Individual Consumer Decision Making

28 Key Terms and Concepts

  • Cause-related marketing: A collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship between a business and a non-profit organization that provides the business with greater access to consumer markets (in pursuit of sales, growth, and profit) and the non-profit with more exposure and awareness of its cause.
  • Cognitive dissonance: A type of cognitive inconsistency, this term describes the discomfort consumers may feel when their beliefs, values, attitudes, or perceptions are inconsistent or contradictory to their original belief or understanding. Consumers with cognitive dissonance related to a purchasing decision will often seek to resolve this internal turmoil they are experiencing by returning the product or finding a way to justify it and minimizing their sense of buyer’s remorse.
  • Conscientious consumerism: A term used to describe consumers who act with a heightened sense of awareness, care, and sensitivity in their purchasing decisions. This form of consumerism centres the principles of sustainability and may either present as performative or values-based decision making.
  • Consumer hyperchoice: A term that describes a purchasing situation in which a consumer is faced with an excess of choice that makes decision making difficult or nearly impossible.
  • Detachment: The mental and emotional separation a consumer undergoes with an unwanted or no longed needed product; this is considered the “invisible” part of divestment.
  • Disposable products: These are products that are designed for single use, which means they get discarded (“disposed of”) immediately after use. Disposable products can have severely negative consequences on the environment if sustainability isn’t factored into disposal options.
  • Disposal: The process of discarding (getting rid of) something we no longer need or want. The act of throwing something away.
  • Disposition: The physical separation a consumer undergoes with an unwanted or no longed needed product; this is considered the “visible” part of divestment.
  • Divestment: This term refers to the final stage of consumption after a product has been used and is no longer wanted or needed by the consumer. Divestment is comprised of disposition and detachment.
  • Ethnocentric consumer: These consumers perceive their own culture or country’s goods as being superior to others’.
  • Ethnocentrism: Consumers who select brands because they represent their own culture and country of origin are making decisions based on ethnocentrism. Consumers who are quick to generalize and judge brands based on ethnocentrism are engaging their heuristics.
  • Evaluation of alternatives: The third stage of the Consumer Decision Making Process, the evaluation of alternatives takes place when a consumer establishes criteria to evaluate the most viable purchasing option.
  • Evoke set: A small set of “go-to” brands that consumers will consider as they evaluate the alternatives available to them before making a purchasing decision.
  • Fast fashion: A term that describes the quick process of events that take place when fashion items go from the “catwalk” to retail outlets that mainly market to, and serve, mainstream consumers. Fast fashion has negative consequences on disposal and is an unsustainable process that leads to a high volume of waste as well as concerns about the ethical practices in clothing production.
  • Full/extended decision making process: Consumer purchases made when a (new) need is identified and a consumer engages in a more rigorous evaluation, research, and alternative assessment process before satisfying the unmet need.
  • Green marketing: The design, development, and promotion of products that serve to minimize negative and harmful effects on the environment. Green marketing is most visibly evident through packaging design, labeling, and messaging (e.g. “green dish soap”).
  • Greenwashing: A term used to describe an act of hypocrisy whereby a company proclaims to engage in “green” business (marketing) practices, but is actually engaging in harmful and devastating impacts on the environment. Those impacts may be hidden, disguised, or purposely misrepresented to consumers (and broader group of stakeholders) so the company can win favour with conscientious consumers.
  • Heuristics: Also known as “mental shortcuts” or “rules of thumb,” heuristics help consumers by simplifying the decision-making process.
  • Inept set: The brands a consumer would not pay any attention to during the evaluation of alternatives process.
  • Inert set: The brands a consumer is aware of but indifferent to, when evaluating alternatives in the consumer decision making process. The consumer may deem these brands irrelevant and will therefore exclude them from any extensive evaluation or consideration.
  • Inertia: Purchasing decisions made out of habit.
  • Information search: The second stage of the Consumer Decision Making Process, information search takes place when a consumer seeks relative information that will help them identify and evaluate alternatives before deciding on the final purchase decision.
  • Lateral cycling: A feature of product disposal that involves selling, donating, or giving away unwanted items in an effort to keep them from ending up as waste in landfills. Lateral cycling is a more sustainable act of disposal than just throwing something away.
  • Materialism: The prioritization of possessions (material possessions), money, and the consumer purchases above and beyond relationships, spirituality, and personal well-being.
  • Need recognition: The first stage of the Consumer Decision Making Process, need recognition takes place when a consumer identifies an unmet need.
  • Pinkwashing: Similar in spirit to “greenwashing,” this term is used to describe an act of hypocrisy whereby a company aligns itself with a breast cancer fundraising endeavour (e.g. pink ribbon campaign) all the while producing products that are associated with the very causes of (breast) cancer itself. Brands that engage in pinkwashing may disguise or purposely misrepresent the (dangerous) ingredients in their products or the (unsafe and hazardous) working conditions used to bring the products to market in order to win favour with consumers who idealize the significance of the pink ribbon symbol.
  • Planned obsolescence: A deliberate act marketers and businesses take in designing, producing, and marketing products that become obsolete quickly, therefore triggering consumers to buy the “next version” as a replacement. Planned obsolescence has negative consequences on disposal and the environment when products aren’t designed with sustainable disposal in mind. It is also an unsustainable practice that prioritizes profit over consumer and environmental well-being.
  • Recycling: Recycling involves the repurposing and transformation of discarded/disposed products (that would otherwise be thrown away) into something that has a different purpose. Recycling turns waste into reusable materials.
  • Simple/routine decision making process: Consumer purchases made when a need is identified and a habitual (“routine”) purchase is made to satisfy that need.
  • Social impact: One of the dimensions of a sustainable business: an examination of a business’s practices that relate to labour conditions as well as the entirety of its operations across that the supply chain to ensure those practices reflect social responsibility and ethical behaviour.
  • Upcycling: A process of product disposal that involves the repurposing of unwanted items that give them a “second life”. Upcycling is a transformative process that takes an unwanted item and transforms it into a more functional or even attractive item than it once was. It is a more sustainable act of disposal than just throwing something away.


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