Everything you need to know about the perception in consumer behaviour. Consumer behaviour is the process and activity of the people, engaged in searching, selecting, purchasing, using the goods and services to satisfy their needs and desires.

The success of the marketing process depends on the understanding of the consumer behaviour by the marketer.

Learn about the perception in consumer behaviour.

Additionally, also learn about:- 1. Components of Consumer Behaviour 2. Concept of Consumer Behaviour 3. Theories 4. Models.

Learn about the Perception in Consumer Behaviour

Perception in Consumer Behaviour – Process: Perceptual Selection, Perceptual Organization and Perceptual Interpretation

The perceptual process involves three components:


1. Perceptual Selection

2. Perceptual Organization

3. Perceptual Interpretation

1. Perceptual Selection:


The first, component of perception, selection, involves consumer being exposed to marketing stimuli and then he has to attend to them.

There is a tendency among people to consciously see and hear or be attentive to only certain aspects of the advertising message which is being communicated.

Perception is a selective process. Usually, people are able to sense and receive only limited information from the environment and hence are characteristically selective. During this process of selection, certain aspects of stimuli are screened out and others admitted. These aspects of the stimuli which are admitted remain and fall within the threshold of the person, while those which are screened out fall out or below the threshold limit.

Consumers will identify and choose marketing stimuli based on their needs and attitudes. A consumer intending to buy a sports bike will be more attentive to motor bikes ad, a style conscious person will be more receptive to ads for fashionable clothes while another consumer who is a habitual soft drink lover will be more attentive to advertisements portraying the various soft drink brands. In all the above instances the consumer will process stimuli selectively by picking and choosing them based on his by her psychological set.


For perceptual selection to actually take place, the consumer must first see or hear the stimulus and then respond to it.

There are three processes which define selection:

a. Exposure

b. Attention

c. Selective perception

a. Exposure and Attention:

When a consumer’s senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch are activated by a stimulus, exposure is said to have occurred. But their interest and involvement with the stimulus will be reflected at the level of attention they devote to it. Attention is defined as the momentary focusing of a consumer’s cognitive capacity on a specific stimulus. For example, when consumers take notice of a TV ad, a new product displayed in the retail outlet or a new vehicle in the company showroom, it is said that attention has taken place.

b. Selective Attention:

People will be selective in their choice of receiving various kinds of information for different products or services based on what interests them rather than the message content and also selection of the media.


So based on their need which is active at that point of time, people will be selective and choose to listen to certain aspects of the advertising message, arid decide to see and hear only a part of what is being communicated. For instance, if a person’s need (which is active at that point of time) is to purchase a pair of formal footwear, his mind will be ready to receive only those stimuli which will give him some information related to footwear. He will exercise a great deal of selectivity and look out for information messages that will help him to increase his knowledge about the retail outlets selling his type of shoes.

Advertisers try to use structural factors such as size through large ads, strategic placement of the ad in the print media by using eye catching photos or illustrations. For example the sportswear brand Adidas had used suburban underground railway system to tie in with the brand’s tagline. “Impossible is Nothing”.

During a campaign it had used time lapse images along the usually blank walls between underground stations-positioned so that the speed of the train made it seem like the man was running alongside. At the stations, Adidas theme advertising made the connection between the running man and the brand.

c. Selective Exposure:


Through selective exposure people try to avoid coming into contact with or avoid any message that may go against or be contradictory to the strongly held beliefs and attitudes. A person’s belief very strongly influences his perception about people or things. Because of this, a fact is conceived not on what it is but on what a person believes it to be. Thus the individual normally puts a censorship on the stimulus (inputs) to avoid disturbance of his existing beliefs and value. This is also known as maintenance of cognitive consistency.

Consumers also look out and seek messages that they feel are pleasant or which are sympathetic to their causes and action. They try to avoid painful or unpleasant messages or are against those which they perceive to be threatening in nature. This is also referred to as a part of the process of cognitive dissonance.

If a consumer is dissatisfied or unsure after the purchase of a particular product he or she will try to reduce the dissonance. In the words of Leon Festinger, this drive is “to establish internal harmony, consistency or congruity among his opinions, knowledge and values ” Such dissatisfied consumers will try to reduce the dissonance by seeking information that will reiterate the high value of the product purchased by them and avoid information which may speak against the (presumed high value) product.

For instance, those people who have developed the habit of chewing paan or tobacco will avoid all information which may link ‘chewing tobacco’ to cancer. Consumers will selectively expose themselves to advertisements that will reassure and reinforce them of the wisdom in their purchase decision.


In today’s age of e-technology, when consumers are bombarded with a lot of information, it becomes humanly impossible to take in all of it. So, they indulge in selective exposure.

