Motivational research attempts to discover why people act the way they do and what factors motivate them to adopt particular attitudes or behaviour in a given set of circumstances. The results of motivation research can give vital clues as to the most effective way in which to promote the product.

Modern cigarette commercials are a good example of motivational research at work. Psychological field tests are used to discover what personal qualities consumers think it is attractive to possess and advertisements are then designed that suggest that by smoking X brand of cigarettes those very qualifies, e.g. courage, strength, sex appeal, etc., will be instilled in the smoker.

Most industrial market research is based on the assumption that the respondent is a rational individual whose eventual buying decisions are swayed by strictly commercial considerations, e.g. price, delivery, service, technical specifications or product features.

There is, however, growing recognition that industrial buyers, like consumers, may be swayed by personal or irrational motivations when deciding on a particular brand of product or whether to buy from certain suppliers. Thus, it is important to employ research methods which will give an accurate picture of respondents’ true motivations.

Motivational research is of considerable value because it offers a complete picture of potential customers’ attitudes and behavioural patterns. It should be remembered, however, that the results are highly subjective and open to more than one interpretation. It is also expensive because it is time-consuming and can only be conducted by personnel trained in clinical psychology.