The theories of consumer behavior stem from several premises. Although these theories vary, it can be stated that the main presupposition is that the consumer always attempts to act rationally, i.e. strives to extract the maximum benefit and usefulness out of a buying decision. It should be noted that the notion of usefulness is largely subjective, and in that regard, each individual clearly understands what usefulness is for him/her in a particular product and service, opposed to other products and services.
Thus, it can be stated that purchasing a product is not a random act, where the “totality of consumers’ decisions concerning the acquisition, consumption, and disposition of goods, services, time, and ideas” (Hoyer & MacInnis, 2007, p. 3), is what is called consumer behavior. Such behavior is framed within several models, theories, and concepts, which will be investigated in this paper, providing their relevancy to creams, as a selected product.
One of the concepts related to the theories of consumer behavior focuses on the issue of thresholds and discontinuities (Gilbride & Allenby, 2004). Such a concept is related to the price points at which the consumers’ gain turns into a loss. Such concept is mainly related to the prospect theory, which states that “losses loom larger than gains for consumers even when the outcomes are of the same magnitude” (Hoyer & MacInnis, 2007, p. 233). Generally, such theory can be related to the rational choice theory, mentioned briefly in the introduction, in which product selection is a constant assessment of how good or bad the product will turn out, or what gains losses the product might incur (Weiner, 2000, p. 383).
Applying such theory to typical consumer behavior when making a decision, the fact that the outcomes are of the product are known, implies that such theory might be useful specifically in considerations sets. Consideration sets can be defined as a list of alternatives for a particular product that has already gone through a screening process (Gilbride & Allenby, 2004, p. 392). In that regard, a consumer evaluating the alternatives will consider the losses incurred more than the gains, wherein in this case typically the losses might be seen in the price paid for the product.
Another model of consumer behavior is related to the theory of attribution, which explains the way individuals find “explanations for events” (Hoyer & MacInnis, 2007, p. 282). The attributional process in that regard, states that “if an outcome (whether positive or negative) is ascribed to a stable cause, the same outcome will be anticipated in the future” (Weiner, 2000, p. 383). It argued that the attribution theory might be applicable in post-initial outcome decision making, i.e. a certain choice was made (Weiner, 2000). Additionally, it is documented that attribution is likely to follow dissatisfaction, rather than satisfaction. Following such principles, the consumer might reject a particular product, assuming that the cause is stable, e.g. the quality of such product.
The same can be said about satisfaction with the product, where the consumer will most likely follow an established pattern, even if during such pattern the outcome was changed, e.g. the product was always delicious, except a single time. An important notion in such a fact is the way the cause is ascribed. For example, the cause might be self-ascribed, i.e. the blame is on the consumer, attributed to the product, and attributable to external factors. It should be noted that the applicability of such theory is largely linked with consequent shopping decisions, rather than the first purchase.
In cases when the consumer is unfamiliar with a product or a brand and in the state of making choice, other theoretical frameworks might be used. An important aspect in many theories is paid to the emotions that a particular product or brand causes. For example, according to the appraisal theory, the way the consumer feels about the product depends on the consistency with the consumers’ goals. However, it should be noted that despite the existence of direct relation between emotions and consumer behavior, there is no general theory explaining the process and the phenomenology of response (JOHNSON & STEWART, 2005, p. 3). The emotions, within the appraisal theory, are defined as the mental state that results from information processing (p. 4).
It can be assumed that the latter is mainly related to brand perception, rather than the product itself, although certain products might imply certain associations and accordingly a certain mental state. The emotional response of the consumer flows as a multistage process, consisting of antecedents of the appraisal process, the process of appraising relevant information, and the consequences of the appraisal.
Those stages are directly related to the knowledge possessed by the consumer about the situation and the goals relevant to this situation. The latter can be explained in that the emotional response on a particular product might differ if buying the product was not a goal in itself, or in case it was, the differences in those goals will lead to a different emotional response, e.g. the goal is visiting different places on a cruise or spending a family time on a cruise.