In other words:

i. People are more likely to get attracted to the stimuli which relates to the current need.

ii. It is more likely that people may observe the stimuli that they anticipate.

iii. People are more likely to notice a large deviation of the stimuli than the usual size of the stimuli (For example, a consumer who is interested in the purchase of a car is more likely to notice an ad offering? 15000/- off the list price of an “A” brand than ‘B’ offering Rs. 1500/- off the list price).

Selective Perception:


Consumers will perceive marketing experiences stimuli selectively because each person will be unique in terms of her needs, attitudes experiences and personal characteristics. Selective perception means that different persons may perceive the same product, advertisement package in a different way.

For example, one consumer may believe that Tide washing powder washes and makes clothes whiter than the other washing powders. Whereas, there could be another consumer who may not agree with this claim, for she may believe that all the washing powders are the same.

Selective perception occurs at every stage in the perceptual process. Selective exposure takes place because each individual’s belief will influence what she decides to read or hear. Selective organisation occurs because each person will organize information so that it is consistent to her beliefs. And selective interpretation will take place such that perception will conform to prior beliefs and attitudes.

For example, Oral B toothbrush claims that its toothbrush will indicate when the user has to purchase a new toothbrush. This, the marketer assumed would be consistent to the consumers beliefs that such a toothbrush will be helpful. However, dentists, in general, may not concur with the claim. Such consumers’ perception can be influenced by brand name associations arrived at from advertising and social stimuli, where the association tends to conform to the consumer’s current knowledge and past experiences.

Such selective perception can affect both high involvement and low involvement purchase decisions. In case of low involvement purchases, consumers will selectively screen out more information so as to avoid informational clutter and cognitive activity.

Whereas, in case of high involvement, consumers’ will selectively choose information so that:


i. It helps them to evaluate brands which meet their needs

ii. They can select brands which conform to their belief and predispositions.

Perceptual Vigilance and Perceptual Defense:

Since selective perception will help the consumer to receive information having relevance to her needs, this process is also called perceptual vigilance.

During high involvement purchases, consumers, through perceptual vigilance obtain the necessary information which matches their requirement. For low involvement purchases, consumers will screen out and minimize information processing through perceptual vigilance. In such instances, the consumer tends to selectively screen out information.

Perceptual defense refers to the individual being vigilant and screening out all those stimuli or elements which create conflict or may give rise to a threatening situation. Consumers may subconsciously screen out the stimuli which is found to be psychologically threatening, even if the exposure has taken place. They may even perceive other factors to be present, which may not be a part of the stimulus situation.


Perceptual vigilance or defense can also be said in reference to the way in which people maintain their prior beliefs. For instance, going by the saying “The customer is always right”, the restaurant manager will deal in a proper manner with the customer who is upset with the customer service, ignoring the fact that it was actually the customer who behaved badly. This example again emphasises that individuals unconsciously may distort information that is not consistent with their needs, beliefs, opinions or attitudes.

Perceptual-Equilibrium and Disequilibrium:

Perceptual Equilibrium:

The underlying principle influencing selective perception is that consumers seek perceptual equilibrium i.e., consistency between prior beliefs they have about a brand and the information they receive about a brand. There are three theories which are based on the Principle of Selective Perception and Perceptual Equilibrium.

Sherif’s Social Judgment theory which says that consumers process information in order to ensure consistency by either rejecting contradictory information or by interpreting acceptable information such that it fits in more closely with their views.

Heider’s Balance theory which states that when information received about an object conflicts with consumer’s belief, they will try to achieve balance by changing their opinion about the object or the source of information or both, i.e., consumers will try to get a balance in beliefs about the information and the object.


According to the Cognitive Dissonance theory when post purchase conflicts arise, consumers will try to seek balance in the psychological set by seeking supporting information or by distorting contradictory information.

Each of the above theories indicate that consumers are seeking consistency between consumer’s perception of marketing stimuli and their belief and attitudes.

Perceptual Disequilibrium:

Sometimes consumers would accept discrepant information about a selected product. If they did not, it will mean that every time a consumer was dissatisfied, he or she will try to rationalize the purchase and would never switch brands. There are two theories which predict different outcomes of customer dissatisfaction.

The learning theory suggests that when a brand does not meet expectations, consumers learn from the negative experience and will adjust their belief and attitudes accordingly. The outcome is a reduction in the probability of repurchase. For example, even though a majority of the non paan eating consumers accept the link between eating paan and cancer, only half of the heavy paan eaters could be in a state of perceptual disequilibrium. Many of such paan consumers may accept this dissonant information and try hard to stop eating paan i.e., change their behaviour to conform to the information.

Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that when a brand does not meet expectation, consumers will disbelieve the negative information received. For example, the heavy paan eaters may disbelieve the link between cancer and eating paan and rationalize their paan eating behaviour.

Marketing Strategy and Selective Perception:

Marketers can communicate messages which are clear cut or ambiguous. When consumers are engaged in perceptual defense, then ambiguous messages will be more effective because consumers are being given latitude to interpret their messages according to their belief about the brand.

