MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY : CHAPTER – 1

Theoretical Understanding Of Marketing Communications
MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS :
In this chapter we shall study the “Communications” in the marketing context. The process of “Communications” is in the “Promotion” of the 4Ps of Marketing.

Introduction :
Modern marketing process involves something more than just developing a good product, pricing it attractively and making it accessible. It calls for communication with the present and potential stakeholders and the general public. For most companies today, the question is not whether to communicate, but rather what to say, to whom, and how often. Earlier, during introduction to modern marketing concept we had elicited the idea of a simple marketing system where two-way flow of entities between the “Industry” (a collection of marketers) and the “Market” (a collection of buyers) take place. They are given in the following matrix, and we clearly see that it’s a two-way process : Entities that flow from Industry to Market Goods / Services, Communications. Entities that flow from Market to Industry Money, Information / Feedback.

Communications :
Communication and information have attained so much of refinement and popularity, that the world has become a global village. Despite the incidents of hatred and distrust, the world has shown that it is united by the instant and relentless communications. In addition to being a global force communication is the unique tool that marketers use to persuade the consumers to act as in a desired way, say to vote, to buy, to donate, to patronise, etc. Communications take many forms, like verbal, visual or symbolic, and convey special meaning that the marketers want to impart to the consumers. Communications can evoke emotions that put consumers in more receptive frames of mind, and it can encourage purchases that help consumers solve problems or avoid negative outcomes. In short, Communications is the bridge between marketers and consumers, and between consumers and their socio-cultural environments.

The Marketing Communications Mix :
This is a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the viewpoint of the customer (-Kotler). The modern marketing communications mix consists of five major tools or models of communications (which may be further sub-divided), they are : 1. Advertising : Any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor. 2. Sales Promotion : A variety of short term incentives to encourage trial or purchase of a product or service. 3. Public Relations and Publicity : A variety of programmes designed to promote or protect a company’s image or its individual products. 4. Personal Selling : Face-to-Face interactions with one or more prospective purchasers for the purpose of making presentations, answering questions, and procuring orders.

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5. Direct and Interactive Marketing : Use of mail, telephone, fax, e-mail, or internet to communicate directly with or solicit response or dialogue from specific customers and prospects.

Common Communication Platforms :
The following are the common sub-divisions of the five major tools of the marketing mix : Advertising Print and Broadcast Ads Packaging – Outer Packaging – Inserts Motion Pictures Brochures and Booklets Posters and Leaflets Directories Reprints of Ads Billboards Display Signs Point-of-Purchase Displays Audio-Visual Materials Symbols and Logos Video Tape Sales Promotion Contests, Games Sweepstakes, Lotteries Premiums and Gifts Sampling Fairs and Trade Shows Exhibits Demonstrations Coupons Rebates Low Interest Financing Entertainment Trade-in Allowances Continuity Programmes Tie-ins Public Relations Press Kits Speeches Seminars Annual Reports Charitable Donations Sponsorships Publications Community Relations Lobbying Identity Media Company Magazines Events Personal Selling Sales Presentations Sales meetings Incentive Programmes Samples Fairs and Trade Shows Direct Marketing Catalogues Mailing Tele-Marketing Electronic Shopping TV Shopping Fax-mail E-mail Voice-mail

The Communications :
The above list gives the various communication tools. In our context, we shall discuss only the communications process and the influential and persuasive powers that these have over the present and potential customers, within the marketing process. The new view of communication is an interactive dialogue between the company and its customers that takes place during the preselling, selling, consuming and post-consuming stages. Companies must ask not only “How can we reach our customers?” but also, “How can our customers reach us?” We shall now discuss some basics of communication.

Nature of Communication :
The company communication or the marketing communication goes beyond the above list. These are the product’s style and pricing, the shape and colour of the package, the salesman’s manner and dress, the store décor, the company’s stationery, or rather the whole scenario, all of these communicate to something to the buyer. Every brand contact delivers some impression to the buyer that strengthen or weaken the buyer’s view of the company and its products. The marketer should be very cautious to see that the whole marketing mix is “integrated” to deliver a uniform / consistent message and strategic positioning.

Definition of Communication :
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We can define “communication” in several ways, but it is most commonly defined as the transmission or flow of message or information from a sender to a receiver thro’ a medium or channel of transmission. In addition to this there’s also a fifth component “feedback” which alerts the sender or is the acknowledgement that the intended message has been received by the receiver.

