Consumer Motivation and Involvement

15 Involvement Levels

Depending on a consumer’s experience and knowledge, some consumers may be able to make quick purchase decisions and other consumers may need to get information and be more involved in the decision process before making a purchase. The level of involvement reflects how personally important or interested you are in consuming a product and how much information you need to make a decision. The level of involvement in buying decisions may be considered a continuum from decisions that are fairly routine (consumers are not very involved) to decisions that require extensive thought and a high level of involvement. Whether a decision is low, high, or limited, involvement varies by consumer, not by product.

Low Involvement Consumer Decision Making

At some point in your life you may have considered products you want to own (e.g. luxury or novelty items), but like many of us, you probably didn’t do much more than ponder their relevance or suitability to your life. At other times, you’ve probably looked at dozens of products, compared them, and then decided not to purchase any one of them. When you run out of products such as milk or bread that you buy on a regular basis, you may buy the product as soon as you recognize the need because you do not need to search for information or evaluate alternatives. As Nike would put it, you “just do it.” Low-involvement decisions are, however, typically products that are relatively inexpensive and pose a low risk to the buyer if a mistake is made in purchasing them.

Consumers often engage in routine response behaviour when they make low-involvement decisions — that is, they make automatic purchase decisions based on limited information or information they have gathered in the past. For example, if you always order a Diet Coke at lunch, you’re engaging in routine response behaviour. You may not even think about other drink options at lunch because your routine is to order a Diet Coke, and you simply do it. Similarly, if you run out of Diet Coke at home, you may buy more without any information search.

Some low-involvement purchases are made with no planning or previous thought. These buying decisions are called impulse buying. While you’re waiting to check out at the grocery store, perhaps you see a magazine with a notable celebrity on the cover and buy it on the spot simply because you want it. You might see a roll of tape at a check-out stand and remember you need one or you might see a bag of chips and realize you’re hungry or just want them. These are items that are typically low-involvement decisions. Low involvement decisions aren’t necessarily products purchased on impulse, although they can be.

High Involvement Consumer Decision Making

By contrast, high-involvement decisions carry a higher risk to buyers if they fail. These are often more complex purchases that may carry a high price tag, such as a house, a car, or an insurance policy. These items are not purchased often but are relevant and important to the buyer. Buyers don’t engage in routine response behaviour when purchasing high-involvement products. Instead, consumers engage in what’s called extended problem solving where they spend a lot of time comparing different aspects such as the features of the products, prices, and warranties.

High-involvement decisions can cause buyers a great deal of post-purchase dissonance, also known as cognitive dissonance which is a form of anxiety consumers experience if they are unsure about their purchases or if they had a difficult time deciding between two alternatives. Companies that sell high-involvement products are aware that post purchase dissonance can be a problem. Frequently, marketers try to offer consumers a lot of supporting information about their products, including why they are superior to competing brands and why the consumer won’t be disappointed with their purchase afterwards. Salespeople play a critical role in answering consumer questions and providing extensive support during and after the purchasing stage.

Limited Problem Solving

Limited problem solving falls somewhere between low-involvement (routine) and high-involvement (extended problem solving) decisions. Consumers engage in limited problem solving when they already have some information about a good or service but continue to search for a little more information. Assume you need a new backpack for a hiking trip. While you are familiar with backpacks, you know that new features and materials are available since you purchased your last backpack. You’re going to spend some time looking for one that’s decent because you don’t want it to fall apart while you’re traveling and dump everything you’ve packed on a hiking trail. You might do a little research online and come to a decision relatively quickly. You might consider the choices available at your favourite retail outlet but not look at every backpack at every outlet before making a decision. Or you might rely on the advice of a person you know who’s knowledgeable about backpacks. In some way you shorten or limit your involvement and the decision-making process.

Distinguishing Between Low Involvement and High Involvement

Table that lists sample products requiring low/high involvement throughout the decision-making process.
Low Involvement High Involvement
Product Toilet paper
Hand soap
Light Bulbs
Chewing gum
Photo copy paper
Wedding dress
Luxury vehicle
Designer sneakers
Vacation property
Place Wide distribution Exclusive/Limited distribution
Price Competitive/Low Luxury/High
Promotion Push marketing; mass advertising; TV; radio; billboards; coupons; sales promotions Pull marketing; personal selling; email marketing; WOM; personalized communications
Information Search None/Minimal Extensive
Evaluation of Alternatives None/Minimal Considerable/Extensive
Purchasing Behaviour Routine-response; automatic; impulsive Extended problem-solving
Purchasing Frequency High/Regular basis Low-seldom/Special occasion

Products, such as chewing gum, which may be low-involvement for many consumers often use advertising such as commercials and sales promotions such as coupons to reach many consumers at once. Companies also try to sell products such as gum in as many locations as possible. Many products that are typically high-involvement such as automobiles may use more personal selling to answer consumers’ questions. Brand names can also be very important regardless of the consumer’s level of purchasing involvement. Consider a low-versus high-involvement decision — say, purchasing a tube of toothpaste versus a new car. You might routinely buy your favorite brand of toothpaste, not thinking much about the purchase (engage in routine response behaviour), but not be willing to switch to another brand either. Having a brand you like saves you “search time” and eliminates the evaluation period because you know what you’re getting.

