Marketing attempts to influence the way consumers behave. These attempts have implications for the organizations making them, the consumers they are trying to influence, and the society in which these attempts occur. We are all consumers, and we are all members of society, so consumer behavior, and attempts to influence it, is critical to all of us. This text is designed to provide an understanding of consumer behavior. This understanding can make us better consumers, better marketers, and better citizens.
MARKETING CAREERS AND CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
A primary purpose of this text is to provide the student with a usable, managerial understanding of consumer behavior. Most students in consumer behavior courses aspire to careers in marketing management, sales, or advertising. They hope to acquire knowledge and skills that will be useful to them in these careers. Unfortunately, some may be seeking the type of knowledge gained in introductory accounting classes; that is, a set of relatively invariant rules that can be applied across a variety of situations to achieve a fixed solution that is known to be correct. For these students, the uncertainty and lack of closure involved in dealing with living, breathing, changing, stubborn consumers can be very frustrating. However, if they can accept dealing with endless uncertainty, utilizing an understanding of consumer behavior in developing marketing strategy will become tremendously exciting.
It is our view that the utilization of knowledge of consumer behavior in the development of marketing strategy is an art. This is not to suggest that scientific principles and procedures are not applicable; rather, it means that the successful application of these principles to particular situations requires human judgment that we are not able to reduce to a fixed set of rules.
Let us consider the analogy with art in some detail. Suppose you want to become an expert artist. You would study known principles of the visual effects of blending various colors, of perspective, and so forth. Then you would practice applying these principles until you developed the ability to produce acceptable paintings. If you had certain natural talents, the right teacher, and the right topic, you might even produce a masterpiece. The same approach should be taken by one wishing to become a marketing manager, a salesperson, or an advertising director. The various factors or principles that influence consumer behavior should be thoroughly studied. Then, one should practice applying these principles until acceptable marketing strategies result. However, while knowledge and practice can in general produce acceptable strategies, great marketing strategies, like masterpieces, require special talents, effort, timing, and some degree of luck (what if Mona Lisa had not wanted her portrait painted?).
The art analogy is useful for another reason. All of us, professors and students alike, tend to ask, “How can I use the concept of, say, social class to develop a successful marketing strategy?” This makes as much sense as an artist asking, “How can I use blue to create a great picture?” Obviously, blue alone will seldom be sufficient for a great work of art. Instead, to be successful, the artist must understand when and how to use blue in conjunction with other elements in the picture. Likewise, the marketing manager must understand when and how to use a knowledge of social class in conjunction with a knowledge of other factors in designing a successful marketing strategy.
This book is based on the belief that knowledge of the factors that influence consumer behavior can, with practice, be used to develop sound marketing strategy. With this in mind, we have attempted to do three things. First, we present a reasonably comprehensive description of the various behavioral concepts and theories that have been found useful for understanding consumer behavior. This is generally done at the beginning of each chapter or at the beginning of major subsections in each chapter. We believe that a person must have a thorough understanding of a concept in order to successfully apply that concept across different situations.
Second, we present examples of how these concepts have been utilized in the development of marketing strategy. We have tried to make clear that these examples are not “how you use this concept.” Rather, they are presented as “how one organization facing a particular marketing situation used this concept.”
Third, at the end of each chapter and each major section, we present a number of questions, activities, or cases that require the student to apply the concepts.
CONSUMING AND CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
The authors of this book are consumers, as is everyone reading this text. Most of us spend more time buying and consuming than we do working or sleeping. We consume products such as cars and fuel, services such as haircuts and home repairs, and entertainment such as television and concerts. Given the time and energy we devote to consuming, we should strive to be good at it. A knowledge of consumer behavior can be used to enhance our ability to consume wisely.
Marketers spend billions of dollars attempting to influence what, when, and how we consume. Marketers not only spend billions attempting to influence our behavior but also spend hundreds of millions of dollars studying our behavior. With a knowledge of consumer behavior and an understanding of how marketers use this knowledge, we can study marketers. A television commercial can be an annoying interruption of a favorite program. However, it also can be a fascinating opportunity to speculate on the commercial’s objective, its target audience, and the underlying behavior assumptions. Indeed, given the ubiquitous nature of commercials, an understanding of how they are attempting to influence us or others is essential to understand our environment.
Throughout the text, we present examples that illustrate the objectives of specific marketing activities. By studying these examples and the principles on which they are based, one can develop the ability to discern the underlying logic of the marketing activities encountered daily.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
What are the costs and benefits of regulating the marketing of food to children? How much more needs to be done to protect the online privacy of children? Of adults? What are the appropriate type and size of warning label for cigarettes that should be mandated by the federal government? These issues are currently being debated by industry leaders and consumer advocacy groups. As educated citizens, we have a responsibility to take part in these sorts of debates and work toward positive solutions. However, developing sound positions on these issues requires an understanding of such factors as information processing as it relates to advertising—an important part of our understanding of consumer behavior.
The debates described above are just a few of the many that require an understanding of consumer behavior. We present a number of these topics throughout the text. The objective is to develop the ability to apply consumer behavior knowledge to social and regulatory issues as well as to business and personal issues.
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