This paper presents a conceptualization of goal-directed consumer behavior in terms of a hierarchical structure of increasingly more abstract goals which are connected to one another through means-end relationships. The goal structure incorporates both the relatively concrete level of specific action plans, which is concerned with the how of behavior, and the more abstract level of values and motives, which provide the ultimate reasons for pursuing a course of action and thus constitute the why of behavior. We also discuss how goal structures can be assessed empirically, and we illustrate the procedure through an exploratory study of the higher-level goals underlying consumers' weight loss behaviors. To demonstrate the value of taking a structural perspective on goals, we provide evidence that knowledge of the means-end connections between goals yields important information about consumers' involvement with weight loss, and that this information cannot be gained from a knowledge of the goals alone.
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