Marketing executives have over the years attempted to understand the reasons behind consumers choosing certain products over the others. What is it about a certain product ticks over the other regardless of their similarity. It could ever be the “lesser” choice in terms of performance, yet, it is the preferred choice. For instance, consumer psychology suggests that a customer’s choice or product or service is based on external influence. It mostly boils down to advertising and branding and eventually perception. To aid in explaining this phenomenon an observation can be made of a coffee lover who is given two similar unlabeled brands of coffee to taste, He/she may be unlikely to distinguish the two when requested to taste. However, if he/she is shown a picture or a video of one of these brands with their favorite celebrity, even better, the celebrity drinking it. The consumer will develop an affinity for it. This directly speaks to the advertising principle of authority where we are more like to follow the lead of someone is a legitimate an expert or an authority.
This paper focuses on how different fields of psychology have enlightened advertising in businesses. Advertising is a form of communication that attempts to persuade current and/or potential consumers to purchase a product or service. Prior to advertising, it is important for a marketer to understand the attitude and behavior of the consumer First of all consumers are faced with a need, then they search for information to get alternatives, then they evaluate the alternatives, they decide to buy and eventually they re-evaluate their decision to buy the product or service. A number of questions an advertiser should ask themselves – Is the message relevant? Is it persuasive? How can the consumer’s attitude towards the product or service be changed? A number of theories discuss attitude change i.e. the Functional Theories of Attitude, Heuristic-Systematic Model, and the Cognitive Dissonance Theory. The functional theory states that people’s attitudes towards things are because of the rewards they achieve from them i.e. they exist to serve a purpose. Since attitude directly affects behavior, hence affects the decision to purchase, it is imperative to meet these desires. In his paper, A functional Approach to Attitude Research, Lutz (1978) states that “a person will tend to perceive and judge the focus of an attitude in terms of one of his personal values to the extent that (a) the value is important to him, occupying a central position in his value hierarchy; (b) the information available to him about the focus contains a basis for engaging the value; and (c) the scope of the value and of the person’s interest is broad enough to extend to the focus of the attitude.” Life is a journey, one’s needs change with time and social standing, who the buyer was last year is not who he/she is today hence there is need to keep up with these needs so that the marketers are able to enchant their consumers. How are attitudes acquired? i) Learning through conditioning – this is through repeated exposure to stimuli. Continued exposure to positive stimuli leads to development of a “feel good feel” towards that stimuli, while the reverse is true; ii) Learning through exposure to information – with information that is readily available through all forms of media one can develop either a positive attitude towards a service of product. For instance, a reading a positive review about a brand encourages a positive attitude hence, the consumer is likely to purchase; iii) Learning attitudes through group associations or cultural norms – this involves developing attitudes by observing those we trust, or those in positions of influence, or those in positions of power.
Prior to attempting to influence consumer attitudes and behavior. The best way to find out an attitude is to ask directly, but knowing that most people are concerned about their image and desirability, this may not be met by honest opinions. It with this background that several measures have been developed to measure attitudes. One way to is through the Direct measurement; this includes semantic differential technique and the Likert scale. The Liker scale (the most commonly used direct measurement method) measures the extent to which one agrees to a statement for instance on a scale of 1 – 5 How much does one agree to a statement for instance; (I believe in green buildings) the options on the Likert scale are – Strongly agree / agree / don’t know / disagree / strongly disagree. This case, attitude is assumed to be measurable. After all the questions have been answered, the data is analyzed and presented in a form which shall inform the advertising decisions. Attitude changes occurs when affect, cognition and behavior change. To influence affect, one can expose the consumer to to capture their attention; another is by creating a good feeling in the advertisement or communication. If they like the advert then they are highly likely to purchase the product; associating good music, good food, entertainment and other rewards around the product will condition the consumer to enjoy and eventually love the product or service. Having considered measures of changing attitudes by changing the affect (feelings), the next is to change them by changing cognition (beliefs). This can be done using consumer education. Providing information about the product or service; what is most important about it; and what is new in the brand. Eventually, changing the attitude of consumers to a brand through changed behavior such as free samples; and changing what appears to be normal by campaigning for social changes e.g. attitudes towards energy consumption is moving towards environmentally friendly options following the Going Green Campaigns.