When it comes to the car, you might engage in extensive problem solving but, again, only be willing to consider a certain brand or brands (e.g. your evoke set for automobiles). For example, in the 1970s, American-made cars had such a poor reputation for quality that buyers joked that a car that’s not foreign is “crap.” The quality of American cars is very good today, but you get the picture. If it’s a high-involvement product you’re purchasing, a good brand name is probably going to be very important to you. That’s why the manufacturers of products that are typically high-involvement decisions can’t become complacent about the value of their brands.

Ways to Increase Involvement Levels

Involvement levels—whether they are low, high, or limited—vary by consumer and less so by product. A consumer’s involvement with a particular product will depend on their experience and knowledge, as well as their general approach to gathering information before making purchasing decisions. In a highly competitive marketplace, however, brands are always vying for consumer preference, loyalty, and affirmation. For this reason, many brands will engage in marketing strategies to increase exposure, attention, and relevance; in other words, brands are constantly seeking ways to motivate consumers with the intention to increase consumer involvement with their products and services.

Some of the different ways marketers increase consumer involvement are: customization; engagement; incentives; appealing to hedonic needs; creating purpose; and, representation.

1. Customization

Person's feet, wearing two different coloured sneakers reflecting a consumer's unique personal preference.
Fashion items such as shoes can be customized by manufacturers to reflect a consumer’s unique personal preference, which is an effective way to increase consumer involvement

With Share a Coke, Coca-Cola made a global mass customization implementation that worked for them. The company was able to put the labels on millions of bottles in order to get consumers to notice the changes to the coke bottle in the aisle. People also felt a kinship and moment of recognition once they spotted their names or a friend’s name. Simultaneously this personalization also worked because of the printing equipment that could make it happen and there are not that many first names to begin with. These factors lead the brand to be able to roll this out globally (Mass Customization #12, 2017).

2. Engagement

Have you ever heard the expression, “content is king”? Without a doubt, engaging, memorable, and unique marketing content has a lasting impact on consumers. The marketing landscape is a noisy one, polluted with an infinite number of brands advertising extensively to consumers, vying for a fraction of our attention. Savvy marketers recognize the importance of sparking just enough consumer interest so they become motivated to take notice and process their marketing messages. Marketers who create content (that isn’t just about sales and promotion) that inspires, delights, and even serves an audience’s needs are unlocking the secret to engagement. And engagement leads to loyalty.

There is no trick to content marketing, but the brands who do it well know that stepping away—far away—from the usual sales and promotion lines is critical. While content marketing is an effective way to increase sales, grow a brand, and create loyalty, authenticity is at its core.

Bodyform and Old Spice are two brands who very cleverly applied just the right amount of self-deprecating humour to their content marketing that not only engaged consumers, but had them begging for more!

Content as a Key Driver to Consumer Engagement

Engaging customers through content might involve a two-way conversation online, or an entire campaign designed around a single customer comment.


In 2012, Richard Neill posted a message to Bodyform’s Facebook page calling out the brand for lying to and deceiving its customers and audiences for years. Richard went on to say that Bodyform’s advertisements failed to truly depict any sense of reality and that in fact he felt set up by the brand to experience a huge fall. Bodyform, or as Richard addressed the company, “you crafty bugger,” is a UK company that produces and sells feminine protection products to menstruating girls and women (Bodyform, n.d.). Little did Richard know that when he posted his humorous rant to Bodyform that the company would respond by creating a video speaking directly at Richard and coming “clean” on all their deceitful attempts to make having period look like fun. When Bodyform’s video went viral, a brand that would have otherwise continued to blend into the background, captured the attention of a global audience.

Xavier Izaguirre says that, “[a]udience involvement is the process and act of actively involving your target audience in your communication mix, in order to increase their engagement with your message as well as advocacy to your brand.” Bodyform gained global recognition by turning one person’s rant into a viral publicity sensation (even though Richard was not the customer in this case).