For example, advertisers use ambiguity in advertising when the product or service is important to consumers but its benefits are not clear cut. But since consumers are utilizing beliefs which are consistent with their needs, this can be referred to as perceptual defense.

For example Indian Oil’s Ad asks –

“Correct quality?

Correct quantity?

Special services?

Here’s where you should be heading….”

The above questions from the Indian Oil gives consumers enough reasons for using Indian Oil’s products and services. This ad enables consumers to selectively perceive a range of application with a minimum of informational content and relate it to the ad.

When consumers are engaged in perceptual vigilance, clear cut messages are likely to be more effective, especially when the information is supportive or contradictory to the consumer’s belief. When the product or service benefits are clear cut and it is targeted at a specific target market, marketers use an advertisement where the informational content dominates and ambiguity is at the minimum.

For example, in case of industrial advertising, most of the ads are providing direct informational content to match the consumers’ needs of receiving straight forward information. Here the principle of perceptual vigilance is being used.

Chunking or grouping of information will help consumers to evaluate various brands of products by making use of a variety of attributes.

Perceptual Blocking:

Another aspect of perceptual selectivity is perceptual blocking. When consumers are bombarded with lots of information, there is a general tendency to ‘block out’ some stimuli from their conscious awareness. It will be noticed that when consumers are exposed to many advertisements together, they will automatically switch off, from their mental set, most of the advertisements.

For example, popular T.V. programmes are sponsored by marketers of products with commercial viability. The advertisements of all the sponsored products are shown (at times even repeated many times) in short intervals of time during the time of telecast. But most of these ads are perpetually ‘blocked out’ by consumers due to over exposure of the same.

2. Perceptual Organisation:

People do not experience all the stimuli selected by them as separate and discrete sensations. They rather, organise this stimuli into groups and perceive them as a unified whole. This method of perceptual organisation enables individuals to view life in a simplified manner.

The underlying principles helping individuals in perceptual organisation was first developed by the Gestalt psychologists. (Gestalt, when translated from German means total configuration or whole pattern). These principles help in understanding perceptual organisations, which are primarily related to the physiological events occurring in the nervous system of the individual in direct reaction to stimuli by the physical objects. There are three basic principles used in perceptual organisation – grouping, closure and context.


In grouping, the perceiver groups the different stimuli based on the principles of similarity, continuity and proximity. This means all those stimuli which are grouped together are likely to be perceived as having the same characteristics. The perception of stimuli as groups of information will facilitate easy memorising and recall by consumers.

Marketers are using this principle to enable consumers to get a unified picture and co-relate desired connection with their products. For instance, one of the commercials for Cadbury used to show an old grandfather blowing bubbles with his little grandchildren.

Cadbury was promoting chocolates by associating with the natural spontaneous behaviour on the part of adults. The ad also conveyed the message “The real taste of life”. This grouping will convey to the consumer that chocolates is a universal product to be enjoyed by all, irrespective of age barriers.

Through the ad of Nokia N 91, the advertiser is attempting to associate the brand with music and phone. The ad of The Economic Times (Now in Lucknow) tries to illustrate the concept of similarity through grouping the various editions of The Economic Times by providing different business news relevant to the particular city although it caters to the needs of the business news readers across the country as a whole.

The principle of continuity can be applied to the ad of Microsoft software which says that it can be used by all the company’s employees, where the transition is continuous. The software can be utilized by all people and also provides them the software to match their ambition to succeed far and wide equally.


Figure and Ground:

Consumers tend to perceive an object in the context in which it is shown. While organizing information, people have the tendency to keep certain phenomena in focus and some other phenomena in the background. This is said to be the working of the figure and ground principle. This is a very important principle of context.

According to Gestalt psychologists, when individuals organize stimuli into wholes, they will distinguish stimuli which are prominent (the figure that is generally in the foreground) from the stimuli which is less prominent (those in the ground or background).

Advertisers, usually try to ensure that the product is the figure and the setting is in the background.

This can be seen in the ad of Johnnie Walker given below:


When faced with incomplete information, individuals have the tendency to fill in the gaps themselves so as to gain a more meaningful information. They feel ill at ease when faced with an incomplete picture. They prefer to organise their perceptions so as to form a complete picture. In other words, if people are exposed to incomplete stimuli, they tend to perceive it as complete, by either consciously or subconsciously filling up the missing gaps.

This may be done on the basis of his or her (the individual’s) past experience, past information or on the basis of hunches. This concept of closure can be seen as the tension experienced by a person when a task is incomplete, and the satisfaction and relief that may be experienced on its completion.

At times, some of the advertisements are given in an incomplete manner, where broken lines are put, which have to be filled in with certain alphabets in order to convey some meaning. People usually fill up these gaps to get the picture or meaning.

