Consumer Attitude Formation / Change

Below is an article that I worked on with a group for a college class I took recently.
Attitude Formation / Change: Importance to Marketers

As consumers, we have a wide variety of products and services to choose from when purchasing almost anything. Our attitudes towards certain products, services, brands, or advertisements can and do affect whether or not we will purchase a certain product or service. Attitudes will also affect whether or not we become a loyal customer and whether or not we recommend it to a friend. As marketers, it is important to understand how an attitude is formed and if there is any way of changing consumers’ attitudes.

Attitude Formation / Change: What is attitude?

What is an attitude exactly? It is defined as a “learned predisposition to behave in a consistently favorable or unfavorable way with respect to a given object”. There are two different types of models that have been found to explain consumers’ attitudes:

Attitude Formation / Change: 1st is Tricomponent

The first one is the tricomponent attitude model. It comprised of three categories: Cognitive component, Affective Component, and Conative Component. The Cognative component is made up of knowledge and perceptions that are acquired through direct experience with an object and related information from other sources. The Affective component is one’s emotions or feelings about a particular product or brand. The Conative component is the likelihood that the consumer will take an action or behave in a certain way.
Attitude Formation / Change: 2nd Model is Multiattribute

There are also multiattribute attitude models. The first one is the attitude toward an object model. This is when one’s attitude toward a product or brand is a function of the presence, or absence, and evaluation of certain product-specific beliefs and/or attitudes. The second is the attitude toward behavior model. This is when the individual’s attitude toward behaving or acting with respect to an object rather than the attitude toward the object itself seem to correspond more closely to actual behavior than does the attitude toward object model. The theory of reasoned action model is a comprehensive integration of attitude components designed to lead to both better explanation and better predictions of behavior. It incorporates subjective norms that influence intention. This assesses normative beliefs attributed to others and motivation to comply with others.
Attitude Formation / Change: Theory Of Trying to Consume and Attitude towards ad

Two last models were formed to look at consumers’ attitudes from a different perspective. There is the theory of trying-to-consume model, which reflects instances in which the action or outcome is not certain but instead reflects the consumer’s attempts to consume. And our final model is the attitude toward the ad model in which the consumer sees an ad and forms certain feelings and judgments as a result of the ad. These feelings and judgments in turn affect the consumer’s attitude toward the ad and beliefs about the brand. Then these two things combined influence his or her attitude toward the brand.
Attitude Formation / Change: Attitudes are Learned

Attitudes are learned. This learning process is the shift from having no attitude about a product to having an attitude. For example, new technology is always coming out, and until something is invented we have no attitudes toward it. An attitude can follow the purchase or consumption of a product or it can come before the purchase, perhaps from something as simple as viewing an advertisement for that product. Things that may influence one’s attitude are personal experience, influence of family and friends, direct marketing, mass media, and the Internet. Attitudes that have been formed from direct experiences are more confidently held, and therefore stronger, than attitudes formed from an indirect experience. As we discussed in class, a consumer’s personality will have an effect on how they perceive an advertisement. People with a high need for cognition enjoy lots of product information, whereas those low in need for cognition respond better to celebrities or attractive models.
Attitude Formation / Change: Methods used to change attitudes

Consumers’ attitudes can be changed, however. There are five methods for attempting to alter the attitudes of consumers. They are: (1) Changing the consumer’s basic motivational function (2) associating the product with an admired group or event (3) resolving two conflicting attitudes (4) altering components of the multiattribute model and (5) changing consumer beliefs about competitors’ brands.
Attitude Formation / Change: Functional Approach to Change

The functional approach to changing attitudes says that there are four classifications of attitudes. They are the utilitarian function, the ego defensive function, the value-expressive function, and the knowledge function. The utilitarian function is when an attitude is held due to the brand’s utility. A way to change this attitude is to show the utility or purpose of the brand that they might not have considered. The next is the ego-defensive function which expresses people’s desire to protect their self-image. Showing how a product can boost people’s self esteem and feelings of self doubt is one way of changing their attitude in this situation.
Attitude Formation / Change: Value Expressive

The value-expressive function says that consumers’ attitudes are a product of their lifestyle, beliefs, and outlook on life. Knowing the attitudes of a specific segment can help better reflect these characteristics in ads. The knowledge function says that people have a desire to know information and details about products they encounter. Comparing one’s products to other products and explaining its benefits and advantages could be one way of appealing to this side of people.