Old Spice

Despite being a household name, in the years leading up to Old Spice’s infamous “The Man Your Man Should Smell Like” campaign, sales were flat and the brand had failed to strike a chord in a new generation of consumers. Ad experts at Wieden + Kennedy produced a single 30-second ad (featuring a shirtless and self-deprecating Isaiah Mustafa) that played around the time of the 2010 Super Bowl game. While the ad quickly gained notoriety on YouTube, it was the now infamous, “Response Campaign” that made the campaign a leader of its time in audience engagement.

3. Incentives

Person's hand, holding a wallet that contains a Starbucks card.
Loyalty and reward programs encourage loyalty and repeat purchases, are also effective ways to increase consumer involvement.

Customer loyalty and reward programs successfully motivate consumers in the decision making process and reinforce purchasing behaviours (a feature of instrumental conditioning). The rationale for loyalty and rewards programs is clear: the cost of acquiring a new customer runs five to 25 times more than selling to an existing one and existing customers spend 67 per cent more than new customers (Bernazzani, n.d.). From the customer perspective, simple and practical reward programs such as Beauty Insider—a point-accumulation model used by Sephora—provides strong incentive for customer loyalty (Bernazzani, n.d.).

4. Appealing to Hedonic Needs

Photo of exotic tropic destination in the Maldives.
Appealing to a consumer’s hedonic needs—such as the desire for a luxurious vacation—is an effective way to increase consumer involvement.

A particularly strong way to motivate consumers to increase involvement levels with a product or service is to appeal to their hedonic needs. Consumers seek to satisfy their need for fun, pleasure, and enjoyment through luxurious and rare purchases. In these cases, consumers are less likely to be price sensitive (“it’s a treat”) and more likely to spend greater processing time on the marketing messages they are presented with when a brand appeals to their greatest desires instead of their basic necessities.

5. Creating Purpose

Millennial and Digital Native consumers are profoundly different than those who came before them. Brands, particularly in the consumer goods category, who demonstrate (and uphold) a commitment to sustainability grow at a faster rate (4 per cent) than those who do not (1 per cent) (“Consumer-Goods…,” 2015). In a 2015 poll, 30,000 consumers were asked how much the environment, packaging, price, marketing, and organic or health and wellness claims had on their consumer-goods’ purchase decisions, and to no surprise, 66 per cent said they would be willing to pay more for sustainable brands. (Nielsen, 2015). A rising trend and important factor to consider in evaluating consumer involvement levels and ways to increase them. So while cruelty-free, fair trade, and locally-sourced may all seem like buzz words to some, they are non-negotiable decision-making factors to a large and growing consumer market.

6. Representation

Various Vogue magazine covers featuring models such as Rianna.
The use of celebrity endorsements in a brand’s marketing strategy can increase consumer involvement.

Celebrity endorsement can have a profound impact on consumers’ overall attitude towards a brand. Consumers who might otherwise have a “neutral” attitude towards a brand (neither positive nor negative) may be more noticed to take notice of a brand’s messages and stimuli if a celebrity they admire is the face of the brand.

When sportswear and sneaker brand Puma signed Rihanna on to not just endorse the brand but design an entire collection, sales soared in all the regions and the brand enjoyed a new “revival” in the U.S. where Under Armour and Nike had been making significant gains (“Rihanna Designs…,” 2017). “Rihanna’s relationship with us makes the brand actual and hot again with young consumers,” said chief executive Bjorn Gulden (“Rihanna Designs…,” 2017).

Media Attributions

Text Attributions

  • The introductory paragraph; sections on “Low Involvement Consumer Decision Making,” “High Involvement Consumer Decision Making,” and “Limited Problem Solving” are adapted from Principles of Marketing which is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.


About Us. (n.d.). Body Form. Retrieved February 2, 2019, from

Kalamut, A. (2010, August 18). Old Spice Video “Case Study”. YouTube [Video].

Bernazzani, S. (n.d.). Customer Loyalty: The Ultimate Guide [Blog post].

Bodyform Channel. (2012, October 16). Bodyform Responds: The Truth. YouTube [Video].

Consumer-Goods’ Brands That Demonstrate Commitment to Sustainability Outperform Those That Don’t. (2015, October 12). Nielsen [Press Release].

Curtin, M. (2018, March 30). 73 Per Cent of Millennials are Willing to Spend More Money on This 1 Type of Product. Inc.

Izaguirre, X. (2012, October 17). How are brands using audience involvement to increase reach and engagement?  EConsultancy.

Rihanna Designs Help Lift Puma Sportswear Sales. (2017, October 24). Reuters.

Tarver, E. (2018, October 20). Why the “Share a Coke” Campaign Is So Successful. Investopedia.



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