Elements of Communication :
Marketers need to understand the fundamental elements of effective communications. The following gives a communications model which has nine elements or components that the communication process needs to be complete. These are grouped in to three broad areas, like two major parties, two major tools, and four major functions, and one major element of distortion : SENDER→ENCODING→MESSAGE→MEDIA→DECODING→RECEIVER→RESPONSE→ →FEEDBACK→ 6. The Two Major Parties : a. The Sender – The sender is the one who initiates the communication, is the source or originator of communication. The communication source may be formal or informal : i. ii. Formal – A formal communication source can be any profit-oriented organisation or any non-profit-oriented organisation. Informal – An informal communication source can be any other source like friends, family members, etc.

iii. Word-of-mouth communication – is the second kind which is highly persuasive, as found out by researchers that informal source of communication is far more effective. Hence it is highly recommended that marketers should encourage detailed and positive word-of-mouth communication about their products and services among consumers. b. The Receiver – The receiver is the one who is targeted to receive the communication. Here there are a few types – intended, intermediary and unintended : i. ii. Intended receivers are the receivers of formal marketing communications who are likely to be targeted prospects or customers. Intermediary receivers are the ones who receive the communication by virtue of their involvement in the process, but they are not the prime targets. Normally they are whole sellers, distributors, retailers, channel partners, etc.

iii. Unintended receivers are everyone else who are exposed to the message, but are not specifically targeted by the sender, like general public, company employees, suppliers, creditors, bankers, local community, etc. It’s important to remember that the audience- whether large or small- is composed of individual receivers, each of whom interprets the message according to his personal perceptions and experiences. 7. The Two Major Tools : a. The Medium : There must be a medium which connects the sender and the receiver thro’ which the message passes or flows. Basically there are two types of media :

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i.

Impersonal – This kind of medium is of mass nature where the mass is reached simultaneously, like print media (newspapers, magazines, billboards, hoardings), broadcast (TV, Radio), electronic, internet etc. The internet is a very powerful mode of interactive communication that permits the audience of communication to provide direct feedback. Interpersonal – This is a kind of formal conversation between a salesperson and customer or an informal conversation between two or more persons that takes place face-to-face, over telephone, by mail, or online.

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b. The Message : The subject matter that needs to be conveyed is the message. It can be verbal or non verbal. i. Verbal – It is thro’ words, speech, spoken or written, and contain more specific info regarding the products or services. A verbal message combined with a nonverbal message often provides more information to the receiver than any one of them. Nonverbal – It is a symbolic communication thro’ pictures, photos, illustrations, or a symbol which takes place in both impersonal and interpersonal medium. Marketers often try to develop logos or symbols that are associated exclusively with their products and that achieve high recognition.

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8. The Four major Functions : a. Encoding : This is a method by which the sender puts his message (“encodes”) in the form of any of the marketing communications mix. He has to make sure that the encoding must not only be understood by the receiver, but also will have the desired effect on the receiver. b. Decoding : This is a method by which the receiver unravels and interprets the message (“decodes”) after assigning all the relevant meanings of the verbal, the visual and the symbols. The process is affected by environmental factors, and can be difficult for the receiver. Also, the decoding or deriving meaning varies with the persons, time, place and society. c. The Response : The array of the possible reactions exhibited by the receivers after they decode, receive and understand the message. The target audience may not always respond by buying the products or services. So the marketers have to monitor their behaviour and feedback if any.

d. The Feedback : This is an essential part of the impersonal and interpersonal communications. The sender must know whether the message has been received by the receiver, so as to take corrective steps like to reinforce, to change, and to modify the message to ensure it is understood in the intended way. In the interpersonal communication it is easier to get the feedback quickly, thro’ the gestures, body language, facial expression etc. But in the impersonal communication, it is difficult to get the feedback quickly. Since this is very expensive, it must be tested before the communication starts or periodic studies (by an appropriate MR method) must be conducted to know the feedback or other methods must be devised to know the feedback as promptly as possible. 9. The One Major Distortion – Noise : These are random and competing messages that may interfere with the intended communication. These can be also any unplanned physical and psychological disturbances which can distort the messages, and it can happen at any stage of the marketing communications process.

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Factors Affecting The Communication Process :
Generally, the marketing communications of any company are designed to make the consumer aware of the product, induce purchase or commitment, create a positive attitude towards the product, give the product a symbolic meaning, or show how it can solve the consumer’s problem better than the competitor’s products or services. The marketers always try to explore the world of communications and devise means to improve upon the communications process so as to be effective. The interpretation of marketing communication by the marketer can be influenced by some factors like the credibility of the source or senders, and the comprehension and mood of the target audience. Some barriers to communication like selective viewing and noise also impact the interpretation of communication.

