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Motive is a reason for carrying out a particular behaviour. Motives are not instincts (pre-programmed, inborn responses). Needs are the basis of all motivation.

Motives can be subdivided into 6 motivational categories:

Primary motives – Replacement of a used product for a new one e.g. the purchase of a new car to replace an old broken one. The primary motive is a utilitarian one. A consumer purchases a new product because the one they already own no longer does what is intended to.

Secondary motives – Here the motive is more than just a utilitarian one. Unlike the primary, the secondary motives lead the consumer to buy into a specific brand. A product from a specific brand usually carries intangible benefits such as social image in addition to the service it performs.

Rational motives – Are based on reasoning or logical assessment. Rational motives are tradeoffs between the price the consumer has to pay for the product or service and the value it represents to this consumer.

Emotional motives – Having to do with feelings about the brand. Emotional motives are irrational. Consumers are motivated to but a product not by its utilitarian features or its market value but how they feel about it. Emotionally motivated purchases can usually be characterised as products or services of high cost to profit ratio (Good business for companies).

Conscious motives – Are the motives we are aware of and these can be both primary and secondary. People might or might not know what motivates them to buy a specific brand. Buying a luxury suit motivated by the need to look like peers at the workplace is very conscious choice of product.

Dormant motives – Operate below the conscious level. Buying a luxury suit can also be motivated by dormant motives such as appearing to the public as someone who you are not. Here the motive is derived from the discrepancy between the purchaser’s self-image and how others perceive this person. The purchaser is aware of the fashion standards of a social class they aspire to belong to but are not aware that they don’t belong to this social class. Companies, luxury brands in particular, base their marketing strategies on dormant motives by creating imaginary high social class role models for their customers to follow.


  • Maciejovsky, B., 2012. Motivation, Consumer Behaviour. Imperial College London, unpublished.

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