BUU33710 Consumer Behaviour (5 ECTS)

(5 ECTS)


Dr. Stephen Murphy

Email: stephen.murphy@tcd.ie

Tutor: Matthew Jackson

Email: TBC

Module Description / Content:

Consumption isn’t just about the acquisition of good and services to satisfy needs and wants. Consumption is a big part of our culture. We consume to make meaning, establish identities, connect with other people, and for the experience. Consumption is a part of our  daily routines and habits, and it often forms part of the extraordinary experiences that we seek to escape from the mundane.  

 The aim in this module is to understand consumer behaviour as both a social and cultural phenomenon. This means recognising that consumption is not merely a business or economic function. By approaching consumer behaviour in this way, it becomes possible to gain a much richer understanding of how and why people consume in the ways they do. 

BUU33710 draws from sociological, anthropological and psychological theory to provide a contemporary view of consumer behaviour that moves beyond predominant behaviourist approaches to the subject area.  

Students will be introduced to cutting edge research methods for studying consumer behaviour, while also putting these methods into action to examine their own consuming behaviour and others.  

We will consider the multi-sensory nature of consumption, asking ourselves why sight, sound, taste, touch and smell are so important in understanding how and why people consume. 

Drawing on these deep insights about consumer behaviour, students will have opportunities to develop marketing strategy that stands out. 

Learning and Teaching Approach:

Theory of consumer psychology will take centre stage in this course, and many of the readings will be of academic flavour. The objective is for students to master key concepts and successfully apply these throughout marketing contexts.

  • Reading and independent learning: Students are expected to read required readings, and to prepare for sessions according to the weekly guidelines on Blackboard. Students are individually responsible for all of the material in the required readings. The readings will cover most of the course material, but lectures may also introduce new material. Students should not see readings as substitutes for lectures. Students are encouraged to share questions about their readings in lectures and class discussions.
  • Case studies: Case studies serve the purpose of illustrating concepts in practice and offer opportunity to grapple with the material. Students are required to prepare cases in advance, as indicated in the weekly guidelines (see Blackboard). Students are expected to think independently about application of course concepts to the case studies.
  • Class discussion: Upon completion of preparatory work, students are expected to contribute to class discussions with questions and comments. Ideas should be shared in structured and constructive fashion.
  • Group Project: The group exercise constitutes an important element of the module. Throughout the period of instruction, time in tutorials is devoted to work on the Group Project. To ensure effective progress on the Group Project, students are strongly encouraged to stay up-to-date on the readings and the module material, more generally.

Learning Outcomes:

Having successfully completed this module, the student should be able to:

  • To grasp and know how to apply research methods designed to study actual consumer behaviour in the market.  
  • To understand, critically evaluate and apply contemporary consumer behaviour theory to make sense of your own consumer behaviour. 
  • To understand, critically evaluate and apply contemporary consumer behaviour theory to make sense of actual consumer behaviour in the market. 
  • To appreciate how consumer research is used to inform effective marketing strategy.  
  • To develop a critical understanding of the role that consumption plays in organising society, and to appreciate some of the broader social, economic, environmental and cultural consequences of this. 

Essential Texts/Key Reading:

Students should read materials prior to attending lecture sessions and tutorials. There is no preparatory reading for the first week of lectures. Students should use this time to prepare for the second week’s topic.  

Preparatory Resources for week 2 – Consumer Culture Theory   

  • Arnould, Eric J. and Craig J. Thompson (2005) “Consumer Culture Theory (CCT): Twenty Years of Research”, Journal of Consumer Research, 31(March), 868-882. 

Preparatory Resources for week 3 – Rituals, Habits, and Meaning 

  • McCracken, Grant (1986) “Culture and Consumption: A Theoretical Account of the 

Structure and Movement of the Cultural Meaning of Consumer Goods”, Journal of 

Consumer Research, 13(June), 71-84. 

Preparatory Resources for week 4 – Ethnographic/ Netnographic Research Methods  


  • Ethnography: Elliott, R., & Jankel‐Elliott, N. (2003). Using ethnography in strategic consumer research. Qualitative market research: An international journal. 
  • Netnograhy: Kozinets, R. V. (2019). Netnography: The essential guide to qualitative social media research. Sage. Chapter 8 Investigating: Five Steps to Social Media Collection  

 Preparatory Resources for week 5 – Consumer Identity Projects  

  • Larsen, G., & Patterson, M. (2018). Consumer identity projects. SAGE Handbook of consumer cultures, 194-213. 

 Preparatory Resources for week 6 - Subcultures, Brand Communities, and Tribes 

  • Canniford, R. (2011). A typology of consumption communities. Research in consumer behavior, 13, 57-75. 

 Preparatory Resources for week 7 – Reading Week – Assignment preparation  no required reading  

Preparatory Resources for week 8 – The Experience Economy  

  • Pine, B. J., & Gilmore, J. H. (1998). Welcome to the experience economy. Harvard business review, 76, 97-105. 

Preparatory Resources for week 9 The Multi-Sensory Aspects of Consumption 

  • Holbrook, M. and E. Hirschman (1982) “The Experiential Aspects of Consumption: Consumer Fantasies, Feeling and Fun”, Journal of Consumer Research, 9(September), 132-140 

 Preparatory Resources for week 10 - Consuming Atmospheres and Emotions  

  • Hill, T., Canniford, R., & Eckhardt, G. M. (2022). The Roar of the Crowd: How interaction ritual chains create social atmospheres. Journal of Marketing, 86(3), 121-139. 

 Preparatory Resources for week 11 - Consuming Experiences: Flow & Edgework 

  • Murphy, S., & Patterson, M. (2011). Motorcycling edgework: A practice theory perspective. Journal of Marketing Management, 27(13-14), 1322-1340. 

Module Prerequisite:

BUU22520 Principles of Marketing (SF Year)


  • Individual Assignment  

 Worth 60% of overall grade – see CW1 brief on blackboard.  

  • Group Project 

 Worth 40% of overall grade – see CW2 brief on blackboard. 

Late submission policy: Students unable to submit assessments at the submission date will only be excused on the basis of extenuating circumstances. Students must produce suitable documentation to Trinity Business School and to the lecturer within three working days of the missed submission date.