Applying the principles of psychology in marketing and consumer research

Applying the principles of psychology in marketing and consumer research

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Arthur Zhou receives the Best Honours Project Award while under the supervision of Dr Joyce Kwan.
Photo: The Education University of Hong Kong

When Arthur Zhou completed his secondary studies in his hometown of Guangzhou, he wanted to attend university but wasn’t sure which discipline to choose. So, he sought his mother’s advice before opting to apply for the Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) in Psychology at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK). 

“I listened to my mom’s advice and picked the programme, while later on during my second year my father mentioned the relationship between psychology and marketing,” Zhou says. 

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As a result, in Years 3 and 4 of his degree, he resolved to learn more about marketing research, especially where it relates directly to consumer behaviour. In doing this, he found that the earlier courses in psychology helped him understand the world better, providing skills needed to analyse different situations and types of behaviour.

“This is a great advantage in the field of marketing research,” says Zhou, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in marketing at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

For the honours project for his EdUHK degree, he chose a psychometric topic linked to market research. This required the development of tests and scales to assess consumer preferences and attitudes. The design and complexity of the project ultimately earned him a special university award, honouring his efforts to measure consumers’ self-perception of status.

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The results of the project may not have been what Zhou expected, but the work involved was definitely a worthwhile learning experience. He was also grateful for the invaluable mentoring from his supervisor Dr Joyce Kwan, a renowned quantitative psychologist who offered practical guidance for the pilot studies. 

“When developing the questionnaires for consumers as part of the project, my background in psychology provided a strong foundation to work from,” Zhou says. “Consumer behaviour wasn’t taught in my psychology classes, but I could apply a great deal of what I had learned there to marketing theory because I had a better understanding of overall human behaviour.”

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While at EdUHK, Zhou also did an industrial attachment with a technology company, Leica Geosystems, where he was asked to design, prepare and implement customer surveys. Putting his skills to use in questionnaire design was a good learning experience, but it also highlighted the need to become more adept at analysing and interpreting the data collected. 

Looking ahead, Zhou plans to pursue a career in marketing and is well aware that there are now many job opportunities for psychology graduates, whether in schools, the healthcare sector, in human resources, or elsewhere in the corporate world. Given the choice, he would prefer to work with big data and believes his background in psychology would help in finding useful insights from consumer-based data.  

“Other students in my current master’s programme don’t see the logical connections that my previous training in psychology has given me,” Zhou says.  

Edited by John Cremer

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