3. Perceptual Interpretation:

We have seen that perception is a personal phenomenon. People have the tendency to interpret the meaning of what they have selectively perceived and organised on the basis of their own assumptions about the stimuli. This interpretation of the stimuli will be dependent on what the individual expects to see in the light of his previous experience, intuition, data received, motives and interests at the time of perception.

It is likely that the stimuli are highly ambiguous. Some stimuli may be strong while others may be weak. Moreover, based on the angles at which stimuli are viewed, varying distances and changing levels of illumination, it is likely that there may occur fluctuations in the stimuli.

Due to the ambiguity of the stimuli, the individual will prefer to interpret the sensory inputs received by him or her, such as to fulfill their personal needs, interests and so on. Thus, we can say that the perceptual interpretations of the stimuli by individuals are also done in relative terms. So there are chances of misinterpretation.

But in order to understand how close a person’s interpretation is to reality, we will have to determine the clarity of the stimuli, the previous experience of the perceiver, the individual’s motives (or needs) and interests.

Thus, after consumers have selected and organized stimuli, they interpret them.

Consumers are able to interpret marketing information by making use of two principles:

(a) Categorization:

This principle is with reference to the tendency of consumers to process and place information into their interpretation of logical categories. For example, “This new ad of mineral water must be probably just like ‘Bisleri mineral water'”.

(b) Inference:

This principle refers to consumers reasoning out and developing an association between two stimuli. For example, consumers might associate herbal extracts in body care products with natural ingredients.

Perceptual Distortion:

There are certain factors which could influence the individual, leading to perceptual distortion.

These are briefly discussed below:

Personality or Physical Appearance:

Personality of the perceiver greatly influences the perception process. Researches have shown that people have a tendency to perceive others to be having the same attributes or qualities as themselves. People have the tendency to associate certain persons with others who may have certain attributes, irrespective of whether they consciously recognise the attributes or not.

This is why, advertisers give a lot of importance to the selection of models for advertisements. Portrayal of an attractive model to promote the product or service will have an added touch of persuasiveness. This can automatically induce the consumer to develop a positive attitude and behaviour towards the product. For instance, using celebrity, to endorse a product or brand is more appealing to the consumer’s mind.

Example of celebrities endorsing certain brands are:

1. Hema Malini — Kent water purifier, Malabar Gold

2. Amitabh Bachchan — Reid & Taylor, Boroplus Antiseptic tube

3. Juhi Chawla — Kurkure snacks

4. Kajol — Marie gold biscuits, Whirlpool washing machine, Asmi diamonds

5. Sania Mirza — Tata Tea Premium

I. Stereotypes:

This term ‘Stereotype’ is used to describe ‘biases’ involved in perceiving people. This means that there could be a bias involved when the perceiver sees/perceives the person or individual on the basis of a single class or category to which he or she belongs.

Stereotypes also convey another meaning that is there is a general concurrence on the attributed traits and also the possibility of a discrepancy between attributed traits and actual traits. Accordingly, stereotypes may attribute favourable and unfavourable traits to the person being perceived.

For example, statements such as:

“All salespersons are fast talkers and bluff a lot.” Stereotypes indicate the expectations from certain specific stimuli and how these (stimuli) will ultimately be perceived.

II. Halo Effect:

The term ‘Halo effect’ is used to describe a process, in which judges use the general impression (either favourable or unfavourable) to evaluate certain specific traits. Here ‘Halo’ acts as a barrier or screen to keep the perceiver away from actually seeing the trait he is judging.

The broad difference between the halo error and stereotyping error is that in stereotyping the person is perceived on the basis of a single category, while under the halo effect the person is perceived on the basis of one trait or event.

According to consumer behaviourists, ‘halo effect’ includes the evaluation of multiple brands (say a product line of a firm) by evaluating just one dimension (either the brand name or celebrity endorsement). Going by this perspective of halo effect, marketers can extend the use of a brand name associated with one line of products to another.

The knowledge or familiarity which consumers have with the product or brand is likely to influence their perception of the brand and extensions, if any. For example, Amul with the ‘Taste of India’ tag line has successfully been extended to its ice creams.

Horlicks brand name has been successfully extended to its Horlicks biscuits also. The value of the brand as perceived by the consumer will be in terms of assurance of quality, reliability and acceptable price.

III. Irrelevant Cues:

Sometimes, consumers form perceptual judgement based on their giving importance to irrelevant cues. In the case of purchase of automobiles, at times, consumers’ purchase decisions are based on the importance given to the look, colour, leather upholstery etc. rather than giving due consideration to the mechanical and technical superiority.

IV. First Impressions:

There is a very old saying which goes as “First impressions tend to be lasting ones” However, this wisdom will depend on the context and also on the extent to which the perceiver is aware of the relevance of the stimuli considered by him or her.

