic needs. Hunger and thirst for example.

In our part of the world it is easy to remain satisfied, dry and warm. The physical consumption is therefore not really a big issue. That leaves a lot of room for conceptual consumption. Conceptual consumption means to consume all the ideas and concepts that surrounds the physical product or service. For example, all the several aspects that can come to mind when you are looking at a cookie.

Concuptual consumption is growing rapidly all over the world. We set a higher value on conceptual consumption. Although the cookie remains the same, we can look at it in so many different ways. It all depends on which kind of conceptual consumption we prefer. Some people see the health, some prefer the ethichs, some people care most about the taste.

Two of the big names in Behavioral Economics, Dan Ariely and Mike Norton, have summarized the concept of conceptual consumption. They present four different kinds of conceptual consumption. If you follow my forthcoming posts, you will learn each and every one of them, together with vivid examples and ways to apply it in your business.

By understanding conceptual consumption, you will understand your customers and be able to design better concepts that they are eager to consume.

Reference: Ariely, Dan & Norton, Michael I. (2009) Conceptual Consumption. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 60: 475 -499

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