NYU Stern School of Business

Undergraduate College

MKTG-UB.0002.001 (C55.0002): CONSUMER BEHAVIOR

Spring 2013

Instructor Details

Meyvis, Tom


Mon/Wed, 2:00-4:00, and by appointment

Tisch 8-15


Course Meetings

MW, 11:00am to 12:15pm

KMC 4-120

Final Exam:

Schedule exceptions
    Class will not meet on:
    Class will meet on:


Course Description and Learning Goals

We are all consumers. We buy groceries, computers, and cars. We purchase services ranging from bank accounts to college educations. However, we also differ from each other. We buy different clothes, drive different cars, and eat at different restaurants. Even the same consumer can make different decisions depending on the situation. So how are we to construct coherent marketing strategies?

In this class we will try to learn why consumers behave the way that they do. We will explore our intuitions about our own behavior, learn about theories developed in marketing, psychology, and sociology, and use these theories to predict how consumers will respond to marketing actions.

The goals of this class are:


Course Outline

see the class schedule on the course website


Required Course Materials

Required Course Packet

(available through the NYU Bookstore)



1.      Boston Beer Company: Light Beer Decision (HBS 9-899-058)

2.      Claiborne Asks Web Surfers to Name New Line (HBS 9-500-055)

3.      L’Oreal of Paris: Bringing “Class to Mass” with Plenitude (HBS 9-598-056)

4.      Sony AIBO: The World's First Entertainment Robot (HBS 9-502-010)

5.      Starbucks: Delivering Customer Service (HBS 9-504-016)

6.      TiVo in 2002 (HBS 9-502-062)

7.      Nanda Home: Preparing for Life after Clocky (9-511-134)

8.      Gillette Fusion: Building a $1 Billion Brand (Kellogg 0841)

9.      Renova Toilet Paper: Avant-Garde Marketing in a Commoditized Category (INSEAD 07/2010-5685)



1.      Blakeslee, S., “If Your Brain Has a Buy Button, What Pushes It?” The New York Times, Oct 19, 2004

2.      North, A.C., D.J. Hargreaves, & J. McKendrick, “In-Store Music Affects Product Choice,” Nature, 390, Nov. 1997.

3.      Gourville, J and D. Soman, “Pricing and the Psychology of Consumption,” Harvard Business Review, 2002  (# 1814)

4.      Watts, D., “Is Justin Timberlake a Product of Cumulative Advantage?,” The New York Times Magazine, April 15, 2007.

5.       “The tyranny of Choice,” The Economist, December 16, 2010.

6.      Dolan, R. “Analyzing Consumer Perceptions,” Harvard Business School # 599-110.

7.      Simonson, I. “Get closer to your customers by understanding how they make choices,” California Management Review, Summer, 1993 (pp 68-84).

8.      Salganik, M.J., P.S. Dodds, & D.J. Watts, “Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial cultural market,” Science, 2006, Vol. 311, pp. 854-856.

9.       Hsee, C.K. & R. Hastie, “Decision and experience: Why don’t we choose what makes us happy?,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 10 (1), 2006, 31-37.

10.     Duhigg, C., “Warning: Habits may be good for you,” The New York Times, July 13, 2008.

11.     Gneezy, A., U. Gneezy, L.D. Nelson, & A. Brown, “Shared social responsibility: A field experiment in pay-what-you-want pricing and charitable giving,” Science, 2010, Vol. 329, pp. 325-327.

12.     Hoch, S.J. & Y. Ha, “Consumer learning: Advertising and the ambiguity of product experience,” The Journal of Consumer Research, 1986, Vol. 13 (2), 221-233.

13.     Gladwell, Malcolm (2006), “The Formula,” The New Yorker, October 10, 2006.

14.     Bertini, Marco and John T. Gourville (2012) “Pricing to Create Shared Value,” Harvard Business Review, June 1 2012 (# R1206F)

15.    Spenner, Patrick and  Karen Freeman (2012), “To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple,” Harvard Business Review, June 1 2012 (#R1205G)

16.    Dunn, Elizabeth W., Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson (2011), “If money doesn't make you happy, then you probably aren't spending it right,” Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21, 115–125.

17.    Andersen, Eric T. and Duncan Simester (2011), “A Step-by-Step Guide to Smart Business Experiments,” Harvard Business Review, March 2011 (#R1103H)



Other Articles & Exercises

Additional exercises, journal articles, and recent news from the popular business press will be provided throughout the semester.  The journal articles will provide you with a deeper insight into selected topics and methods of consumer behavior research.  The business news articles are used to illustrate the conceptual framework with current real-world marketing problems. The articles will be posted on the class website. 


