Satisfaction or delivery? What consumers really want

delivery vs satisfaction.001

Professor Tomlinson’s field is cultural sociology, and his book is not written for a marketing audience. Nonetheless, in less than two hundred words, he succeeds in putting a stake through pretty much all of our most dearly-held assumptions and beliefs.

Certainly consumer buying data supports the argument. People’s willingness to shop from a repertoire of brands, the absence of ‘loyalty beyond reason’, and the low incidence of 100% loyalty (as well as the largely undifferentiated nature of brands) suggests that people’s relationship with brands is far less deep than we often like to believe.

And recent research suggests that shoppers actually get more pleasure from wanting products than from actually owning them. Not entirely surprising given what we know about the workings of  dopamine.

It is of course deeply uncomfortable reading for anyone in marketing. Yet in the spirit of resisting merely seeking out evidence that confirms our own baises,  it’s an argument worth serious contemplation.

If for no other reason than the admission that marketing cannot satisfy the deepest desires of people might actually be a vote in favour of what really makes us human.


Ehrenberg, Scriven, Sharp, et al

Marsha L. Richins. ‘When Wanting Is Better Than Having: Materialism, Transformation Expectations, and Product-Evoked Emotions in the Purchase Process’, Journal of Consumer Research: June 2013


  1. itsnottheword

    Meh. Many shoppers are willing to suspend disbelief and go along with the joke much of the time. Have a think about the idea that setting an expectation and desire prior to purchase is, perhaps, as much a part of the product as the item itself. I think the wanting is interesting and merits more research. Got any links here Martin?

  2. Rob Hatfield

    I think how much we care about brands is directly proportional to how important the branded item is to how we live and how we project ourselves. I definitely think you would notice the difference between a Porsche and a Chevrolet. You would probably have a brand preference for that 70″ flat screen you want. But you would probably buy the store brand Fig Newtons if you could save a buck. Although I only buy Kraft mayo and Peter Pan peanut butter. If the store doesn’t have them, I go somewhere else to find them. But I commonly switch between Crest & Colgate. I think most people have brand preferences for certain items that are mundane, just because they grew up with the brand or actually prefer the taste.

    I think where marketing is important, is exposing me to the object of my desire. If I had never seen a Porsche 911 or an ad for one, how would I know that I want one with every fibre of my being? Same as my Tag Heuer watch. Or a Tesla. But the Jolly Green Giant isn’t going to get me to pay 30 cents extra for a can of peas.

    Interesting about the desire to own is better than the owning. Hadn’t really thought of that before, but it is very true. We are a weird species, aren’t we?

    • Martin Weigel

      Thanks… lots to think about there…
      I’m not arguing that brand preference doesn’t exist. It does.
      But that’s different from really caring about brands.
      Preference doesn’t mean love.
      Nor does it mean an expectation of deep and meaningful life changing satisfaction.
      And your 100% brand loyalty to Kraft mayo and Peter Pan peanut butter is I’m afraid, the behaviour of a very small minority.
      I’ll keep mulling…!