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Consumer Behaviour

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As students will soon see, the field of consumer behavior covers a lot of ground. Whether the consumer is on a shopping trip to the mall or surfing on the Internet, general principles and theories of consumer behavior apply. The formal definition of consumer behavior used in the text is "the study of the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use, or dispose of products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires."

Consumers can be seen as actors on the marketplace stage. As in a play, each consumer has lines, props, and costumes that are necessary to put on a good performance. The roles that consumers perform are among the most important elements to be studied in consumer behavior. Consumer behavior is also an economic process where exchanges take place. These exchanges often involve many players. In fact, consumers may even take the form of organizations or groups. Whatever the composition, the decisions made by the consumer and these other players are critical to an exchange being carried out successfully to the benefit of all concerned parties.

Market segmentation is an important aspect of consumer behavior. Consumers can be segmented along many dimensions. One such dimension is demographics (the statistics that measure the observable aspects of a population, such as age or birth rate). One of the important reasons for segmenting markets is to be able to build lasting relationships (relationship marketing) with the customers. Marketers are currently implementing many practices that seek to aid in forming a lasting bond with the often fickle consumer. One of the most promising of these practices is database marketing wherein consumers' buying habits are tracked very closely. The result of this practice is that products and messages can be tailored to people's wants and needs.

For better or for worse, we all live in a world that is significantly influenced by the actions of marketers. Marketers filter much of what we learn. Therefore, consumer behavior is affected by the actions of marketers. Domestic and global consumption practices are examined in this chapter with an eye toward the role of the marketer and the influence of such social variables as culture.

The field of consumer behavior and its application is not, however, without its critics. Ethical practices toward the consumer are often difficult to achieve. "Do marketers manipulate consumers?" is a serious question. Perhaps the answer may be found by examining several secondary questions such as: "Do marketers create artificial needs?" "Are advertising and marketing necessary?" or "Do marketers promise miracles?" The responses to these questions are formulated in this chapter.

As there was a "Dark Force" in the Star Wars trilogy, consumer behavior may also have a dark side. Excesses, illegal activities, and even theft are not uncommon. Ethical practices do offer positive solutions, however, to most of these problems.

The chapter concludes by providing a glimpse of consumer behavior as a field of study and provides a plan for study of the field. Simple decisions (buying a carton of milk) versus complex decisions (selection of a complex networked computer system) can all be explained if consumer behavior is studied carefully and creatively. Strategic focus and sound consumer research seem to be among several tools that can provide the guiding light that is probably necessary in our complex and ever-changing world.

Lecture Suggestions: (a) The following outline closely follows the outline in the text; (b) In a regular italics box you will find suggestions that should help get a discussion started; (c) In a bold italics box (indicated with *****), you will find reference notations to the Figures and Consumer Behavior Challenge questions that have been placed in the outline where they are relevant to the chapter content; (d) You will find special boxed inserts that refer to interesting consumer behavior facts that might be used to make or enhance a point (End Notes are provided at the end of each chapter in the Instructor's Resource Manual). Because it is virtually impossible to do everything that is included here in your course, a good way to use this Chapter Outline is to highlight with a magic marker the portions of the outline you would like to use in class, the questions you would like to pose, and the ancillary materials you will need. This helps to make a class flow more smoothly. Lastly, it is advised that the instructor assign any of the individual or group projects in advance of topic coverage. In this way, a short lively discussion can be initiated.


1. Consumer Behavior: People in the Marketplace

a. The average consumer can be classified and characterized on the basis of:

1) Demographics--age, sex, income, or occupation.

2) Psychograpics--refers to a person's lifestyle and personality.

b. The average consumer's purchase decisions are heavily influenced by the opinions

and behaviors of their family, peers, and acquaintances.

1) The growth of the Web has created thousands of online consumption

communities where members share views and product recommendations.

2) Groups exert pressure to conform.

c. As a member of a large society, U.S. consumers share certain cultural values or

strongly held beliefs about the way the world should be structured.

1) Some of the values are based on subcultures (such as Hispanics or teens).

d. The use of market segmentation strategies may be used to target a brand to only

specific groups of consumers rather than to everybody.

e. Brands often have clearly defined images or "personalities" created by product

advertising, packaging, branding, and other marketing strategies that focus on

positioning a product in a certain way.

f. When a product succeeds in satisfying a consumer's specific needs or desires, it



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