Course Website


This website has many useful things on it, including continuously updated information on assignments, readings, course schedule, etc.  Please check regularly.


Class Notes

The PowerPoint slides for each class will be available for downloading from the website and will also be handed out at the start of class. Note, however, that these slides only present an outline of the class discussion. You will still need to take additional notes to fully capture the material discussed in class.


Additional Literature

A special section on the class website will list optional additional readings as well as useful links to resources for the team project.


Assessment Components

Your evaluation will be based on 2 exams, 8 case study preparations, a group project, and your class participation:


Midterm Exam:           25%

Final Exam:                 25%

Group Project:             20%

Case Preparations:    16%

Class Participation:     14%


Midterm Exam                        25%

The midterm exam will be based on the lectures, class discussions, assigned readings, and case assignments.  The exam will primarily consist of short essay questions. The midterm exam is optional. There will be no makeup exam. If you don’t take the midterm exam, the final exam will be cumulative and count for 50% of your course grade.


Final Exam                  25%

The final exam is not cumulative, unless you’ve not taken the midterm exam (in which case it is cumulative and counts for 50% of your course grade).  The exam will primarily consist of short essay questions. Students who do not attend the final exam and who do not have a prior agreement with me will receive a zero for the exam grade.


Group Project              20%

A significant part of your course grade will be determined by a team project. The objective of this team project is to examine consumers’ reaction to a new company initiative. You can find more information on the group project in the separate handout.


Case Preparations       16%

You will be asked to prepare 9 cases for class discussion. To make sure that you have read and thought about the cases in advance, I will ask everyone to upload a 1-2 page preparation sheet on Blackboard by 8 pm the day before we discuss the case in class. Your eight best case preps will each contribute 2.5% towards your final grade. For more information on the case preparations, please see the separate handout.


Class Participation      14%

I expect that you all realize the importance of attending the classes. Attending classes is not optional. Not only will it increase your understanding of the assigned readings, but we will also be addressing many issues that are not covered in the readings.  It will also give you the opportunity to actively participate in class discussions and obtain a better class participation grade. Your mere presence is not sufficient. What matters more is the quantity and, especially, the quality of your contributions to class discussions.



Grades will be assigned partly on a relative basis and partly on an absolute basis

Based on previous classes, students can roughly expect the following grade distribution: 

That being said, I would be delighted to give everyone an A if everyone's performance is excellect (and less delighted to give no A's if nobody meets that threshold).



The process of assigning grades is intended to be one of unbiased evaluation. Students are encouraged to respect the integrity and authority of the professor’s grading system and are discouraged from pursuing arbitrary challenges to it.

If you believe an inadvertent error has been made in the grading of an individual assignment or in assessing an overall course grade, a request to have the grade re-evaluated may be submitted. You must submit such requests in writing to me within 7 days of receiving the grade, including a brief written statement of why you believe that an error in grading has been made.


Professional Responsibilities For This Course


Stern Policies

General Behavior
The School expects that students will conduct themselves with respect and professionalism toward faculty, students, and others present in class and will follow the rules laid down by the instructor for classroom behavior.  Students who fail to do so may be asked to leave the classroom. 


Collaboration on Graded Assignments
Students may not work together on graded assignment unless the instructor gives express permission. 


Course Evaluations
Course evaluations are important to us and to students who come after you.  Please complete them thoughtfully.


Academic Integrity

Integrity is critical to the learning process and to all that we do here at NYU Stern. As members of our community, all students agree to abide by the NYU Stern Student Code of Conduct, which includes a commitment to:

The entire Stern Student Code of Conduct applies to all students enrolled in Stern courses and can be found here:

Undergraduate College: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/uc/codeofconduct
Graduate Programs: http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/studentactivities/involved.cfm?doc_id=102505

To help ensure the integrity of our learning community, prose assignments you submit to Blackboard will be submitted to Turnitin.  Turnitin will compare your submission to a database of prior submissions to Turnitin, current and archived Web pages, periodicals, journals, and publications.  Additionally, your document will become part of the Turnitin database.


Recording of Classes

Your class may be recorded for educational purposes


Students with Disabilities

If you have a qualified disability and will require academic accommodation of any kind during this course, you must notify me at the beginning of the course and provide a letter from the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD, 998-4980, www.nyu.edu/csd) verifying your registration and outlining the accommodations they recommend.  If you will need to take an exam at the CSD, you must submit a completed Exam Accommodations Form to them at least one week prior to the scheduled exam time to be guaranteed accommodation.


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