Firms have to exercise care, especially when launching new products and trying to create a good first impression on the minds of the consumers. If the product fails to make the desired ‘first’ impact, a ‘second chance’ to taste success may not occur. And, any subsequent attempts at communicating the advantages may not be sufficient to delete from the consumer’s mind about its (unsuccessful) earlier attempts.

For decades, Coca-cola Company was known only for its Coca-cola brand. Later on the company tried to introduce other flavours and fruit juices and extend the Coca-cola name but consumers had learnt to perceive and link the brand name to the cola drink only. Finally they decided to advertise and support them separately.

V. Hasty Conclusions:

Often people have the tendency to arrive at conclusions very quickly, before examining all the relevant evidence. This behaviour can be based on the person’s attitude, motivation level, interest and past experience also. Consumers at times develop the attitude of drawing conclusions based on limited receipt of information.

This factor will also act as a distorting factor and come in the way of his perceptual process. There is one ad which appears on the mass media, showing a spokesperson for ‘consumer rights’ cautioning consumers against blindly accepting the packaged product received from the shopkeeper.

Consumers are advised that rather than jumping to conclusions about the verbal assurance of the contents, it is the consumer’s right to ask the retailer to measure and verity the same in their presence.

Inspite of the above mentioned distorting influences, it is reassuring to observe that often an individual’s past experience may help in resolving stimulus ambiguity in a more realistic way, right up to the ‘interpretation’ in the perceptual process. Moreover, it is only under changing stimulus condition situation that the individual’s expectations may lead to wrong interpretations.

VI. Perceptual Inference:

Consumers draw inferences about brands, outlets, and associations. For instance, consumers may associate a Tanishq watch with quality. This inference could be drawn on the basis of word of mouth communication from peer group, friends or advertisements. We can understand this better by having a look at discussions, on product symbols and semiotics.

VII. Product Symbols:

Many of the symbols we see in the ads and packages are socially and culturally derived. For example, Air India’s Maharaja symbolizes royal treatment, even the usage of orange, white and green colours on many of the packages can be associated with patriotism.

Symbols can affect the consumption process. For example the advertisement of Bajaj Discover DTS-i can be associated with fantasy (computer graphics showing how the pipes follow the bike rider) and conveys the message that the bike is fuel efficient.

However, advertisers have to remember that consumers will perceive symbols selectively. For example, Blackberry may indicate the iconic status to some while there could be others who may find it too fanciful for usage.

VIII. Semiotics:

The study which examines the role of signs and symbols in assigning meaning to objects is called semiotics.

Semiotics tries to determine the meaning consumer’s assign to symbols through three components:

i. The object or product (say, Kent Mineral RO)

ii. The symbol associated with the object (water purifier)

iii. The interpretant or meaning of the symbol (domestic, pure and healthy water).

For marketing purposes, semioticians view the symbols used in the packaging as a kind of culture or consumption dictionary, where the entries are considered to be products, which are culturally defined. Now, going back to the example of Kent Mineral (RO), Water Purifier, assume that the associations mentioned are what the company wants the consumer to associate with the symbol (water purifier).

In reality, if the consumers were to associate with the symbol positively (i.e., as the company hoped to elicit), then it can be said that the consumer’s perception matches with that of the company’s symbolic representation. Under such circumstances, a positive perceptual inference has taken place suggesting that consumer perception has positively interpreted the said symbol.

However, if the meaning many consumers associate with the symbol (Kent Mineral RO water purifier) does not match with what the company had hoped to elicit, the very purpose of using the symbol, by the company, is defeated.

Perception in Consumer Behaviour – Explained!

It is important for the marketers to understand why and how consumers make their purchase decisions, in order to enable them to design more effective marketing strategies. Consumer behaviour has become an integral part of strategic market planning.

Ethics and social responsibilities should be integral components of every marketing decision. Organisations should recognise that socially responsible activities improve their image among consumers, stakeholders and other relevant publics. As suggested by Philip Kotler, “the marketing concept should be directed to fulfill the needs of the target audience in ways that improve society as a whole, while fulfilling the objective of the organisation.”

Consumer behaviour is based on concepts and theories of people that have been developed by behavioural scientists, sociologists, social psychologists and economists. It is an interdisciplinary subject for the purpose of analysis of the behaviour of the consumers, to study what, why, when, where and how they buy a particular product.

Consumer behaviour is the process and activity of the people, engaged in searching, selecting, purchasing, using the goods and services to satisfy their needs and desires. The success of the marketing process depends on the understanding of the consumer behaviour by the marketer.


Motivation is the driving force within individuals that compels them-to action. Individual selects the specific goals and the pattern of action in order to achieve the target or goals. Their specific goals and the specific courses of action are selected on the basis of their thinking process or cognition and previous learning. In strategic process the marketers adopt and pursue the motivational theory to influence the consumers.