There is also the idea of combining several of the above functions to appeal to different groups of people who may use the same product but for different reasons.
Another way to change attitudes is to associate a product with an admired group or event, such as a charity cause. One example of this is Gap’s Red campaign. Half the profit made from the Red clothing goes to the Global Fund, which helps women and children in Africa who are affected by AIDS/HIV.
Attitude Formation / Change: Using negative attitudes

Showing consumers that their negative attitude toward a product, brand, etc. is not in conflict with another attitude, may make them inclined to change their negative opinion of the brand. This is just one more way of changing consumers’ attitudes.
Another solution is altering components of the multiattribute model. One way of altering this model is changing the relative evaluation of attributes. It is easier to persuade customers to cross over to another product when the two are similar. They can be encouraged to shift their favorable attitude toward another version of the product. Another way of altering the model is by changing brand beliefs, which is changing perceptions or beliefs about the brand itself. Suggesting information about your brand, however, must be compelling and repeated enough to overcome a consumer’s natural tendency to stick with their previously held attitude. Adding an attribute can be another option for changing attitudes. Adding a previously un-thought of attribute or one that shows improvement or technological innovation will also shift attitudes. An example would be advertising that yogurt has more potassium than a banana. Another possibility is eliminating a characteristic or feature, such as making unscented products. One last route is to change the overall brand rating. This is an attempt to alter a consumer’s overall assessment of a brand, such as mentioning that it is the “most popular brand”.

Attitude Formation / Change: Changing Beliefs about Competitors Brands

The final way of changing an attitude is by changing beliefs about competitor’s brands. Many brands do this, but an example would be a Ziploc bag commercial showing a store-brand or competitors brand bag leaking as it is turned upside down. This gives the viewer a negative connotation of the competitor’s bag, thereby improving their attitude toward Ziploc.

Now that we have discussed how attitudes are formed and how they can be altered, we will go into how attitudes affect the actions that consumers take, or vice versa. Consumers’ behavior can either precede or follow their attitude formation.
Two explanations as to why behavior may precede attitude formation are the cognitive dissonance theory and the attribution theory. The cognitive dissonance theory is the discomfort or dissonance that occurs when a consumer holds conflicting thoughts about a belief or an attitude object. An example would be a post-purchase dissonance, where the consumer thinks about the unique, positive qualities of the brands that they did not select. An ad may help to assure the consumer that they made the right decision and ease this dissonance. The attribution theory explains how people assign blame or credit to events on the basis of either their behavior or the behavior of others. They may ask themselves why they made a decision. The process of making inferences is a major part of attitude formation and change.
There are different perspectives on the attribution theory, which include self-perception theory, attributions toward others, attributions toward things, and how we test our attributions.
Attitude Formation / Change: Self Perception Theory

Self-perception theory is individuals’ inferences or judgments as to the causes of their own behavior. Attitudes develop as consumers look at and make judgments about their own behavior. Included in this are internal attributions, giving credit to oneself for the outcome or results of using a product, external attributions, which is attributing positive results to factors beyond one’s control and defensive attribution, which says consumers will often accept personal credit success and credit failure to others or outside causes.
Attitude Formation / Change: Attributions are Opinions

Attributions towards others and attributions towards things are the opinions people have of things which they come into contact with. For example, when talking to a salesperson at a store, a consumer will try to determine if the salesperson is knowledge, trustworthy, and reliable. The same can be said of attributions towards things. Consumers will judge a product’s performance and form attributes in an attempt to find out why the product meets or fails to meet their expectations.
Testing Attributions is an important step for consumers. They want to test firsthand whether the attributions they have made towards a certain product, service, or person is correct. People want conviction about a particular observation and will go about collecting additional information in order to do this. They may use the following criteria: Distinctiveness, consistency over time, consistency over modality, and consensus.
Attitude Formation / Change: Distinctiveness

Distinctiveness is attributing an action to a particular product or person if the action occurs only when that product/person is present and not in its absence. In order to have consistency over time, each time the person/product is present the consumer’s inference must be the same. In measuring consistency over modality, the inference/reaction must be the same, even when the situation varies. Finally, a consensus is when the action is perceived in the same way by other consumers.

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