Have you ever gone shopping and picked up something you love and before you buy it you think, ‘do I really need this’? Well majority of the time you don’t, and you then stand there for twenty minutes trying to justify whether you need it or not.
This is known as the common battle between Hedonic consumption versus Utilitarian consumption, all consumers face.
What are Hedonic and Utilitarian Consumption?
Hedonic consumption is purchasing that item you think of when that voice in your head says ‘treat yourself’. It is the multisensory, fantasy and emotive aspects of the interaction between the consumer and the product and the consumption that takes place (Jones et al. 2006, p.974). The consumption of these products has been proven to enhance in emotional pleasure and evoke feelings of happiness within the consumer as well as a level of satisfaction, which varies dependent on the individual (Schiffman et al. 2014, p.81).
Lets put it into perspective, many of us would buy tickets to festivals or concerts to go and watch the artists that we love when we could easily just download their album for a much smaller price and be satisfied. However, this is not the same experience as attending the concert or festival as the atmosphere of seeing the artist live is significantly better than listening on your computer or in your car. Or perhaps even just deciding to go on vacation, both are hedonic consumption.
(YouTube, 2011) Skip to 0:30, 1:18 – 2:00 – 2:40
Utilitarian consumption consist of basic requirements of life that cannot be avoided or denied, such as food, clothing or medical care (Khan, U, Dhar, R & Wertenbroch, K 2004, p. 4). The classification of a utilitarian good however, is slowly expanding as society advances and new products, which a consumer feels they ‘cannot live without’, are created. These include, computers, phone, fridge etcetera (Khan, U, Dhar, R & Wertenbroch, K 2004, p. 4).
The determination of whether or not a product is utilitarian or hedonic is dependent on the perception of the consumer and the usage and consumption of the product (Khan, U, Dhar, R & Wertenbroch, K 2004, p. 4). An example is if an employee was given a work vehicle to perform his or her duties, it is a seen as a utilitarian good. However, if the employee then uses it for recreational use, it then becomes a hedonic good.
Now you may ask, how is the consumption of these two types of goods linked? It has been proven that a consumer is more likely to consume a hedonic good when presented to them singly in comparison to a utilitarian good (Okada, M E 2005, p. 45). However, when the two different goods are presented together, studies have shown that the consumer favours the utilitarian good, why? Because they can jusitfy their deicsion and they don’t feel guilty (Okada, M E 2005, p. 51).
An everyday example of this comparison is, if you were choosing your first apartment or even just moving to a new location and you had the option between two different locations. One apartment was walking distance to University, and fit perfectly in your budget. The second was in North Wollongong, a street back from the beach and walking distance to Wollongong CBD. Studies prove that more consumers would purchase the second apartment due to its aesthetic features, IF they did not view the first apartment. However, if consumers were to view both of the apartments on the same day, they are more inclined to choose the utilitarian apartment, which is close to university and therefore justifiable (Khan, U, Dhar, R & Wertenbroch, K 2004, p. 4). Therefore, in this example the second apartment is the hedonic consumption and the first would be utilitarian.
(Sydneybusinessschool.edu.au, 2017) (Wotif.com, 2017)
Neither hedonic nor utilitarian consumption is harmful to consumers; it comes down to perception and whether or not the consumer can justify their decision. There will never be a time when utilitarian consumption is the only consumption, I believe as time progresses what we view as hedonic consumption now will become utilitarian and the cycle will continue.
Administration, K, 2017, How to set up a luxury holiday rental….. – Kelly Wealth Services and Kelly Wealth Lending Services, viewed 5th May 2017, <http://www.kellywealth.com.au/how-to-set-up-a-luxury-holiday-rental/>
Jones, M, Reynolds, K & Arnold, M 2006, ‘Hedonic and Utilitarian Shopping Value: Investigating differential effects on retail outcomes’ Journal of Business Research, vol. 59, no. 9, pp. 974-981.
Khan, U, Dhar, R & Wertenbroch, K 2004, ‘A Behavioural Decision Theoretic Perspective on Hedonic and Utilitarian Choice’ pp. 1-37
Kolenda, N 2016, Choice Psychology: A Huge List of Marketing Applications, weblog post, 14 June, viewed 5 May 2017, < https://www.nickkolenda.com/choice-psychology/>
Okada, M E 2005, ‘Justification Effects on Consumer Choice of Hedonic and Utilitarian Goods’ Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 43-53.
Schiffman, L, O’Cass, A, Paladino, A & Carlson, J 2014, Consumer Behaviour, 6th edn, Pearson, Frenchs Forest, NSW
Sydneybusinessschool.edu.au, 2017, Wollongong Campus Gallery, viewed 5th May 2017, <http://sydneybusinessschool.edu.au/about/locations/wollongong/index.html>
Wotif.com, 2017, Maggies Beachfront Apartments Deals & Reviews (Magnetic Island, Australia), viewed 5th May 2017, <https://www.wotif.com/Townsville-Hotels-Maggies-Beachfront-Apartments.h13282258.Hotel-Information>
YouTube 2011, Bridesmaids (2011) – funny food poisoning scene, viewed 7 May 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tByqpujET9o>