Models of Consumer Behavior

Models of Consumer Behavior
Models of Consumer Behavior


Characteristics Affecting Consumer Behaviour

Consumer purchases are influenced strongly by cultural, social, personal, and psychological characteristics, For the most part, marketers cannot control such factors, but they must take them into account. We illustrate these characteristics for the ease of a hypothetical customer, Anna Flores. Anna is a married graduate who works as a brand manager in a leading consumer-packaged-goods company. She wants to buy a camera to take on holiday. Many characteristics in her background will affect the way she evaluates cameras and chooses a brand.

Cultural Factors

Cultural factors exert the broadest and deepest influence on consumer behavior. The marketer needs to understand the role played by the buyer's culture, subculture, and social class.


Culture is the most basic cause of a person's wants and behavior. Human behavior is largely learned. Growing up in a society, a child learns basic values, perceptions, wants, and behaviors from the family and other important institutions. Like most people, in her childhood, Anna observed and learned values about achievement and success, activity and involvement, efficiency and practicality, progress, material comfort, individualism, freedom, humanitarianism, youthfulness, and] fitness and health. Sometimes we take these values for granted, but they are not cultural universals

A trade delegation trying to market in Taiwan found this out the hard way. Seeking more foreign trade, they arrived in Taiwan bearing gifts of green baseball caps. It turned out that the trip was scheduled a month before the Taiwan elections, and that green was the color of the political opposition party. Worse yet, the visitors learned after the fact Chat according to Taiwan culture, a man wears green to signify that his wife has been unfaithful. The head of the community delegation later noted: T don't know whatever happened to those green hats, but the trip gave us an understanding of the extreme differences in our cultures.'4 Marketers are always trying to spot cultural shifts in order to imagine new products that might be wanted. For example, the cultural shift towards greater concern about health and fitness has created a huge industry for exercise equipment and clothing, lower-calorie and more natural foods, and health and fitness services. This allowed Snapple to change the face of the US soft-drinks market with its 'new age' iced teas and fruit-flavored drinks. The shift towards informality has resulted in more demand for casual clothing, simpler home furnishings, and lighter entertainment. And the increased desire for leisure time has resulted in more demand for convenience products and services, such as microwave ovens, fast food, and direct lines financial services such as First Direct and Direct Line. Concern for the environment is influencing consumer behavior both through legislation and through demand for less wasteful goods



Subculture Each culture contains smaller subcultures or groups of people with shared value systems based on common life experiences and situations. Subcultures include nationalities, religions, racial groups, and geographic regions. Many subcultures make up important market segments and marketers often design products and marketing programs tailored to their needs," The huge US market of 260 million people have Hispanic (approaching 40 million) and black (over 30 million) subcultures that are bigger than most national markets. In all developed economies the greying population is growing rapidly. Marketers often have a poor understanding of these over-55s who will be a huge market force in the next millennium.7 Like all other






Higher managerial, administrative, or professional

Upper middle



Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional




Supervisors or clerical, junior managerial, administrative or professional

Lower middle



Skilled manual workers

Skilled working

G 2


Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers




State pensioners or widows, casual or lower-grade workers of subsistence

Those at the lowest level



people, Anna Florcs' buying behavior will be influenced by her subculture identification. It will affect her food preferences, clothing choices, recreational activities, and career goals. Subcultures attach different meanings to picture taking and this could affect both Anna's interest in cameras and the brand she buys.

Social Class

Almost every society has some form of social class structure. Social classes are society's relatively permanent and ordered divisions whose members share similar values, interests, and behaviors. The British scale with six social classes is widely used, although all big countries have their own system

social class is not determined by a single factor, such as income, but is measured as a combination of occupation, income, education, wealth, and other variables. Not only do class systems differ in various parts of the world: the relative sizes of the classes vary with the relative prosperity of countries. The 'diamond'-shaped classification (few people at the top and bottom with most in the middle) in Table 6.1 is typical of developed countries, although the Japanese and Scandinavian scales are flatter. In less developed countries, such as in Latin America and Africa, the structure is 'pyramid-shaped with a concentration of poor people at the base. As countries develop, their class structure moves towards the diamond shape, although there is evidence that the gap between the richest and poorest in English-speaking countries is now widening.



