MKTG 4020 Consumer behavior Syllabus (Updated 8/14/2023) Dr. Spencer M. Ross

Basic Course information

Course Information
  • Course Meeting: Tuesdays/Thursdays 11:00-12:15 (PTB 150)
  • Office Location, PTB 232 (If on campus)
  • Office Hours: Tuesdays/Thursdays 9:30-11:00, on Slack DM, or make an appointment on Calendly
Ways to reach me:
  • Slack DM (preferred): @srossmktg
  • Email: spencer_ross@uml.edu
  • Phone: x45305 or Google Voice: 413-274-4227
Table of Contents (click to jump)

What’s this course about?

What do products and services mean to consumers? How do consumers decide what to buy? What are the effects of the internal (self) and external (society) environments on purchases? This course examines these and other fundamental marketing concerns by blending contemporary theory and research with application to the marketplace. In particular, this course overlays how technology pervades buying behaviors and how consumption can be societally transformative.

What should you be able to know after successfully completing this course?

How do I teach?

“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think” – Socrates
“Content is continuously changing. Thinking stays with you forever.” – Dr. Don Schultz

Consumer behavior is one of the most interesting and important aspects of marketing. Virtually every marketing mix decision relies on understanding behaviors of the people who comprise a target market. Knowledge of theories of and concepts in consumer behavior helps marketers to design new products that are more likely to succeed, communicate more effectively with consumers, and better anticipate consumer reactions. This course will get you thinking in three broad sections:

  1. The role of consumer behavior in the marketplace and the consumer decision journey: Includes consumer decision journeys, decision heuristics, and B2B/B2C decision-making.
  2. Internal psychological influences on the consumer: Includes consumer perception, learning and memory, motivation, personality and values, and attitudes.
  3. External influences on the consumer: Includes consumer identity, cultures of consumption, situational variables, and sociocultural and socioeconomic differences.

The influencing roles of technology and social responsibility will be recurrent themes during the course. By the end of the course, you’ll be able to understand and apply consumer behavior principles when making marketing decisions. Think of me as a content curator trying to make you think.

What materials will you need to be successful in the course?


Fostering Sustainable Behavior (3e), McKenzie-Mohr, New Society Publishers, $16.20 (PDF/EPUB), or $12.36 (Kindle) or $14.59 (Amazon Paperback)

Introduction to Consumer Behaviour (1e), Niosi, BCcampus, FREE Open Education Resource. If you'd like it in PDF or ePUB or other formats, it's in the link. There are also tips here on how to access and use the web-book. Otherwise, I'll provide links to the chapters on the course calendar and you'll want to ensure you read the chapter.


Slack is a business communications tool we’ll be using instead of email/Blackboard. The reason I prefer Slack (vs. email/Blackboard) is because it’s available for web/iOS/Android, and has a whole host of contemporary app features. As a collaboration tool, it puts everyone in the course on a level playing field to share media, ask, and discuss. And, it also has the benefit of making virtual collaboration on your team work much easier. People at universities have just started using it, but thousands of businesses and other startups have used it for years now. During COVID-19, it has allowed me to respond to students much quicker, and allowed students to collaborate among themselves much easier while everyone worked remotely. Nearly all course materials and engagement will be posted through the course Slack channel.

I'll send a registration link to your UML address. Check your spam folder in case you haven't received it.

If you need to register manually, please do so with your @student.uml.edu address at https://srossmktg.slack.com/signup/ (team name: srossmktg). Join the course’s channel by clicking/tapping the + ("plus") by the CHANNELS,” searching “#23fa-cb”, and clicking “Join Channel.” (you’ll also be automatically added to the default #general-announcements and #newslinks channels). Downloading the app to your phone and turning the notifications on is recommended for easy and quick communication and collaboration.

All my course communications (i.e., Zoom links, cancellations, announcements, discussion) and supplemental course materials (i.e., links, other readings, slides) will be posted through Slack – NO EMAILS.

Blackboard (assignments/grades only)

I only use Blackboard for individual assignments (such as the CX promo project) and gradebook purposes.

Supplemental Readings

A zip file containing a series of PDFs will be posted and pinned in the course Slack channel. The PDFs are assigned readings, most of which will be discussed in class. Other articles/links may be posted on Slack throughout the semester.

Additional Readings

As business students, you should naturally be visiting business related news sites (e.g., WSJ, FT, Bloomberg, Mashable, Business Insider) and coming to each class ready to share articles and events relating to marketing topics. Part of your course engagement grade will heavily depend on being able to present, discuss, and debate these current marketing topics.

How Will you be evaluated?

