The concept of consumer behavior and its importance
Consumer buying behavior is the study of processes that are involved when individuals or groups of people select, purchase and dispose of services, ideas or experiences to satisfy needs and desires (Avery,2011 p.4). A consumer in this case is any individual who purchases a good or a service from a provider. The process of a consumer making the decision to choose one brand over another is well influenced by a number of factors among them being the marketing mix.
Marketing mix is term that is used to represent the various strategies used by the marketers to make their product appealing to the consumer. It is often described as the four P’s which stand for product (or service), place, price and promotion (Arden, 2010 p.46). The first element in the four P’s marketing tool, product, represents what the consumer wants. It is simply the needs of the consumer. The second element is place. This refers to the most strategic location of the product so that it is accessible to the target consumer as much as possible. Examples of locations could be at a supermarket, online markets etc.The price of the product is also of paramount importance when market mix is concerned. It is very important to ensure that the cost of the product is affordable to the target market.These factors act as stimuli from marketing mix elements and influence the consumer buying behavior greatly. They are used to trigger the consumer buying process and an example of this is how various pricing promotions are often placed on products to ensure that the consumers are attracted to the product on affordability basis. Lastly, there are promotions. These involve passing across messages about the suitability of the product through various media among them television and radio adverts, billboards, brochures and pamphlets, the internet, etc depending on the nature of the consumer. It pays serious considerations on the best time and place to reach out to most of its target market.
Various attitudes and factors draw the consumer’s preference for a certain product. The Engel, Kollat and Blackwell models propose that the brands and products that are bought by consumers are usually a result of the decision making process. It is composed of five sequential decision-making process stages: problem recognition, information search, alternative evaluation, action and purchase decision and post purchase evaluation. (Arden, 2010 p.48). This discourse looks at how the marketing mix elements work together to influence consumer buying behavior with focus on the Heineken Brand as based by the Psychological factors, sociological factors, decision making theory as the chosen structure.
Information processing refers to our brain identifies, analyzes and relays information from its raw form to make it into something meaningful that can be used for decision-making. Information processing can be attributed to thinking, which can refer to processing of any type of ideas or arrangements that have a direct correlation to an individual’s cognitive sub consciousness (Arden, 2010 p.32). Information processing forms the core fiber of our ability to comprehend, analyze and evaluate information as it is perceived by our senses. There are numerous ongoing studies that are aimed at establishing a concrete link between information processing as a result of mental imagery and perception, but just to get an idea of what we are talking about, it is important to know what we mean by imagery and perception. Mental imagery entails visualizing of images or events in one’s brain (Arden, 2010 p.34). Perception entails visualizing images and events based on external stimulus such as witnessed events or occurrences. Studies actually reveal that some cortical areas of the brain are involved in both imagery and perception (Belk, 2010 p.45). What is evident, though, is the fact that both imagery and perception play a significant role in memory and motivation. Different people perceive things differently and that is probably why their actions differ (Glynn, 2003 p.29).
Linking this to consumer behavior, attention is very critical in capturing the focal sense of an individual and directing their decision making process to purchase the product. According to the Cognitive processing model of consumer decision making, attention of consumers is mostly governed by the left-brain.According to Arden (2010), the left-brain’s function is to support recognition ability and attention focus. The Cognitive processing model of consumer decision making stipulates that the left brain is the region which is involved with capturing attention of the consumer (Blythe, 2008 p.14). This is usually mostly associated with visual recognition which most brands and companies have discovered is one of the most effective ways of capturing consumer attention.
Heineken have taken the role of visual recognition in capturing consumer attention very seriously as this is seen in a photo that depicts how the name of the brand adds to the product value and assists in capturing the attention of the consumer. Figure 1 shows how Heineken try to capture the consumer’s attention so they can validate how the product is good because it is of this brand. The cognitive processing model of consumer decision making associate’s the use of this form of visual recognition with the left-side of the brain(Johnson, 2010 p.15). The advertisement in Figure 1 has visual elements which are likely to stimulate attention by appealing to the region of the left side of the brain. By assisting in capturing of the consumers attention, its abilities extend to dialectical, expressive, digital, and logical analysis (APR, 1974). The left hemisphere is specialized in sequential analysis and processing. It analyses all information, including visual information (Arden, 2010 p.23). The left-side of the brain enables the advertisement to capture the attention of consumers. It is usually associated with pre-cognitive learning and the importance of capturing the consumer’s attention helps in the decision making products regarding a product (Glezerman&Balkoski, 1999 p.43). In the past, scientists believed that the frontal brain was responsible for the analysis of information before deciding to purchase a product but they found that most people who hesitate before purchasing a product problems had minor cases of left brain complications(Glynn, 2003 p.20). This has led to the cultural view that the left-brain is more important than the right brain.