If the goals are not achieved, then it may lead to frustration. The individual frustrated, may adopt two courses – “fight” or “flight”. ‘Fighting’ is the attitude to find out ways to remove the obstacles or to find out alternative goals. ‘Flighting’ is the defensive mechanism to protect their self-esteem. Motivation may be identified through observation and inferences, subjective reports, and projective techniques. Motivational techniques can be successfully utilised by the marketers in developing new ideas and new copy appeals.

Learning Theories:

When an individual responds in a predictable way to a known stimulus, the individual is said to have learned.

In marketing, two behavioural theories are of great relevance, known as:

1. Classical conditioning and

2. Instrumental conditioning.

1. Classical Conditioning:

A Russian psychologist, Ivan Pavlov, developed a theory and a model to show how learning occurs. Pavlov demonstrated the conditional learning through an experiment with dogs. The study revealed that the sound of a bell, before offering the meat paste to the dogs, caused them to salivate. Here the dogs associated the bell sound with the meat paste and developed the salivation response process. In human cases, it was also studied and sometimes observed that the smells of dinner cooking may cause your mouth to water.

2. Instrumental Conditioning:

Instrumental conditioning suggests that consumers learn by means of trial and error process. It is observed that some purchase behaviours result in more favourable outcomes in comparison to other purchase behaviours. The favourable experiences are generally followed and repeated in future process.

B. F. Skinner, an American Psychologist, developed a model of instrumental conditioning. In a trial and error method, the best rewarded trial is generally accepted and this behaviour is repeatedly used for regular benefits.

Cognitive Learning Process:

Learning, based on mental activity is known as cognitive learning. In this process we search for information on which we evaluate what we learn carefully in order to make the best decision possible to solve the problem or to achieve goals.

Information Processing is related to both the consumer’s cognitive ability and the complexity of the information to be processed. Individuals differ in terms of their ability to form mental images and their ability to recall information.

In processing information it is of importance to store information in the human memory. The cognitive scientists analysed how information gets stored in memory, how it is retained, and how it is retrieved.

i. Sensory Store – The image of sensory input last for just a few seconds in the mind’s sensory store.

ii. Short-term Store – It is also known as the working memory in which information is stored for just a brief period. If information in the short-term store undergoes the process known as rehearsal, it is transferred to long-term store.

iii. Long-term Store – At this phase the information is retained for relatively extended periods of time.

iv. Retention – Information stored in the long-term store is organised and reorganised in a constant fashion for making the stored knowledge more meaningful.

Involvement Theory:

Involvement theory may also be known as ‘Hemispheral Lateraliza­tion’ or ‘Split-brain’ theory. The basic premise of this theory is that the right and left hemispheres of the brain specialise in the kinds of information they process. The left portion of the brain is primarily responsible for cognitive ac­tivities like reading, writing, speaking.

The right hemisphere of the brain is involved with non-verbal, pictorial and holistic information. The left brain is rational, active, realistic and the right side of the brain is emotional, impulsive and intuitive.

TV is primarily a pictorial medium and is considered passive and holistic processing of images viewed on the screen and therefore considered as a low-involvement medium and the images are processed by the right side of the brain.

Cognitive or verbal information is processed by the left side of the brain. Print media like magazine, newspaper are high-involvement media and are processed in the complex sequence of cognitive stages i.e. high-involvement information processing.

Consumer’s involvement with products and purchases reflect that there are evidence of high and high-and-low involvement purchases. High- involvement purchases are those that are very important to the consumers in taking purchase decision process, like purchase of an automobile, purchase of a residential apartment, because of high perceived financial risk.

Low-involvement purchases are not very important in terms of perceived risk, and thus provoke very limited information processing e.g. daily used consumer goods, non-durable products.

The marketers must understand the specific needs of consumers and the process of selection of the consumers for the purpose of purchase. The reason for purchase may vary among different types of customers as different psychological concepts such as motivation, perception, attitudes etc. influence the buying decision.

The FCB Planning Model:

The Foote, Cone and Belding advertising agency under the leadership of Richard Vaughn developed an ‘Involvement Concept’ in an advertising planning model. According to Vaughn and his associates, involvement includes – person, situation and object. The level of involvement may be influenced by one or more of these factors and interactions among these factors shall primarily direct the advertising planning strategies.

The strategies may be:

i. Informative (thinker)

ii. Affective (feeler)

iii. Habit formation (doer)

iv. Self-satisfaction (reactor)

The ‘Informative Strategy’ is for highly involving products like car, house etc. The economic considerations, rational thinking and services are of importance in this strategy. The ‘affective strategy’ is applicable to the high-involvement products associated with feeling like jewelry, fashion apparel etc. The ‘habit formation strategy’ is for low-involvement / thinking products like household items, food etc. The ‘self-satisfaction strategy’ is for low- involvement associated with feeling products like candy, cigarettes etc.