Barriers of Communication :
The target audience may not receive the intended message for any of these reasons : 1. Selective Attention : People are bombarded by hundreds of commercial messages a day of which 80 are consciously noticed and about 12 provoke some reaction. Selective attention explains why ads with bold headlines promising something, such as “How to make a Million” have a high likelihood of getting attention. 2. Selective Distortion : Receivers will hear what fits into their belief systems. As a result receivers often add things to the message that are not there (amplification) and don’t notice other things that are there (levelling). The communicators’ task is to strive for simplicity, clarity, interest, and repetition to get the main points across. 3. Selective Retention : People will retain in long term memory only a small fraction of the message that reach them. If the receiver’s initial attitude towards the object is positive and he rehearses support arguments, the message is likely to be accepted and have high recall. If the initial attitude is negative and he rehearses counter arguments, the message is likely to be rejected only to stay in long term memory. Because persuasion requires the receiver’s rehearsal of his own thoughts, much of what is called persuasion is actually self persuasion.

Factors that influence the effectiveness of a Communication :
Some market researchers try to correlate the audience traits with persuability and use them to guide message and media development. Fiske and Hartley have outlined some general factors that influence the effectiveness of a communication : 1. The greater the influence of the communication source over the recipient, the greater the recipient’s change or effect in favour of the source. 2. Communication effects are greatest where the message is in line with the receivers' present opinions, beliefs and dispositions. 3. Communication can produce the most effective shifts on unfamiliar, lightly felt, peripheral issues, that don’t lie at the core of recipient’s value system. 4. Communication is more likely to be effective if the source is believed to have expertise, high status, objectivity, or likeability, but particularly if the source has power and can be identified with. 5. The social context, group, or reference group will mediate the communication and influence whether or not the communication is accepted.

CONSUMERS’ RESPONSE TO PERSUASIVE COMMUNICATIONS :
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Developing / Designing Persuasive Communications :
Having understood the basic elements or components of the marketing communication, let’s understand the “Persuasive Communication”. In order to create persuasive communications the sponsor (who may be an individual, a for-profit company, or a notfor-profit organisation) must (1) first establish the objectives of the communication, (2) then select the appropriate audiences for the message and appropriate media thro’ which to reach them, and (3) then design the message in a manner that is appropriate to each medium and to each audience. And (4) lastly, a priori-feedback mechanism that alerts the sponsor to any need for modification or adjustment to the media or the message. Let’s discuss them in details : 1. Communications Strategies or the Objectives : In developing its communications strategy, the sponsor must establish the primary communications objectives. The objectives of the communications are related to expected responses from the target audience. 2. Target Audience : An essential component of a communications strategy is selecting the appropriate audience, known as target audience. It’s important to know that an audience is made of individuals. Because individuals vary in traits, the marketers must know which set of consumers they want to target thro’ their communication before deciding on the message and medium. It’s essential for the sender to segment the audience into groups that are homogeneous in terms of some relevant characteristics. On the other hand attempts to target everyone thro’ one message are unlikely to yield substantial result. 3. The Media : Next comes the selection of media. Marketers may choose one or several media at a time (multi media campaign) for this purpose. It calls for the placement of ads in the specific media read, viewed or heard by each of the targeted audience. An underlying principle is to find out the most cost effective media choice for the specific communication target both cost and result wise. Before selecting specific media vehicles, advertisers must select general media categories that will enhance the message they want to convey. Which media categories the marketers select depends on the products or services to be advertised, the market segments to be reached, and the marketers’ advertising objectives. Rather than to select one media category, many advertisers use a multimedia campaign strategy, with one primary media category carrying the major burden of the campaign and other categories provide supplemental support. 4. Message Design : In plain terms the message is the subject matter – the thought, idea, attitude, image, or other information that the sender wants to convey to the intended audience. Largely, it depends on the objectives (what to convey and what to accomplish) of the communications and of course the choice of media. On the other hand the sender must also know the target audience’s personal traits in terms of education, interests, needs, and experience. Then the sender must design a message strategy thro’ words / pictures that will be perceived and interpreted accurately by the receivers.

The Credibility Factor :
Marketers can buy in carefully selected media to advertise or broadcast their message, or they can try to have their message appear in space and time usually reserves for the editorial messages. The latter is called the “Publicity”. This publicity usually is more reliable and believable than the commercial presentation. Or in other words the credibility of the sender, the message or the media is of critical importance to the receiver. Several theories and views about credibility are discussed below : 6

