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In our modern world wherever we go, whenever we turn on the TV or radio, or walk into a store we are confronted with advertising and with displays of merchandise. These advertisements and goods are presented in such a way as to make the goods or services seem irresistible to some part of the population, and to put forth a message.
The science behind all of this psychology are one of the sister fields of consumer psychology and marketing psychology. These fields study what attracts people to various goods and services.
Consumer psychologists study the factors that make merchandise appear desirable to the public. To do this they learn what attracts people of different ages. They look at current fashion, popular movies and TV shows, and new technology to figure out what consumers will want and will buy and how to best package these items for sale.
We are bombarded constantly by advertising. This advertising plays on our emotions, desires, self-image, guilt, and many other factors to sway the mood of the targeted audience. Advertising uses color, music, imagery, humor, identification, sex appeal, etc. in varying combinations to influence public thought and opinion and to convince consumers that certain products, activities and even mindsets are superior to others to the benefit of the advertiser.
Consumer psychology, often viewed as a sub-field of "industrial-organizational psychology", is a specific study of how consumers (or buyers) choose businesses, products and services, how thought processes and emotions effect decision-making, how friends, family, media and culture effect decision-making, and what can be done to effectively market products or services to target customers.
Consumer psychology, and its partner study, marketing psychology, is the study of what impels people to purchase merchandise and why. This combines an understanding of both what attracts consumers, and what the internal factors are that drive people.
They also study the emotional, intellectual and psychological reasons why people choose not to buy certain products, or to prefer one product over another. This is the science that is behind the marketing strategy that drives advertising and merchandising displays. This science also both drives and follows trends and ads in clothing, cars, toys, movies, etc.
Consumer psychologists are primarily researchers who examine the factors that influence how and why people purchase goods. They look at how marketing, advertising and personal factors; cognition, values, etc, influence a consumer's emotions about different products. This information is then used to design advertising and marketing campaigns to target specific audiences.
One major target area for customer research is the study of how a consumer's self-image affects what they buy, and how even a customer's mood can affect buying behavior. For example, a young man, or a middle-aged man might opt for buying a sports car to appear "cool" or "sexy".
An insecure girl or woman may want to purchase clothes or makeup that she believes will make her more attractive. Likewise, a person of any age who is in a negative mood; tired, sad, angry, etc. is more likely to make impulsive buys.
Organizations, or manufacturers that are looking to enter a new consumer market, or market a new product, or call attention to a cause, will hire consumer psychologists to determine the target audience and to learn what appeals to the targeted consumers.
These consumer psychologists will do market research by observation, questionnaires, phone surveys, conduct focus groups, and study existing research to determine a course of action to "sell" the product or service that they have been hired for. Once a campaign is released, it is then the job of the consumer psychologist to oversee the success or failure of a campaign.
If a person is interested in becoming a consumer psychologist, it is necessary to work towards a college degree in psychology. Many organizations and corporations will hire psychology majors who graduated with a B.A. or B.S. Degree to work in advertising.
To teach, do university or corporate level research or work as a consultant requires an advanced degree, a Master's or Doctorate degree. There are only a few universities that provide specialized degrees in consumer psychology. If a student's interest is specifically in consumer psychology they should also include coursework in sociology, anthropology, and other areas that feed into human psychology.
Advertisers, business, and marketing organizations use consumer psychologists to work as consultants on advertising campaigns. Some of these consultants specialize in consumer-based research, while others look at environmental and mood factors on purchasing behaviors.
Others study why some commercial programs gain attention while others fail and are ignored. This is a field where there is still much to learn about how and why people are attracted to certain goods and services, and how to encourage and use these attractions.
Consumer Psychology is very much a growth area and is well set to remain so for a long time to come. Statistics put forward by the Bureau of Labor indicate a median salary for consumer psychologists at around $87K per year.
If you're interested in a career as a consumer psychologist, request information from schools offering degrees in consumer psychology.