The FCB model involves the advertising specialists like advertising planner, creative experts, consumer researchers to develop the appropriate promotional strategies. The FCB grid develops the effective creative options like involvement levels, emotional and rational appeals, perception of products or brands on involvement and thinking/feeling dimensions.

Zapping and Zipping:

It is a common practice among television viewers to leave the room during commercials, in between a TV serial or a TV programme. Now a days due to introduction of remote control, viewers usually flip TV channels till they find something they like. This is known as ‘Channel grazing’. Skipping the commercials through channel changing or leaving the room to avoid commercial advertisements are known as ‘Zapping’.

In order to fight against zapping, the advertisement productions should concentrate on making ad generation interesting to attract more viewers. In the commercials, the ele­ments of ‘novel’ idea should be imparted rather than the useful information aspect. The characters introduced in the story creation, may generate specific interest of different classes of viewers. Witty and humorous commercials gen­erate more attention than dragged discussion approach.

In case of watching the recorded programme in VCD or VCR zipping is a regular practice to skip the commercials in between, by making the moving speed faster. Viewers zip through ads indiscriminately in order to save time and to keep continuity of the programme. So it is more difficult for advertisers to fight zipping than zapping. ‘Brand Logo’ may be used prominently all through the commercials in order to take note of the brands even when the viewer is fast forwarding the commercials.

The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM):

The ELM was developed by Richard E. Petty and John T. Cacioppo. The model explained the process by which persuasive communication lead to per­suasion by influencing attitudes. As suggested in the model, attitude forma­tion depends on the amount and nature of elaboration. High elaboration oc­curs when the receiver engages in thinking and evaluation of the information contained in the message. Low elaboration means the receiver does not engage in active information processing.

The Elaboration likelihood is a function of two elements – (i) Motivation and (ii) Ability to process the message.

There are two routes to process the information. The first route is known as Central route to attitude change and the other route is the Peripheral route to attitude change. The central processing requires initially the motivation to process information or the message which depends on such factors as involve­ment, personal relevance and individuals’ needs. The next phase is the ability to process information which depends on the individual’s knowledge, intellec­tual capacity and opportunity to process the message.

The other route is designated as Peripheral route to attitude change. In this process the receiver is considered as lacking the motivation or ability to process information or message and is not likely to engage in detailed cogni­tive processing. The consumer may use several types of Peripheral cues or cognitive shortcuts without carefully processing the information presented in the advertisement.

Favourable attitudes may be developed, if the endorser in the ad is viewed as an expert and capable of drawing positive attitude of the consumers. If the endorser is not in a position to develop credibility and favourable impact on the consumer, the peripheral cues can also lead to rejec­tion of a message.

It was suggested that advertising works and affects the consumer regarding their attitude change and behaviour in the same pattern.

The Consumer decision making process may be analysed as follows:

1. Identifying the Need:

In the primary stage, it is the task of the marketer to find out the needs or wants of the consumers. A want has been defined as a felt need that is shaped by person’s knowledge, culture and personality. There are many products which may satisfy the wants of the consumers rather than their basic needs.

Abraham Maslow, a great psychologist, in his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ theory postulates five basic levels of human needs.

i. Physiological Needs – The basic primary needs like, hunger, thirst, shelter, clothing etc.

ii. Safety Needs – The need for security, protection etc.

iii. Social Needs – The desire for sense of belonging, love, affection, acceptance etc.

iv. Esteem Needs – Recognition, status, respect etc.

v. Self-actualisation Needs – self-development, realisation and self fulfilment.

2. Information Search:

The consumer identifies and perceives the problems or needs and then he searches for the product or service which shall satisfy the desired objective. In order to acquire or purchase, the consumer should initiate the search effort to collect information which may be in the form of internal search, such as an attempt to scan information stored in memory or to recall past experiences or knowledge.

If not satisfied with the information from internal search, the consumer would probe and shall seek further information from external sources, which may be termed as external search.

The external sources may be as follows:

i. Personal Sources – Relatives, Peer group etc.

ii. Public Sources – Newspaper, Magazine, TV etc.

iii. Commercial Sources – Sales persons, POP, Advertising etc.

iv. Personal Experience – Display, Trial use, Demonstration etc.

The process of purchase depends on how the consumer gathers the information and the Reaction of the person based on information. This process is generally known as perception process, which means the interpretation of the information in a meaningful manner.

3. Alternative Evaluation:

In this process, the consumer selects and evaluates the best alternative out of the different brands identified, as purchase options, and this depends on different attributes and dimensions of the alternative products. The selection criteria may be objective or subjective. The objective criteria are price, Use value, economy, life of the product etc. Subjective criteria are style, image, ego satisfaction etc.

Attitude of the consumers is an important factor to be considered by the marketer. According to Gordon Allport “attitudes are learned predispositions to respond to an object.” We can observe different attitudes of different consumers toward a brand, company, product category, retail store etc.