Some class systems have a greater influence on buying behavior than others. In most western countries 'lower' classes may exhibit upward mobility, showing buying behavior similar to that of the 'upper' classes. But in other cultures, where a caste system gives people a distinctive role, buying behavior is more firmly linked to social class. The upper classes in almost all societies are often more similar to each other than they are to the rest of their own society. When selecting products and services, including food, clothing, household items, and personal care products, they make choices that are less culture-bound than those of the lower classes. Generally, the lower social classes are more culture-bound, although young people of all classes are less so.N Anna Plores' social class may affect her camera-buying decision.

If she comes from a higher social class background, her family probably owned an expensive camera and she might have dabbled in photography.

Social Factors

A consumer's behavior is also influenced by social factors, such as the consumer's small groups, family, and social roles and status. Because these social factors can strongly affect consumer responses, companies must consider dimensions when designing their marketing strategies.

 • Groups

Groups influence a person's behavior. Groups that have a direct influence and to which a person belongs are called membership groups. Some are primary groups with whom there is regular but informal interaction - such as family, friends, neighbors, and fellow workers. Some are secondary groups, which are more formal and have less regular interaction. These include organizations like religious groups, professional associations, and trade unions. Reference groups are groups that serve as direct (face-to-face) or indirect points of comparison or reference in forming a person's attitudes or behavior. Reference groups to which they do not belong often influence people. For example, an aspirational group is one to which the individual wishes to belong, as when a teenage football player hopes to play someday for Manchester United. He identifies with them, although there is no face-to-face contact between him and the team. Marketers try to identify the reference groups of their target markets. Reference groups influence a person in at least three ways. They expose the person to new behaviors and lifestyles. They influence the person's attitudes and self-concept because he or she wants to 'fit in'. They also create pressures to conform that may affect the person's product and brand choices The importance of group influence varies across products and brands, but it tends to be strongest for conspicuous purchases.9 A product or brand can be conspicuous for one of two reasons. First, it may be noticeable because the buyer is one of few people who own it-luxuries, such as a vintage Wurlitzer jukebox or a Rolex, are more conspicuous than necessities because fewer people own the luxuries. Second, a product such as Carlsberg ICE beer or Perrier can be conspicuous because the buyer consumes it in public where others can see it. Figure 6.3 shows how group influence might affect product and brand choices for four types of products -public luxuries, private luxuries, public necessities, and private necessities. A person considering the purchase of a public luxury, such as a yacht, will generally be influenced strongly by others. Many people will notice the yacht because few people own one. If interested, they will notice the brand because the boat is used in public. Thus both the product and the brand will be conspicuous and the opinions of others can strongly influence decisions about whether to own a boat and what brand to buy. On the other extreme, group influences do not much affect decisions about private necessities because other people will notice neither the product nor the brand.

 • Family

Family members can strongly influence buyer behavior. We can distinguish between two families in the buyer's life. The buyer's parents make up the family of orientation. Parents provide a person with an orientation toward religion, politics, and economies, and a sense of personal ambition, self-worth, and love. Even if the buyer no longer interacts very much with his or her parents, the latter can still significantly influence the buyer's behavior. In countries where parents continue to live with their children, their influence can be crucial. The family of procreation - the buyer's spouse and children - has a more direct influence on everyday buying behavior. This family is the most important consumer buying organization in society and it has been researched extensively. Marketers are interested in the roles and relative influence of the husband, wife, and children on the purchase of a large variety of products and services. Husband-wife involvement varies widely by product category and by stage in the buying process. Buying roles change with evolving consumer lifestyles. Almost everywhere in the world, the wife is traditionally the main purchasing agent for the family, especially in the areas of food, household products, and clothing. But with over 60 percent or more women holding jobs outside the home in developed countries and the willingness of some husbands to do more of the family's purchasing, all this is changing. For example, in the United States, women now buy about 45 percent of all cars and men account for about 40 percent of expenditure on food shopping.1 " Such roles vary widely among different countries and social classes. As always, marketers must research specific patterns in their target markets.

