Dr. Lars Perner, Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing from the University of Southern California, provides that consumer behavior is formally defined as “the study of activities of either an individual or group of individuals who are in the process of purchasing products or services, as well as the effect of this course of action not only on individual consumers but on the general public” (Perner, 2008, page 2). In other words, consumer behavior is marketing’s psychological approach in understanding purchasing transactions.
It may be easy to make an impression on how consumers think by just looking at them physically, but mere observation is not enough. Often, many successful businesses have to undergo intensive studies and series of financial failures before finally learning how to sell their products or services and gain profits. According to Dr. Perner, consumer behavior can result to four benefits in these four areas, namely: “marketing strategy, public policy, social marketing, and in creating better consumers” (Perner, 2008, page 3).
Marketing strategy is an approach toward successful selling by being at the right place at the right time. One example is by intensifying beverage advertisements during summer when the weather is usually hot and one would tend to crave for something to cool himself off. This is also evident when it comes to fashion where malls perform a variety of impressive window dressing every season in order to lure passing potential customers. Public policy is the factor which encourages consumer safety by cautioning them to think things over before purchasing a product.
One common example is the line “Cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health. ” which is seen in every cigarette advertisement. Social marketing on the other hand, is more concerned with “getting important messages across rather than selling” (Perner, 2008, page 3). Example is controlling population growth by promoting condoms and contraceptives as response especially to premarital sex which remains as one of society’s issues even up to present. Last but not the least, consumer behavior can lead us to becoming better consumers. One simple demonstration is when buying beauty or skin products.
Often, one would think that any product would be good for him or her just because it has become popular through television promotions. A wise customer must take into consideration several factors like allergies to certain ingredients. Taking this into mind, customers will not need to undergo unnecessary spending by purchasing expensive products that do not suit one’s body chemistry and instead by cheaper but milder products for skin maintenance. Taking these four factors into mind will lead to an important goal which is good investment on the part of both buyers and sellers.
The Black Box Model This model of consumer behavior is a tool which, if compared to a movie, has two main characters: the customer and his or her incentive. And like any other movie, it has an ending which is whether to buy or not. Putting the oversimplification aside, however, this model analyzes certain stages. First, is identifying what is likely to motivate a consumer in terms of the marketing environment by performing a research within the consumer environment. One important quality that a business must always possess is innovation.
An example of this is the creation of Coke Zero by the Coca-Cola Company. This is in response to a greater number of health-conscious customers nowadays, who have become more aware of the disadvantages of taking in big amounts of sugar which is incidentally an ingredient of their traditional product. The new product guarantees a “no sugar, less calorie” beverage, however, still retaining the same taste of the old Coke. Price is also a consideration in understanding a customer’s needs. There are people who do not mind sacrificing the quality of a product as long as they can get it for bargained prices.
On the other hand, there are some who find confidence in and would not mind paying for expensive branded products, especially when that product has a distinctive appeal that would set a person apart from the common crowd, or if that particular brand has proven great guaranteed performance like for example, a whitening soap. Aside from the marketing environment, cultural difference is another crucial factor in analyzing the consumer behavior. Ignorance of other countries’ cultures may often result to awkward and humiliating results if one is not mindful if it.
One example is the difference in clothing appearance between Western and Muslim Women, wherein the latter has been accustomed to wearing the conservative, long, black fabrics that covers head to foot and exposing only the eyes, as compared to the more liberated short and neck-plunging outfits being tolerated by the former group. Another example is “how Muslims regard dogs as dirty animals, but others, if not most countries, consider them as ‘man’s best friend,” thus the famous expression (Perner, 2008, page 31).
Marketers must always take extra caution with culture issues and therefore, must take into consideration some of its important characteristics like being comprehensive. One example is how Japanese businessmen often do the customary bow during business dealings. This is not common especially in Western cultures, but somehow American businessmen have learned to perform this as well with Japanese clients in order to show goodwill and respect. This shows another feature of culture which is learned. Another fact about culture is that it exists within “boundaries of acceptable behavior” (Perner, 2008, page 30).
For example, going to mass requires wearing conservative outfit instead of the informal sleeveless or shorts that would often be distractive and not fit for the religious occasion. Also, many people are not aware of other country’s cultural standards. There was one instance during World War II when an American spy was captured by Germans because of how he used his knife and fork while eating. Lastly, cultures are also subject to change however it would depend on how open the citizens of a certain country are. Another thing that must be taken into consideration when talking about culture is stereotyping.
When overlooked, this issue may come as offensive. One example is the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center towers which would forever remind the world of the cruelty of terrorists. Unfortunately, this resulted to the unfair discrimination of some Muslim individuals as sharing the same terrorist values, although not all Muslims are really in favor of violence. One issue that has something to do with culture is the self-reference criterion. “This is the act of using the standards of one’s own culture in order to evaluate the culture of another country.
One example is how Americans recognize other cultures as backwards just because they refuse to embrace the benefits if advance technology and preserve their customary way of living. In the 1960s, there was in fact an American psychologist who expressed disgust over India’s way of venerating cows and allowing them to roam the streets freely despite the nation being in the middle of food shortage. The psychologist even quoted the word “sick” as the people of India refuse to take advantage of the fact that cows are excellent food source of meat and milk.
Another related concern is also ethnocentrism which is the one’s inclination to regards his own culture as more superior that that of the other” (Perner, 2008, page 32). In order to sell effectively, the market must always consider that “human beings are social beings, meaning they often influence one another” (Perner, 2008, page 49). That is why there is what we call the reference group, which is the type of crowd that a certain individual would want to compare herself to when it comes to looks or lifestyle (Perner, 2008, page 49).
Reference groups have at least three kinds: aspirational, associative and dissociative. Aspirational reference group are usually made up of celebrities or famous people whom others would idolize or copy. One famous example is David Beckham who often posed as spokesperson for popular sports apparels. Associative reference group, on the other hand, are more within reach as they are composed of people whom we see, live or work with everyday, and with whom we share the same level more or less. Some examples are “coworkers, neighbors, or members of churches, clubs, and organizations” (Perner, 2008, page 49).
The dissociative group is the one that some people would not want to be compared with. This is another common thing with teenagers who would want to be labeled as “cool” in order to gain acceptance as they undergo the critical stage of adolescence. This group is also referred to when individuals would like to generate a certain label of exclusivity for themselves. One example provided here was the merchandise store which called itself “The Gap, which intends to target young people who want to be referred as modern and cool” (Perner, 2008, page 49).