An important concept related to both consumer behavior and appraisal theories is coping, which in this context might imply behavioral context, i.e. changing some aspect of the goal, or behavioral, i.e. “taking action either to overcome problems or to continue to reap the rewards of a positive experience with that type of goal” (JOHNSON & STEWART, 2005, p. 20). The influence of a consumption decision can be seen through the way consumers cope with emotional reactions, either through other goals motivating consumption, or a direct consumption experience.
Implications for the Creams Market
The first implication in terms of the creams market can be seen through the pricing decisions that the company should place on their products. The latter can be significantly important for foreign markets, in which a specific threshold might exist for the price that the consumer is willing to pay to purchase such a product. Accordingly, the latter is applicable when the outcomes are known, and thus, adding an element to such an outcome might compensate for the price increase for consumers weighing their options.
In that regard, the facts that most milk is identical, and what most people might not know, most milk qualify for the descriptions of added extras on different brands, such as “a source of calcium”, “highly processed”, etc (Choice, 2009), provides an extra emphasis on the price as a factor in consumers’ decisions. Thus, it can be stated that in such a market, either consumers or businesses are guided by the price, i.e. the monetary loss, when choosing between alternatives.
The theory of attribution has marketing implications as well, where based on such theory the consumers might attribute the satisfaction of the product to the brand, and thus, upon the success of a single product, in this case, creams, the manufacturer might rely on such theory to produce other products, e.g. skim milk, ice-creams, butter, etc. At the same time, the dissatisfaction with the brand might lead to the consumer is unlikely to purchase other products from the same manufacturers.
The appraisal theory might have the most implications for marketers specifically in the way they position their brands, the marketing campaign, the packaging, etc. The importance of emotions, in this case, is overwhelming. The implications, in this case, might vary, from using package colors that motivate specific associations, such as white colors, cream drops on the product, etc, coping with which the customers might decide to chose specific product over another, or marketing messages, which correspond to common consumer goals for creams.
Another example can be seen in increasing the feeling of certainty for the consumer that the product will satisfy his goals, which in this case might vary from using the cream in confectionery, baking a cake, and other goals. Accordingly, the analysis of the emotions that are associated with the usage or the consumption of the creams might help the marketers to design advertisements that will attempt to evoke the same emotions and thus, serve as a factor when choosing a brand. In a market such as a mill and dairy products, where “generic brands are little different from the more expensive national brands” (Choice, 2009), the reliance on the advertisement to evoke emotions can be seen as an important marketing decision that should be utilized.
It can be concluded that the analyzed theories and concepts can be applied to the selected markets of creams. A separate note goes to the appraisal theory which implications are witnessed the most through the works of marketers in advertisements and other marketing campaigns. The analysis of the concept of consumer behavior shows that the decisions that the consumer make are shaped by a variety of elements, a glimpse of which the present paper have demonstrated.
Choice. (2009). Milk products review and compare. Web.
Davies, A., & Cline, T. W. (2005). A consumer behavior approach to modeling monopolistic competition. Journal of Economic Psychology, 26(6), 797-826.
Gilbride, T. J., & Allenby, G. M. (2004). A Choice Model with Conjunctive, Disjunctive, and Compensatory Screening Rules. Marketing Science, 23(3), 391–406.
Hoyer, W. D., & MacInnis, D. J. (2007). Consumer behavior (4th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
JOHNSON, A. R., & STEWART, D. W. (2005). A REAPPRAISAL OF THE ROLE OF EMOTION IN CONSUMER BEHAVIOR : Traditional and Contemporary Approaches. In N. K. Malhotra (Ed.), Review of marketing research (Vol. 1, pp. 3 – 33). Armonk, N.Y. ; London: M.E. Sharpe.
Kapoor, J. (2009). 24 brand mantras : finding a place in the minds and hearts of consumers (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Weiner, B. (2000). Attributional Thoughts about Consumer Behavior. The Journal of Consumer Research, 27(3), 382-387. Web.