4. Purchase Decision:

The ultimate outcome of the alternative evaluation of desired product is to develop the predisposition to buy a particular brand where the purchase motives and the attributes of the brand should match to generate the purchase intention. Now the consumer shall decide other factors of the decision process like, when to buy, from where to buy and the terms of payment.

Purchase and decision taking time may be short, for low involvement goods, such as packaged products, non-durable daily consumption products. Marketer should take necessary steps to satisfy the consumers, so that the consumers become the regular user of the particular brand and brand loyalty is developed.

Marketers should ensure that consumers have top-of-mind awareness of their brands, and so different promotional strategies like POP materials, display, special packages etc. should be organised on a regular fashion to draw attention of the consumers.

5. Post-Purchase Evaluation:

The marketing people should continue their efforts and should offer effective services to the consumers, even after the sale, is complete. The purchasers expect the same form of satisfaction, if not better, even during the post-purchase period. The level of satisfaction will come down when performance is below expectations.

The positive performance increases the likelihood of repurchase of the product and generation of brand loyalty. Marketers should be careful regarding the post-purchase evaluation. The negative feeling among the dissatisfied consumers, will not only restrict the opportunity of repurchase but may generate a wrong message and which may also spread negative word-of-mouth information to the others.

Regular follow- up actions will help the marketers to understand the situations, and necessary corrective actions should be taken as and when necessary.

Influences of Environment on Consumer Behaviour:

The purchase decision of a consumer is influenced by different socio- cultural factors. A customer develops his taste and wants, inspired and motivated by the people around him, in the society and the reference groups. The cultural atmosphere nourishes the desires of every individual and develops the standard of living and style. Accordingly the need and demand for acquiring and consumption of relevant products are generated among the consumers, depending on the socio-cultural environments.

Considering the above issues, the marketers should develop the marketing programmes. They should also be aware of the changes in the pattern of a society and culture and should redesign the programmes according to the situation.

This situational decision process may be analysed as follows:

1. Culture and Sub-Culture:

The impact of culture plays an important role on the behavioural pattern of the consumers, as the traditions, customs and values imbibed in culture, shape the taste, liking and desirability attitude of the consumer living in a particular society. The marketing programmes should be designed to cater to all segments of consumers of the particular group, considering the socio-cultural patterns.

There may be sub-culture within a given culture of smaller groups of segments with different values, norms and patterns, the sub-group may be distinguished demographically, religion-wise, racially or geographically. Individual group behaviour should be studied for developing effective marketing strategies.

2. Social Class:

Society as a whole plays an important role in developing the consumer behavioural pattern, regarding the basic need and generation of demand for basic products. Within the society the consumers may be differentiated into different classes based on their economic power, educational standard, values of life, standard of life-style etc. According to sociologists there are three broad categories of social classes – (i) Upper class (ii) Middle class, (iii) Lower class.

The class difference is of importance to the marketers to develop the marketing strategy. It is observed that the consumer behavioural pattern of a particular class is more or less based on similar life-style and values, and their buying-behaviour is also more or less similar in nature. The marketers should position their products and should develop the message and media strategies, considering the target audience for effective result.

3. Reference Groups:

According to James Stafford and Benton, reference group is “a group whose presumed perspectives or values are being used by an individual as the basis for his or her judgements, opinions, and actions.” In developing advertisements and promotional strategies, the influence of the reference groups should be given due importance.

In purchase decision process, group influence play a major role, specially the aspirational reference group, with whom an individual likes to belong, play a positive guiding factor in the decision process.

Family members may also involve themselves in the purchase decision process acting as the ‘Initiator’ – the persons who are responsible for initiating the idea in the purchase decision process. They may also act as the ‘Information provider’. The members may collect information of the products from different sources, which shall help to make purchase decision.

The member in the family who exerts influence as to what criteria will be used in the selection process is known as the ‘Influencer’. The person who is responsible to undertake the decision of purchase is known as ‘Decision maker’.

The family members may jointly or individually, with the help of provider- specialist, make the actual purchase from respective outlets. The person involved in this process is known as ‘Purchasing agent’. The user of the actual product is known as the ‘Consumer’. The consumer may be an individual or different members of a family.

4. Situational Determination and Decisions:

The situational determinations may be of three types:

i. The specific usage situation,

ii. The purchase situation and

iii. The communication situation.

i. Usage refers to the purpose of use by an individual or by a group of individuals or organisations. In the decision process it is important to analyse the specific usage situation.

ii. The situational atmosphere is important in determining the purchase decision at the point of purchase. It includes the time-situation of purchase, store-environment and other imponderable factors.

iii. The communication situation is an important determinant in purchase decision process, as the mode of communication and the place of communication plays vital roles in influencing the buying decision process. The promotional strategy should be properly designed to communicate the message to the prospects in an effective form.