In the case of expensive products and services, husbands and wives more often make joint decisions. Anna Flores' husband may play an influencer role in her camera-buying decision. He may have an opinion about her buying a camera and about the kind of camera to buy. At the same time, she will be the primary decider, purchaser, and user.





Group members can influence purchases in many ways. For example, men normally choose their own newspaper and women choose their own tights. For other products, however, the decision-making unit is more complicated with people playing one or more roles: t Initiator. The person who first suggests or thinks of the idea of buying a particular product or service. This could be a parent of friends who would like to see a visual record of Anna's holiday.

 • Influencer.

A person whose view or advice influences the buying decision, perhaps a friend who is a camera enthusiast or a salesperson.

• Decider.

 The person who ultimately makes a buying decision or any part of it - whether to buy, what to buy, how to buy, or where to buy.

 • Buyer.

The person who makes an actual purchase. Once the buying decision is made, someone else could make the purchase for the decider.

 • User.

The person who consumes or uses a product or service. Once bought, other members of her family could use Anna's camera.

 Roles and Status

A person belongs to many groups - family, clubs, and organizations. The person's position in each group can be defined in terms of both role and status. With her parents, Anna Flores plays the role of daughter; in her family, she plays the role of wife; in her company, she plays the role of brand manager, A role consisting of the activities that people are expected to perform according to the persons around them. Each of Anne's roles will influence some of her buying behavior. Each role carries a status reflecting the general esteem given to it by society. People often choose products that show their position in society. For example, the role of the brand manager has more status in our society than the role of the daughter. As a brand manager, Anna will buy the kind of clothing that reflects her role and status.




Older married Older unmarried

Single Married without children Married with children Young children Adolescent children Married without dependent children Divorced without children Divorced with children Young children Adolescent children Divorced without dependent children

Single Married without children Married with children Infant children Young children Adolescent children Divorced with children


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Personal Factors

A buyer's decisions are also influenced by personal characteristics such as the buyer's age and life-cycle stage, occupation, economic situation, lifestyle, and personality and self-concept.

Age and Life-Cycle Stage

People change the goods and services they buy over their lifetimes. Tastes in food, clothes, furniture, and recreation are often age-related. Buying is also shaped by the family life cycle - the stages through which families might pass as they mature over time. Table 6.2 lists the stages of the family life cycle. Marketers often define their target markets in terms of the life-cycle stage and develop appropriate products and marketing plans for each stage. Psychological life-cycle stages have also been identified.12 Adults experience certain passages or transformations as they go through life. Thus Anna Florcs may move from being a satisfied brand manager and wife to being an unsatisfied person searching for a new way to fulfill herself. In fact, such a change may have stimulated her strong interest in photography. The main stimuli to people taking photographs are holidays, ceremonies marking the progression through the life cycle (weddings, graduations, and so on), and having children to take photographs of. Marketers must pay attention to the changing buying interests that might be associated with these adult passages.

 • Occupation

A person's occupation affects the goods and services bought. Blue-collar workers tend to buy more work clothes, whereas white-collar workers buy more suits and ties. Marketers try to identify the occupational groups that have an above-average interest in their products and services. A company can even specialize in making products needed by a given occupational group. Thus computer software companies will design different products for brand managers, accountants, engineers, lawyers, and doctors.

 • Economic Circumstances

A person's economic situation will affect product choice. Anna Flores can consider buying an expensive Olympus autofocus superzoom camera if she has enough disposable income, savings, or borrowing power. Marketers of income-sensitive goods closely watch trends in personal income, savings, and interest rates. If economic indicators point to a recession, marketers can take steps to redesign, reposition and reprice their products.