Cognitive psychology is concerned with problem solving, memory, judgement, attention, reasoning, decision making etc. All these are factors which affect a consumer’s decision to purchase. Since the consumer is now exposed to the marketing stimuli, there is need to sustain this attention. Consumers attend to stimulus both voluntary (actively search out information and selectively focus attention on relevant information); and involuntarily (consumers are exposed to something surprising, novel, threatening, or unexpected e.g. unusual sounds, size of stimulus, contrast effects, color) i.e. great things, shiny things and things in motion. Marketers should try to place their advertisements where accidental bumping into the information (in selected media channels) by its target group is expected. For instance, adverts for printing services should “conveniently” be placed close to employments agencies or close to universities; ice cream parlor adverts should be placed close to elementary schools; sandwich trucks would best suited for busy streets close to office buildings where an executive would simply grab and go. All these are aimed to sell as quick as possible and if the services are delivered with integrity, customer loyalty is guaranteed.
Consumers must be attentive and aroused to intentionally attend to something, and their level of alertness influences how they process the information. A number of factors influences attention. The level of involvement of the consumer directly affects the narrow beam of attention (on a sudden onset of rainfall, one focuses on buying an umbrella. It is unlikely that they will go for an ice cream instead); another factor that affects consumer attention is environmental factors. Most marketing stimuli are intended to attract attention. Borrowing a leaf from Asian restaurants (big red balloons), advertisements in the media which are unusually louder than normal transmission. All these intended to catch the attention of the consumer. Eventually, a perception is formed.
“Perception starts working as soon as people start scanning for elements to focus upon, something that they do continuously in any environment they find themselves in. How consumers perceive product and services is often influenced by the way in which they are marketed, personal experiences and how they are judged by people’s social surroundings. Perception guides consumers’ attention so that they mainly focus on information that they have some sort of interest in.” (External Communications Management P.46)
In simple terms, the perception is the impression of reality. Every business has a perception in the market place and it is in the control of the business itself. Every business should intentionally create its perception. A consumer’s perception of a product or service may be totally different from what the marketer intended; “this perception is typically affected by advertising, reviews, public relations, social media, personal experiences and other channels” (The Business Dictionary). Consumers are constantly receiving “stimuli” through the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. Perception is a psychological factor that influences consumer behavior and marketers use it to target people’s need to fit in and be part of a larger group of similar customers. Each person has different biological, physiological, social needs. Some of these needs are more important or more urgent, some not. Depending on the urgency of the need, the consumer is motivated to decide on purchases. It is not advisable to shop when tired or hungry since these factors cloud the consumer’s judgement into ignoring finer details like technical specifications. Age is another factor that impacts consumer trends since consumer needs change over time. A young adult would not prioritize health foods for example, compared on how an older person would. Another factor that affects perception is economic situation. The more money one has, the more expensive their purchases will be and vice versa. Some traits such as personality are beyond the marketer’s control, they can only create versatile advertisements that will persuade persons with different personalities to purchase the products. Factors such as culture, religion and family play a crucial role in consumer behavior. Dominant cultures and even subcultures need not be ignored. The marketing personnel should work closely with the manufacturers to ensure that each product is tailored and acceptable to the target groups.
People are naturally social beings. They, by nature would like to be included in groups and would like to be “aware” of their surrounding and the products around. Social media posts especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other forms of social media gives a business a boost. Even better is creating a social media account for the business and uploading advertisements there.
Lastly, putting all factors into consideration, pricing is the most important thing to the marketing team and to the consumer. It is interesting to note that a lot of consumers believe that the more expensive a product or service is then the better the quality. While this may not necessarily be true in a lot of cases, it works as a marketing tool to encourage consumers to purchase. The most commonly used in the market are prices ending with 99. Such as 299 or the decimals 0.99. Consumers do not see it as 100 or 300 or 1. They see a lesser value; hence, they purchase more. For instance, in Nairobi, there is a shop where everything goes for 99 shillings but barely does one think to ask for that 1 shilling left after purchase. So, in essence, they still end up “spending” the shilling that they were avoiding.
In conclusion, a number of factors influence how consumers purchase; how they think, feel, the reasons behind their feelings and thoughts, the rationale in purchase; how they are influenced by their environment i.e. culture, family, religion; their purchase power; how much information they have about the product or service; the emotions triggered by adverts, unnoticed cues;
Marketers have a bigger task at ensuring their products are visible. They need to improve their strategies to reach out to larger target groups in an acceptable (socially, culturally, religiously) manner. They need to motivate the consumer to buy and return again to buy. It’s with both obvious and subtle cues that they achieve this. All in all, after ensuring that they know what the consumer wants and keep up with the changing consumer needs, especially their need to fit in in whatever walk in life they are or they are choosing.