An Appendix of Assignments posted and pinned to the course Slack channel contains more detailed instructions for the Customer Experience (CX) Promo Project (Appendix A), Shoebox Collage Project (Appendix B), TCR Team Public Service Announcement (Appendix C), and TCR Team Minipapers (Appendix D).

I WILL NOT ROUND FINAL GRADES. (Unless I’ve erred in calculation, do not ask for your 89.99999 to be an A-.) All assigned work will be graded based on guidelines provided. Late work will not be graded and instead, will be given an automatic “zero” (0) grade.

What's Being Evaluated?

Individual Work (50%)

Consumer Experience (CX) Promotional Project (4 @ 5% = 20%):

You’ll be 1) critiquing one baseline ad for a brand, 2) creating a customer journey map of that brand, and then 3/4) developing two “print” (or other type of digital, non-video, if you will) touchpoints. Your initial critique will serve as baseline response to consumers' behaviors, your consumer journey map will employ some consumer research, while your touchpoint creations (usually "print" ads) will reflect ideas learned from the broad course units (psychological/cultural influences). Each part shall be accompanied by a brief (~200-300wd) writeup. You may wish to use Canva or Adobe Creative Cloud Express to create your touchpoints (see Appendix A for specific details). Works are preferred submitted via Blackboard. The point of the CX promo project is to assess your understanding and application of the course material to consumers’ behaviors, as presented through the book, readings, and classes, and allow some creativity in representing them.

Shoebox Collage Project (15%)

As consumers, our decision journeys are affected by both internal and external processes. You’ll be asked to make a shoebox collage with objects that represent the consumer psychological (inside of the box) and consumer cultural (outside of the box) processes that influence your decision journeys. This should contain, at a minimum, 20 different specific theories/concepts of consumer behavior, with a fully-referenced key (see Appendix B for specific details). The point of the shoebox collage project is to provide a point of creativity for you to relate the theories and concepts from the course directly to your own individuality as a consumer.

Course Engagement (12%)

Communication skills are extremely important in marketing (after all, it’s one of the things we do!), which is why I grade course engagement on active participation and contribution, not mere class attendance (you’ll note I don’t have a formal attendance policy). I also expect everyone to actively engage in class discussions, any class exercises, and make quality contributions/discussions on Slack. All of this counts as engagement. Therefore, course engagement is a function of: (in-class active participation + outside-class on Slack)*(volume)*(quality). Both inside and outside of classtime, I encourage us to work hard to create and maintain a supportive, respectful, and empathetic environment. While I’ll help guide you, the class should be a thought lab to express your critical and analytical thinking, while also considering the backgrounds of others in and out of the class.

While you must be present in classes to be able to participate in them, I guarantee attendance alone will not earn a full 12% engagement mark (for example, attendance but no participation may earn closer to 9% while no attendance but a lot of participation may earn closer to 7%—and obviously, participating on Zoom can be tricky). Your involvement and participation are vital to the success of yours and your peers’ learning experiences; consistency and quality matter. Slack has threaded messaging; rather than mandate Blackboard discussion posts, I encourage actual, real discussion in and out of classtime. The point of course engagement is to foster communication and collaboration skills with peers, as well as to actively engage the content, both inside and outside class lecture.

Manning BeHub (Behavioral Hub) Research Credits (3%)

You’re required to participate in at least 3.0 credits of Manning BeHub research studies (or, if you choose, see me for an alternative credit task) as part of your course grade. 3.0 credits is approximately 4-6 studies in a semester (1.0 credit = 1% of final course grade). Most studies take between 10-20 minutes per study. If you accumulate credits for my course in excess of the 3.0, up to an additional 2.0 credits may be awarded as extra course credit

Many studies will be online studies that can be done at home, though occasionally, in-person “lab” studies will be offered for credit or other incentives (the latter will be less likely because of COVID). You’ll find a description of the BeHub here https://www.uml.edu/MSB/behub. I'll send out announcements via Slack to the class as the BeHub periodically announces new study availability. You may also direct BeHub questions to me as one of its co-administrators. Study availability may be ongoing through the semester. However, studies are usually only open for limited periods of time before they expire and are then unavailable for participating credit. Please make sure you participate in studies before they are closed. The point of participating in research studies is that these studies will help your professors (including me) generate knowledge and insight about business, as well as give you firsthand experience of how business research is conducted

Team Work (50%)

TCR Team Minipapers (2 @ 15% = 30%)

Whereas “the Shoebox project” (above) gets you to analyze yourself as consumer through all of the behavioral theories/concepts (and is a lot more creative), and whereas the individual/team ads apply theories to consumer practice, these two related research papers will have you in teams analyzing a critical transformative consumer research topic from the inside, out and thinking how to leverage behavioral insights in social marketing.