Age Education Income Occupation Family size Dwelling Geography City size Stage in the life cycle

Themselves Social issues Politics Business Economics Education Products Future Culture

Family Home Job Community Recreation Fashion Food Media Achievements

Work Hobbies Social events Vacation Entertainment Club membership Community Shopping Sports




• Lifestyle

 People coming from the same subculture, social class and occupation may have quite different lifestyles. Lifestyle is a person's pattern of living as expressed in his or her activities, interests, and opinions. Lifestyle captures something more than the person's social class or personality. It profiles a person's whole pattern of acting and interacting in the world. The technique of measuring lifestyles is known as psychographies. It involves measuring the primary dimensions The first three are known as the AlO dimensions (activities, interests, opinions). Several research firms have developed lifestyle classifications. The most widely used is the SRI Values and Lifestyles (VALS) typology. The original VALS typology classifies consumers into nine lifestyle groups according to whether they were inner-directed (for example, 'experiential'); outer-directed ('achievers', 'belongers'); or need-driven ('survivors'). Using this VALS classification, a bank found that the businessmen they were targeting consisted mainly of 'achievers' who were strongly competitive individualists.13 The bank designed highly successful ads showing men taking part in solo sports such as sailing, jogging, and water skiing.11 Everyday-Life Research by SINUS GmbH, a German company, identifies 'social milieus' covering France, Germany, Italy, and the UK. This study describes the structure of society with five social classes and value orientations:

 • Basic orientation: traditional - to preserve.

 • Basic orientation: materialist - to fia

• Changing values: hedonism - Co indulge,

• Changing values: pos(materialism - to be,

• Changing values: postmodernism - to have, to be, and to indulge.

It distinguishes two types of values: traditional values, which emphasize hard work, thrift, religion, honesty, £ good manners, and obedience; and material values concerned with possession and a need for security. From these, SINUS developed a typology of social milieus (see Table 6.4): groups of people who share a common set of values and beliefs about work, private relationships, leisure activities, and aesthetics, and a common perception of future plans, wishes, and dreams. The size and exact nature of these milieus vary between the countries studied, but there are broad international comparisons. Knowing the social milieu of a person can provide information about his or her everyday life, such as work likes and dislikes, which helps in product development and advertising. The study finds that the upmarket segments share a similar structure in all four countries; and it identifies trend-setting milieus in each country, containing heavy consumers with comparable attitudinal and sociodemographic characteristics. Important values shared by all these consumers include tolerance, open-mindedness, an outward-looking approach; career and success, education and culture, a high standard of living, hedonistic luxury consumption, individualism, and Europe. The Anticipating Change in Europe (ACE) study, by the RISC research agency of Paris, investigated social changes in 12 European countries, die the United States, Canada, and Japan, The objective was to try to understand how social changes influence market trends. RISC describes people using sociodemographic characteristics, social rural profile, activities (sports, leisure, culture), behavior towards the media (press, radio, television), political inclinations, and mood. Using these dimensions, RISC developed six Euro types:

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The traditionalist (18 percent of the European population) is influenced by the culture, socioeconomic history, and unique situation of his or her country, with a profile reflecting deep-rooted attitudes specific to that country. Consequently, this is the most minor homogeneous group across countries. 2. The homebody (14 percent) is driven by a strong attachment to his or her roots and childhood environment. Less preoccupied with economic security than the traditionalist, the homebody needs to feel in touch with the social environment. The homebody seeks warm relationships and has difficulty coping with violence in society, 3. The rationalist (23 percent) has the ability to cope with unforeseeable and complex situations, and a readiness to take risks rind start new endeavors. Personal fulfillment is more about self-expression than financial reward. The rationalist believes science and technology will help resolve the challenges facing humanity. 4. The pleasurist (17 percent) emphasizes sensual and emotional experiences, preferring n on-hierarchic ally structured groups built around self-reliance and self-regulation and not around leaders or formal decision-making processes. 5. Tlie driver (15 percent) holds the attitudes, beliefs, and values that underlie the dynamics of social change. The striver believes in autonomous behavior and wants to shape his or her life and exploit mental, physical, sensual, and emotional possibilities to the full. 6. The trendsetter (13 percent) favors non-hierarchical social structures and enjoys spontaneity rather than formal procedures. Trendsetters see no need to prove their abilities. Even more individualistic than strivers, they exemplify the flexible response to a rapidly changing environment. These studies do suggest that there are European lifestyles although, as with a social class, there is greater similarity between wealthy Europeans than between poor ones. For this reason, luxury brands and their advertising are often more standardized internationally than other products.15 Lifestyle classifications need not be universal - they can vary significantly from country to country. McCann-Erickson, for example, found the following British lifestyles: Avant Guardians (interested in change): Pontificators (traditionalists, very British); Chameleons (follow the crowd); and SleefwDalken, (contented underachievers). Contrast this with Survey Research Malaysia's seven categories from their developing country: Upper Echelons (driven by status and desire to stand out in society); Not Quite There (ambition for self and family); Rebel Hangouts (want to look off mainstream); Sfeef)walkers (want to get through the day); Inconspicuous (want to blend in): Kampung Trendsetters (ambitious, city-influenced village dwellers); and Rural Traditiortalists (abide by traditional rules)."' Finally, advertising agency D'Arcy, Masius. Benton & Bowles identified five categories of Russian consumers: Kuptsi (merchants), Cossacks, Students, Business Executives, and Russian Souls, Cossacks are characterized as ambitious, independent, and status-seeking, Russian Souls as passive, fearful of choices, and hopeful, Tims, a typical Cossack might drive a BMW, smoke Dunhill cigarettes and drink Remy Martin liquor, whereas a Russian Soul would drive a Lada, smoke Marlboros and drink Smirnoff Vodka.17 The lifestyle concept, when used carefully, can help the marketer understand changing consumer values and how they affect buying behavior. Anna Flores, for example, can choose to live the role of a capable homemaker, a career woman, or a free spirit - or all three. She plays several roles, and the way she blends them expresses her lifestyle. If she ever became a professional photographer, this would change her lifestyle, in turn changing what and how she buys.



Personality and Self-Concept Each person's distinct personality influences his or her buying behavior. Personality refers to the unique psychological characteristics that lead to relatively consistent and lasting responses to one's own environment. Personality is usually described in terms of traits such as self-confidence, dominance, sociability, autonomy, defensiveness, adaptability, and aggressiveness."' Personality can be useful in analyzing consumer behavior for a certain product or brand choices. For example, coffee makers have discovered that heavy coffee drinkers tend to be high on sociability. Thus Nescafe ads show people coming together over a cup of coffee. Many marketers use a concept related to personality - a person's self-concept (also called self-image). The basic self-concept premise is that people's possessions contribute to and reflect their identities: that is, 'we are what we have. Thus, in order to understand consumer behavior, the marketer must first understand the relationship between consumer self-concept and possessions. For example, people buy books to support their self-images: People have the mistaken notion that the thing you do with books is read them. Wrong ... People buy books for what the purchase says about them - their taste, their cultivation, their trendiness. Their aim ... is to connect themselves, or those to whom they give the books as gifts, with all the other refined owners of Edgar Allen Poe collections or sensitive owners of Virginia Woolf collections. ... [The result is that] you can sell books as consumer products, with seductive displays, flashy posters, an emphasis on the glamour of the book, and the fashionableness of the bestseller and the trendy author.'1 ' Anna Flores may see herself as outgoing, fun, and active. Therefore, she will favor a camera that projects the same qualities. In that case, the Polaroid Vision autofocus SLR could attract her. 'The fun develops instantly.'2 " Really, it is not that simple. What if Anna's actual self-concept (how she views herself) differs from her ideal self-concept (how she would like to view herself) and from her other's se//-concept (how she thinks others see her)? Which self will she try to satisfy when she buys a camera? Because this is unclear, self-concept theory has met with mixed success in predicting consumer responses to brand images. 

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