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Compensatory Consumption and how it is diverting consumers’ mindfulness 

What is compensatory consumption? 

For centuries, human beings have been mindful of the products and services that they’ve been consuming. They are used to searching for and purchasing products based on their needs and wants. This process focuses on needs first, which later get converted into wants. Our mind consciously gives priority to our needs, but we often find it difficult to choose from the multiple options available for the same product/service in the market. Therefore, it’s not only our wants which makes a purchase decision difficult but also identifying the needs and choosing the right product is getting tougher. This germinates a perpetual cycle of irrational purchase behavior among the consumers which is exactly what the marketers desire.  

Marketers are dexterous in demonstrating effects that influence a consumer to replicate the purchases made by others. It is expected that promoters send correct signals to the market to protect consumers’ interests. Unfortunately, promoters believe in sticking to compliance rather than ethically sending market signals to consumers. Multiple selling and promoting platforms are further fueling this phenomenon. Turning an ordinary consumer into a compensatory consumer. 

Components of compensatory consumption 

According to Bernadett Koles, conspicuous consumption, impulse and compulsive buying/shopping, the tendency of self-gifting, and to certain extent addiction may be the components of compensatory consumption.  Let’s discuss these dark forms of consumption in detail –     

Conspicuous consumption It includes consumption of luxurious and costly products to reflect one’s wealth and self-worth. People buying costly paintings, artifacts, gems and jewelry, luxury cars, etc., more than once is considered conspicuous consumption. People making such purchases usually belong to high society.  

Impulse buying: It is a sudden and irresistible urge to purchase a product. It is unplanned in nature and does not cause much harm to the customers. Although the dominating cause behind impulse buying could be strong human emotions, many other factors such as the external environment or instore ambiance, effects of advertising on consumers and self-esteem can be the cause behind impulse buying. According to the buyers’ purchasing strategies, sellers believe that billboards and customized online advertisements based on consumer search history are effective means to induce impulse purchases  

Compulsive buying: When impulse purchases become repetitive, leading to the purchase of unwanted stuff, it takes a more serious form of consumption known as compulsive buying behavior. This behavior is dangerous as it emerges from stress, anxiety, and depression. Its consequences could lead to financial distress for an individual, leading to bankruptcy. People with compulsive buying may excessively use credit cards, borrow money heavily, and could be a defaulter in the payments of financial liabilities. 

Self-gifting: It is a tendency of an individual to purchase a product for self-use, it is considered a reward that one wants to give himself or herself. As it is a self-indulgent behavior the person suffering from it may repeat it and this becomes a cycle.  

Addiction: It is the most severe form of dark consumption. This includes the intake of substances harmful to the health, like drugs or excessive use of alcohol and tobacco. Gambling, hoarding, and excessive compulsive disorders like binge eating and purchasing could be other forms of addiction. 

How to avoid dark purchasing behavior? 

The role of the seller’s approach, advertising policy, and customized promotions on social media platforms enhance the chances of the customer adopting dark buying behavior, which is the greatest hurdle of mindful consumption. Consumers must be aware of their choices and consumption pattern to avoid excessive purchases. An act of purchase that leads to long-term sustainable satisfaction brings happiness and reduces post-purchase dissonance. Making correct purchase decisions is an art to be practiced quite frequently. Knowing one’s social stratum is the first step to consuming consciously. This reduces post-purchase anxiety as one displays purchase achievements to the group members of the segment to which they belong. 

Product usage value should be more than its brand value. The advice of an opinion leader, coming from a well-known reference group, is more reliable than the advice of a celebrity. Divert your overconsumption habits into sustainable consumption. Identifying need-based items and purchasing them more will not lead to deleterious results compared to the items purchased under emotional conundrum.  


According to Keynes, consumption leads to economic development of society, which makes it an important part of the economy. There is no harm in increasing consumption using societal and ethical marketing practices through optimized marketing efforts. It is different from under-marketing, where the needs and wants of the consumers are ignored or overmarketing, that aims to increase consumption at the cost of societal well-being. 

If you’re someone who’s looking to pursue a career in marketing, you can learn more such interesting marketing concepts by enrolling for an online MBA with marketing elective through Online Manipal. The state-of-the-art LMS, meticulously designed curriculum, expert faculty, and domain and career-specific webinars that are available to you during the program will enrich your knowledge and skills to thrive in this highly competitive business world. 


Information related to companies and external organizations is based on secondary research or the opinion of individual authors and must not be interpreted as the official information shared by the concerned organization.

Additionally, information like fee, eligibility, scholarships, finance options etc. on offerings and programs listed on Online Manipal may change as per the discretion of respective universities so please refer to the respective program page for latest information. Any information provided in blogs is not binding and cannot be taken as final.

  • TAGS
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Online MBA

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