You'll be working in teams of ~5, picking a Transformative Consumer Research topic, and exploring that topic's relationship to both consumer psychology and consumer culture. You’ll be doing some primary customer research/analysis as well as using your knowledge to propose solutions to marketers, policymakers, and consumers (see Appendix D for details).

There will be two minipapers (each ~1500-1750 words (~5-7pgs), excluding references): Minipaper 1 will focus on reviewing background literature related to your topic, and conducting primary research to identify barriers and benefits to well-being behaviors. Minipaper 2 will focus on leveraging consumer psych and consumer culture theory to develop a marketing/non-profit/consumer policy strategy for improving well being.

Groups may meet with me during any class workshops or outside class. As well, students often find Slack private groups or group DMs help with collaboration (and that’s ultimately what the purpose of Slack is in business). If there’s a problem within the group, you should inform me as soon as problems arise, not the week before deadlines. The point of the minipapers is to showcase written communications skills, to work on interpersonal skills in a teamwork collaboration, and to demonstrate research, critical, and analytical thinking skills in a cumulative fashion.

TCR Team Public Service Announcement (15%)

Instead of doing a standard presentation of a paper to the class, your team will create a 2-5 minute video public service announcement (PSA), pertaining to the Transformative Consumer Research issue from your minipapers, which will be critiqued in class at the end of the semester. Critical to the success of your PSA will be your ability to communicate and demonstrate your team's understanding of how behavioral insights and theory relate to the issue. It may either serve as a public service announcement or advertise a consumer-oriented solution (product or service) that is based on behavioral theory (see Appendix C for details). Tools you could use include OBS Studio, Canva’s Video Maker, or Adobe Spark Video Editor. The point of this presentation brief is to demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate scholarly insights on consumer behavior, analyze their links to marketing strategy and application, to showcase oral communications skills in a visual presentation.

Online Peer Evaluation (5%)

A link to a rigorous online peer evaluation form will be distributed in the last week of class. Failure to submit the evaluation by the assigned date will be an automatic “0” (zero) for your own evaluation score, as I use your peers’ scores to calculate your own evaluation grade. If you can't be bothered to give your peers their scores, I won't be bothered to calculate your score.

The major course policies

Academic Honesty, Cheating, and Plagiarism

Even in business, ALL work that’s paraphrased or taken verbatim from an outside source must be attributed to that source. Not doing so can lead to career (and sometimes, legal) troubles (e.g., former German Education Minister Annette Schavan’s case, journalists Jonah Lehrer, Jayson Blair, and Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism allegations, and even Call of Duty skins.

Here’s the general rule: If it’s a direct quote and/or a reasonable person would not be expected to know the fact/argument/evidence, you must provide credit to the source. You may still use the information, but it needs to be credited.

I take academic dishonesty personally. Any instance of academic dishonesty will receive an “F” for the course and be reported to the Office of the Provost for further disciplinary action. Academic dishonesty comes in many forms including, but not limited to, copying another student’s exam or homework assignments, plagiarism, and using Internet material without proper referencing. If you’re still unsure how to appropriately credit/cite a source, please use the phenomenal Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) as a resource or ASK me.

All non-group assignments and testing are to be the work only of that individual without help or guidance from any other person, unless instructed otherwise. If you’re not clear as to what constitutes academic dishonesty, please clarify with me or read more about the university’s Academic Integrity Policy.


This course works best when everyone’s around and we’re all engaged with the material. However, sometimes people get sick, emergencies occur, you’re having a terrible day, there’s a university event, or you’re having to take care of a family member (I have two school-aged kids whose school schedule can be unpredictable) etc... no questions asked. I always welcome the courtesy of a heads-up, but I don’t take formal attendance. Your presence does affect your overall course engagement grade, so if you need to miss a lecture or two (or three), engaging on Slack in your absence is an option (especially since lectures will be posted to Slack for you to engage with).

I learn all my students’ names and take note of who’s absent. In the case where I note repeated, excessive absences, I reserve the right to adjust the engagement grade beyond what is outlined in the course requirements. If you cannot attend class for an extended period, or if you experience life-altering circumstances and cannot attend class, you may wish to seek advice from the Advising Center about withdrawing from the course.


Assignments are due at the beginning of class on their due date. I don’t accept assignments by e-mail unless specified. Failure to meet due dates result in an automatic zero for the assignment. If, for valid reasons, dates cannot be met, please let me know in advance (not after the fact!).