Source Google Image: 2013
Consumer attention is very key in decision making. There have been studies in the in the field of consumer behavior and its influence in decision making which show the impact of this in product purchase. However, most advertisement strategies make some bad decisions in trying to capture the consumer’s attention. These decisions are influenced by stereotypes, optimism and extrapolation (Markin, 1969 p.33). These are the main common mistakes that advertisement teams engage in although they have full knowledge. Stereotyping to capture the consumer’s attention is explained from prejudices in advertisements as people like to engage in such opinionated activities (MA, 1964 p.37). These marketing strategies seek to capture the consumer’s attention and is present in many advertisements especially those which stereotype men and the ability of sex oriented innuendo to capture their attention. Figure 2 is a screenshot of such an advertisement.
Source: Google Images 2013
Blackwell in his foundation of the Blackwell’s Consumer Decision Process (CDP) Model asserts that perception is vital in the consumer decision making process.Perceptions plays a fundamental role in determining whether a consumer is going to purchase a certain product or not. The image portrayed by an advertisement or marketing strategy is fundamental in forming people’s perception because imagery and perception are linked.It is quite agreeable that mental imagery has a significant effect on perception and vice versa (Hoyer, 2008 p.16).In layperson terms, mental imagery can be referred to as imagination. In most cases, our Imagination does affect our general perception things in life (MA, 2001). For instance, the biblical hell capitalizes so much on imagination. No one has actually been to hell and back to explain how it really looks like. However, the brains ability to formulate images enables one to visualize how the place looks like and thus coming up with various descriptions, ultimately affecting how people perceive it. It is also correct to conclude that our imaginations do affect how we anticipate or perceive future events (Foxall, 2004 p.35). If a person happened to be bitten by a snake or witnessed the action on another person, they are most likely to see every slithering or crawling creature as a snake and take caution. The perception of future events seems to be reliant on the images we generate in our brains, to some extent. In the Heineken advertisement shown in Figure 3, the advertisement relies on selling the product by hoping consumers will perceive the association of Heineken with relaxation. The image of the bottle in a relaxed stature seeks to enable the consumer to perceive Heineken as a very good relaxation drink.
Source: Google Images 2013
Motivation is simply the driving force or that influence that leads one to perform an action, whether desirable or not, regardless of the positivity or negativity of the outcome(Haugtvedt, 2005 p.25).Marslow suggests that motivation is one of the key sociological and psychological drivers of consumer behavior and plays a key role in consumer decision making process. In fact, studies reveal that behaviorism and motivation are closely related in the sense that most individuals develop different consumer behaviors due to various forms of motivation(Haugtvedt, 2005 p.25). The theory of emotion and avoidance and approach motivation are some of the branches of the broad field of motivation that are brought forth by Maslow in his theory of Hierarchy of Needs using Means-End-Chain analysis. Maslow suggests that these two concepts of motivation help consumer s determine their exact needs.
Marslow suggests that approach and voidance are independent aspects of motivation are strong psychological drivers for consumer decision making, though research has suggests that the two can combine to achieve a common goal (Haugtvedt, 2005 p.37). In approach motivation, an individual does an action, such as buying a product, with the prospect that the result will be positive and instill happiness, joy or pleasure. The knowledge of the probable outcome motivates one to go ahead with the purchase. Avoidance motivation is what makes one to perform (or not perform) an action because with the prospect of the result being negative. If the outcome of making a purchase on a product is not pleasant or positive, avoidance motivation prevents one from going ahead with it (Johnson, 2010).
