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Consumer Psychology
The Scope of Consumer Psychology
54% of people deliberately avoid products that overwhelm them with ads
60% say their opinions about ads are much more negative than they used to be
61% say the amount of ads is out of control
69% showed interest in ad-blocking products
45% the amount of ads detracted from the quality of life
Study of consumer behaviour launched I/O Psychology
John Watson, 1921: Consumer behaviour can be conditioned and therefore predicted and
Research Methods
Most consumer psych research relies on lab experiments and surveys
Surveys and Public Opinion Polls
Premise: most people will express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions when asked about them
Downside: the complex and changeable nature of behaviour
People drink twice the amount of beer and liquor than they report
Underreport the amount of junk food eaten and over-report fresh fruit and diet drinks
People tend to answer with whatever they think makes them appear to have the highest status
Mailing surveys included a postcard with contact numbers increased the response rate (establish
43% of people who own Caller ID or answering machines screen calls (tendency higher for 18-29,
singles, blacks, parents with young kids, big city dwellers)
Online surveys are faster and cheaper (incentives such as draws to win trips)
2000: 10% of market research surveys online 2003: 23%
Focus Groups
Small samples of consumers who meet in groups of eight to 12 to describe their reactions to a
Can be structured on the basis of age, income, educational level, or any variable
Older members respond better with shorter sessions, simpler questions, better lighting, larger
print and familiar surroundings
Data collected is more qualitative (opinions and thoughts)
Members may distort answers attempting to say what people want to hear
Virtual focus groups conducted online have lower cost and greater efficiency
Members of virtual groups tend to be less influenced by others opinions because everyone talks
Motivation Research
Used to probe deeper and uncover human motivations
Use of in-depth interviews and projective techniques
Ernest Dichter: Used psychoanalysis to discover unconscious motivations and applied to
consumer psychology
Packaged cake mix: Initially rejected because women felt guilty about not doing any work
Solution: Omit the dried egg and let the consumer add fresh eggs
Sales soared
Projective tests: when people are presented with an ambiguous stimulus, they will project their
needs, fears and values
Roach-killing example: Plastic trays thought to be more effective but sales still less than sprays
Women asked to draw roaches and write stories
All roaches male
Rationale: women expressing built-up hostility by spraying roaches and watching them
Projective tests allow to reach deeper levels of motivation (however, low in reliability and
Observations of Shopping Behaviour
Surveys and motivation techniques only reveal what people say they believe or will do
Some psychologists observe what people do when purchasing a product
Sales data can reflected different factors without adequate control (cannot determine causation)
Placing video cameras or human observers in the store
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Observations of watching mothers with children shopping for cereal and snacks:
65% of the time child will ask for something
More than 50% of the time, mother will buy it for them
Children should be the target of ad campaigns
Dog treats more often selected by kids or older persons Move treats to lower shelf
– Disadvantages:
Observation can be costly and time-consuming
Stores in different locations attract people with different needs and income levels
People shopping on evenings and weekends may have different habits than people
shopping during the day
Lack of experimental control over variables
Brand Identification and Preference Research
Many people cannot discriminate among brands of products like soft drinks, cigs, beer,
Many consumer loyalties are based on factors other than the product’s taste
Testing Reactions to Advertising
Most direct approach is to ask people what they felt about the ad
Aided Recall:
Most popular technique
Tests the extent to which the content of an ad can be remembered
Sample of consumers is questioned and asked to recall as much of the ad as they can remember
High rate of recall does not necessarily lead the consumer to purchase the product
People who have seen ads are shown copies of them
Do they recognize it or remember where they saw it? Do they remember the name of the
People might say they have seen an ad when they have not
Recognition more sensitive measure of memory for TV commercials
Physiological Measures:
Physio measures are a good way to determine the usefulness of an ad
People hooked up to electromyography (EMG) machines while watching the ad
Questioned about how much it pleasured them
If EMG data correlates positively with the ratings of commercials then the ads considered
Sales Tests:
Permits experimental control of extraneous variables
Introducing the new advertising in selected test markets (specific neighbourhood or city)
Other locations, chosen to be similar to the selected market are controls
Can be costly, time-consuming and requires precise accounting of purchasing behaviour
Also may lose sales to competition in control areas
Found to be highly accurate
Coupon Returns:
Measures effectiveness of magazine or newspaper ads
When used to obtain a sample or enter a contest, provides a measure of reader interest
When used to get a discount or purchase something, provides a measure of buying behaviour
Danger that people will respond even if they have no interest in the product (just to get
something free)
Do not provide a direct measure of the ad’s impact on sales
High coupon users consider themselves smart-shoppers, price-sensitive and value conscious
Average family using coupons saves around $700 a year
Still mostly taken from Sunday papers for use at the market but online coupon searching has
Online coupons provide benefit for companies: instant personal information about the person
who is downloading them
The Nature and Scope of Advertising
Most frequently used type of advertising is direct sell
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