Zoom Etiquette

If you're attending any livestream via Zoom, etc, I'm strongly requesting (but not requiring) the courtesy of turning your webcam on so I can see you. I am totally okay with you showing up in pajamas from home. I am totally okay with an appropriate, mutually respectful virtual background camouflaging your room/house, etc (I usually do the same for lectures). The same respect afforded in the classroom should also be afforded out of the classroom.

Since I don't have an attendance policy anyway, the class feels a lot less "close" when I'm talking to black squares on the screen (if you need additional technology to support bandwidth for video, please let me know and I'll see what options the Dean's office has available). I greatly appreciate when I can see you all.

As far as audio goes, please mute your mic if you're not speaking (feel free to interrupt, but I don't want 25-35 mics on at the same time). If you don't want to verbally interrupt, use the reactions on Zoom (or a note on Slack) and I'll call on you that way once I see it (which could be delayed).

All Zoom lectures will be recorded for asynchronous viewing. If you do not wish to be recorded, you may view the lecture at a later time.

In-Class Tech Etiquette


We all use our devices. But critical and analytical thinking take a hit once screens are out. Some colleagues of mine published research in 2017, finding that the mere presence of your smartphone on a table cuts down cognitive resources and attention (for even more, I recommend "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" by Nicholas Carr, Jul/Aug 2008, The Atlantic). Research also finds evidence college students taking notes by hand outperform and remember more material than students taking notes on laptop. And then there’s the distraction it causes to the rest of the class that’s paying attention to whatever’s on your screen. If I find devices are being used for other purposes such as WhatsApping, Tweeting, checking scores, TikTokking, Among Ussing, Snapchatting, etc., I reserve the right to switch to a NO DEVICE policy (with exception).


I am looking to make this course accessible to all. To do so, I welcome individual conversations on how to improve personal accessibility and we can plan how best to make accommodations. Aside from that, if you determine you need formal, accessibility-related accommodations, you may register with Disability Services (located at University Crossing, Suite 300, 978.934.6800, disability@uml.edu) and have them notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations.

Mental Health

College life is not necessarily easy. As a student, you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning. These might include strained relationships, anxiety, high levels of stress, alcohol/drug problems, family issues, feeling down, or loss of motivation. Certainly, COVID and its personal effects has added to the complexity of mental health issues. The Wellness Center is here to help with these or other issues you may experience. Getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do–for yourself and for those who care about you. The Wellness Center is located on the third floor of University Crossing. Urgent Crisis Line 24/7 is 978-934-6800 (choose option #1 outside business hours).

While I am a professor, I don't believe human-to-human empathy should be a radical concept and welcome an open line of communication to how things are going. I’m not a mental health professional, but I'll also be candid about my own experiences as encouragement.

Additional Course tidbits

  1. Slack DM is the best way to reach me for personal issues. The course Slack channel is best for issues that may be class-relevant. If a reply is appropriate, I will try to respond within 48 hours.
  2. I’m more than willing to answer questions, however out of respect for my family, I may not respond past 9pm.
  3. Check Slack frequently (or just turn on Slack notifications on your phone) for communications/materials. Though business users tend to be on Slack all day, I try to use it in moderation.
  4. If you find you’re falling behind the class at any time, please please PLEASE speak with me. I understand complex, personal situations arise in our lives and will work to help achieve learning outcomes. But, if I'm unaware of difficulties, or if I don’t hear that you're struggling with the course, I assume you understand the material and assignments and will evaluate you accordingly based on the work I receive. It’s better for all of us to preempt a potential problem by communicating with me earlier, rather be left panicking after the fact.
  5. Due to student privacy issues, I will not discuss any topic that pertains to a student (enrolled or non-enrolled) with parents, spouses, children partners, legal guardians, or employers. I will not accept grade disputes from parents, legal guardians, spouses, children, partners, etc., or third-parties. Please do not have any of the aforementioned people contact me to discuss student issues. You are responsible for you.
  6. Although technology has become an integral part of our lives, with it comes complications. Barring an entire system outage, last minute computer malfunctions, printer problems, and email mishaps are no excuses for late material. Please be prepared and protect yourself by managing your time and constantly backing up your work in multiple places (such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.).
  7. Additionally, the university has 1TB of cloud storage through Microsoft OneDrive. Make sure autosave is turned on (Protip 1: default the autosave directory to your cloud storage, as they usually allow you to recover deleted files, too. Protip 2: write in a word processor or use a form recovery extension like Typio (Chrome and the latest version of Microsoft Edge) or Lazarus (Firefox), in case you accidentally close your browser while working). Should you have a problem, please notify me immediately and without hesitation.