Pricing acts as one of the key motivators that may influence either action or avoidance motivation with regard to consumer behavior (SESP, 1965). This is why companies use adverts that point out the various differences between their products and the competition so that they can motivate consumers to purchase their product. An example is an example by Heineken shown in Figure 3 which was targeted at motivating consumers by the cheap price of the beer for only £. 29.99.
Source: Google Images 2013
Learning and Memory
Nair (2010) argues that learning and memory influence consumer repetitiveness, also known as consumer behaviorism. Consumer behavior influenced by recollection from memory or something that consumers have learnt revolves around the idea that development of certain behaviors in human being is reliant on conditioning. Conditioning can be either classical or operant. Classical conditioning in consumers involves putting a subject in an environment with stimulating factors and observing how the stimulus affects or contributes to his or her behavior. Operant conditioning in consumers involves exposing the subject to a consequential environment.Both of these types of conditioning are used as techniques in enabling consumers retrieve and store information relating to a specific product(Sharma, 2006 p.24). They also help cultivate learning and are key elements that build memory and recollection of a certain product in a consumer. Learning and memory can be developed or modified depending on a subject’s experiences in a consequential environment.
Another technique used to enhance consumer learning and memory retention is performance objectives. These are also referred to as behavioral or instructional objectives which can help consumers recollect an idea or concept passed through the advertisement or marketing strategy. Performance objectives enables consumers to translate instructional goals into effective objectives. Sometimes goal statements may appear as objective statements. In such a case, the objectives are referred to as terminal(Bagozzi&Priester, 2002 p.30). When outlining instructional goals that will assist the consumer retain and recollect information learnt, a subordinate skill analysis is conducted to determine what the consumer needs to comprehend before implementation of any step in the goal. Subordinate skills are building blocks cum sub-skills that enable a learner to comprehend and implement a higher and more complex skill.
Majer (1997) proposed that a performance objective with regard to consumer behavior comprises of three principal components; a performance, criterion, and condition. Performance objective focuses on the consumer’s actions in demonstrating objective understanding. They can be both visible and invisible. The verb used can be used to differentiate visible and invisible actions. These actions can be broadly categorized into psychomotor, cognitive and affective(Bagozzi&Priester, 2002 p.32).
Condition outlines the background in which the performance is expected to take place. The component is closely related to the performance context, which describes the environment and facilities available for the consumer to accomplish a certain objective (Bagozzi&Priester, 2002 p.35). If a consumer is expected to purchase a web program, a clearly outlined condition would include vital components such as an HTML program and specifications.
A criterion is a degree or standard used to evaluate a consumer’s performance. It also determines the level at which a consumer is expected to memorize or remember a certain product. A performance criterion is expected to be measurable(Bagozzi&Priester, 2002 p.35). Most criteria test the speed and accuracy of a consumer’s ability to remember or recollect certain concepts that they have learnt from the advertisement or marketing strategy.
Heineken uses a similar technique to help consumers encode, store and retrieve the informationabout their product. As seen if Figure 4, they use the concept of drunk driving to help and remind the consumer subconsciously about the dangers that may result from drunk driving while at the same time marketing their product. Memory is a powerful tool which can help determine whether a marketing strategy will be successful or not (Ad, 1972). With this in mind, the advertisement as shown in Figure 4 seeks to help consumers learn about a critical concern and issue in society and at the same time cognitively associate this leant information with the brand.
In conclusion, various factors have been brought forward with regard to how they influence consumer behavior. Blackwell proposes how motivation is one of these factors which can be used to influence consumers to make a purchase (Wanke, 2009 p.17). Perception is put forward as another factor which is influential as a psychological driver for consumer behavior. In most cases, after a consumer makes a choice, there is a high likelihood that he or she buys a product immediately. This is because once one has decide to buy an item, they have usually gone through the cognitive process of identifying how it will be beneficial to them and most consumers only await to pay and finish the transaction. In some cases however, a consumer can hesitate to make the purchase after making a choice on it.This usually means that they are second guessing either its quality, price or necessity.The factors suggested above can be used to help influence their behavior and convince them to make the purchase. This is usually a good cue for the marketer to step in and give them the extra push needed to convince them to make the purchase. The market should hint at the great importance or advantage of the product over similar products elsewhere. It is also good to mention the value of quality versus price and ensure both are reflected evenly so that the consumer sees that the product is indeed worth it and makes the purchase.
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