Scholarly literature on consumer behavior
Peter & Olson (2007, p. 117) assert that for someone to develop marketing strategies and schemes that could influence consumer behavior, it is important to understand underlying concepts of consumer behavior and decision-making process. According to Lantos (2010) consumers, who are humans, are extremely varied and thus impossible to understand each consumers. This due to the fact that consumers make purchasing decision based on personal perception, attitudes, motivation, cultural background, social class and personality. All these factors affect the manner in which consumers choose to buy products.
However, psychologist have reduced the complexity of the decision making process in their writing. Sheehan (2004, p. 13) asserts that every decision making process can be defined through influences from the environment. Internal and external environmental factors have been known to principally influence the entire decision making process of individuals. For instance, in the United States, people of different cultures are able to blend into a single American culture because the environment tends to make someone adjust personality . The environment plays a pivotal role in influencing decisions of consumers and thus consumer behavior.
General Marketing Strategy
Marketers therefore try to provide an environment that would ultimately adjust buying behavior among consumers. In-depth study into consumer internal and external environment is undertaken by marketers with the aim of manipulating such environment to their favor. However, there is a general marketing strategy that has been employed for several years.
For proper marketing it is common practice to perform a proper market analysis. This involves analyzing the market for the products and the state of competition in the markets. It is also important to analyze how the market has been segmented in ascertaining consumer groups who need are quite similar. Additionally, appreciating the conditions under which existing products and service providers are operating is important. The economic conditions, government regulation, technology and the physical environment immensely affect the market .
After all these factors have been considered a firm should then indentify its target segment. It is important to understand that marketing to this target segment has to overcome the existing competition of other products and at the same time make profits. Thus Peter & Olson (2007, p. 112) provide a succinct strategy that markers can employ in order t change consumer behavior.
Influencing consumer behavior
According to Peter & Olson consumer behavior is conglomeration of many decisions made over time. Thus ideally, it is all about decision making. However, for a decision to be made there must be a problem that needs to be solved. Marketers need to create a problem that did not exist in the past or bring to light a hidden problem that consumers did not give much attention. If consumer can see the need for such a problem then the first task of changing consumer behavior has been achieved.
Just like every decision making process, the need for a product to solve the problem will employ the use of alternatives. Every rational being evaluates all possible alternatives with regard to other factors such cost and convenience. Positioning the product as the best alternative for the solution may be one way to go about it. To ensure consumers have the product in mind Bunn (2003, p. 22) asserts that marketers should lay emphasis on product/brand image. A brand that matches the desires of consumers in solving their problems sells very well. Brand image goes beyond just sales. After-sales-service has been known to improve brand image and reference by consumers to other potential consumers. It also retains customers who find the products complete in solving their problems.
However, there are situations in which a company seeks to venture into already dominated markets such as soft drink market. In this kind of situation, changing consumer behavior has proved to typically difficult due to the fact that huge companies are the competitors. Here, creating a strategy that involves a new kind of problem solving paradigm may not work. Instead, Sheehan (2004, p. 15), suggest a more psychological solution will have to be used such as going through the subconscious is known to create a new way of thinking among consumers. One such methods is using subliminal messages
Subliminal messages are messages created to make a person to respond to the message without being aware of it. The process of responding to stimuli subconsciously through the human nervous process is referred to as subliminal perception. Scientists define such perception to be any perception caused by stimuli below an individual’s threshold for conscious perception. Research into the field of subliminal perception has shown that subliminal messages have been known to slightly influence a person’s character.
In the past, marketers have employed subliminal messages inform of voices, print media or video. These short messages can be passed so quickly such that the brain has the time to perceive the message but does have the conscious thoughts to evaluate the message . Psychiatrists assert that given longer messages an individual requires more time since they call for conscious perception that leads to internal psychological debate, argument, evaluation and possibly rejection of the idea presented in the message. Therefore to pass messages without any resistance, subliminal messages are used.
The first scientifically conducted experiment of subliminal messages was by a psychologist named James Vicary. The experiment was carried out at a film theatre as many people watched a movie called ‘The picnic’. In this experiment the words “Hungry? Eat popcorn, drink coca cola” were displayed on the left end of the screen and it lasted only 0.003 seconds. This is very fast for anyone to commit a conscious analysis of the message, but the goal of perception was already attained. Results of the experiment were instants as sales in Coca Cola products and popcorns in theaters increased by nearly 57.8 % . A number of psychiatrists approved the result of the experiments.
Changing consumer behavior is always a daunting task for marketers. Consumers are largely rational beings that make purchasing decisions after long thought and evaluation. Marketers have the chance of introducing new needs and problems and provide a solution for the problem. This has worked in introducing new products or new and better ways or improving existing products. However, in cases where the option of introducing a new product is not possible, then influencing the psychology of the consumer is a viable strategy. Psychiatrists have found that subliminal stimulation performs this very well. Marketers are now able to influence purchasing behavior of consumers.
Bunn, D (2003), Subliminal messages. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König.
Lantos, G. P (2010). Consumer Behavior in Action: Real-Life Applications for Marketing Managers, Boston, M.E. Sharpe.
Peter, J. P & Olson, J. C (2007), Consumer behavior and marketing strategy,New York,
Sheehan, K. (2004). Controversies in contemporary advertising, New York, Sage.