A methodological exploration of the relevance of behavioural economics to the study of consumer brand choice
This thesis investigates consumer brand choice from the perspective of the methods
used by behaviour analysts and behavioural economists in order to evaluate the
relevance of these methods to research in marketing.
Most purchasers of fast-moving consumer goods generally exhibit multi-brand choice,
selecting apparently randomly among a small subset of tried and trusted brands. In
order to explore more deeply the general mechanisms underlying this wide-ranging
pattern, three methods from behavioural economics are applied in this thesis.
The first, matching analysis, predicts choices on concurrent variable ratio schedules
will show maximisation via exclusive choice of the richest schedule, i. e., the cheapest
brand available. The second, relative demand analysis, predicts sensitivity of the
quantity demanded, as denoted by downward-sloping curves. The third, maximisation
analysis, predicts utility maximisation by exclusive choice of the cheapest available
The results of a study of 80 consumers' brand selections for nine product categories
over 16 weeks are presented. It is shown that, as predicted by matching theory and
maximisation theory, consumer behaviour exhibits both matching and maximisation.
The results suggest that consumers maximise a combination of functional benefits,
due to the physical formulation of the product category, and symbolic benefits, due to
branding. The implications of the findings for research in the behavioural economics
of consumption in marketing-oriented economies and for the issue of what and how
consumers maximise are discussed.
The study concludes, therefore, that the incorporation of behaviour analytic theories
and methods can contribute to the elucidation of consumer behaviour in ways relevant
to marketing theory and management.