1. Credibility of the Source : The credibility of the sources affects the decoding of the message. The initiator and his honesty and integrity have a tremendous influence on the acceptability of the message or communications. Nobody takes the message on the face value, first they seek to know who the sender is. Usually the messages from respected sources are more likely to be believes than the ones from unreliable or untrustworthy sources. Credibility can be built on a no. of factors, like past performance, experience, dealings, reputation, others’ opinions, etc. But the most important factor is what the sponsor stands to gain from the message compliance. a. Credibility of Informal sources : Informal sources like friends, relatives, neighbours have a strong influence on the receiver’s buying behaviour, because they are perceived to gain nothing in the purchase they recommend. These opinion leaders often gain substantial ego satisfaction and profit psychologically. b. Credibility of Formal Sources : Not-for-profit sources generally have more credibility than for-profit (commercial) sources. Most of the formal sources are perceived to be neutral, such as consumer reports. An editorial message has more credibility than the paid ads. Research shows that perceived trustworthiness is higher in cases where the firm takes up some public, environmental or social issues. Consumers try to perceive things in broader prospective – they seek to see the company’s image, reputation, performance, quality, satisfaction, other products / services, the retail outlets they choose, their commitment to community, the spokespersons they use, etc. Many firms sponsor special events, like sports, entertainment, fairs, and trade shows, cultural programmes to enhance their image, reputation and credibility with their target audience. c. Credibility of the Spokespersons and Endorsers : Often the consumers regard and respect the spokesperson who gives or delivers the products/services messages as a source or initiator. Thus the spokesperson has a major influence in the message credibility. Due to this reason celebrities often appear in the ads, or promotions. The following are some important research findings : i. The effectiveness of the spokesperson is related to the message itself – when the message comprehension (understanding) is low, the receivers rely on the credibility of the spokesperson in forming attitudes. When the comprehension (systematic information processing) is high, the expertise of the spokesperson has far less impact on the receiver’s attitude. The synergy between the endorser and the products/services is an important factor – ex. Glamorous people endorsing cosmetics/beauty products. Another study shows that an endorser is more affective in case of adventure/experimental products/ services than utilitarian services.

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iii. Endorsers having demographic characters (age, social class, and ethnicity) similar to those in audience will be more credible and persuasive than others. iv. The endorser’s credibility is not a substitute of the corporate credibility. They must supplement each other. The former has an impact on the ad, the latter has on the brand. So the celebrity should be carefully chosen. v. Celebrities endorsing products must have recognised competence with regard to the product. 2. Thus, several factors must be considered while deciding the spokespersons, like a careful match with the target audience, product and brand, the celebrity’s overall image, prior endorsements, trustworthiness, familiarity, expertise, profession, physical attractiveness, and above all whether the celebrity is a brand user. 7

a. Credibility in Interpersonal Communications : Consumers are more likely to be persuaded by salesmen who create confidence, or give the impression of honesty and integrity. A salesman who “looks you in the eye” is more effective and persuasive than who avoids eye contact. Similarly one who is well dressed or has some outward signs of success has more impact than others who has no signs of success. For some products of course the salesmen need to dress appropriately, like a banker/insurance agent or home appliance seller, etc. 3. Credibility of the Message and or Media : Three major factors have substantial influence on the credibility of the message, as : a. The reputation of the retailer who sells the product has a substantial influence on the message credibility. Products sold by well known quality stores carry the added endorsement (and often implicit guarantee) of the store itself. Ex., “If ABC has it, it MUST be good !”; “Sold at or Available at all the better/standard stores everywhere”. b. The reputation of the media which carries the message also enhances the credibility of the company, brand, and product. For example, a reputed magazine would never advertise a product it doesn’t know or knows to be of sub-standard quality. Individuals pay much emphasis on the ads that appear in the media, they respect. Also media having a particular area of expertise or specialisation will carry greater impact on the consumers than the general type media. c. The third most important factor of course is the individual’s past experience with the product, retailer, service provider, or company; which has a tremendous impact on the credibility of the message. Satisfied customers, fulfilled expectations, kept promises, product quality tend to increase the credibility of the future message. Conversely, unkempt promises, unfulfilled expectation, disappointed product experience tend to reduce the future message credibility.

Acceptance by the Target Audience :
After receiving the message the receivers try to decode (derive some meaning out of) the message on the basis of their own knowledge, experience and personal attributes. This may vary from person to person. Several factors may influence these : 1. Personal Traits and understanding : The quantity and quality of meaning derived from the message is its characteristics. There is a direct interaction between the characteristics of the message and the receiver, and this influences the accuracy with which the person decodes the message. Personality, attitudes, learning, experience, perceptions, expectations, and motivations – all these factors influence the message interpretation. 2. Involvement and Congruency : Personal involvement is a key factor. If the involvement is more then the attention given for message comprehension is more and the person tries very carefully to decode. People having less fascination and interest may not pay much attention to a message related to a particular product/service. Thus the level of involvement of the target audience is an important consideration in design and content of persuasive communication. 3. Mood : Mood of the consumer plays a significant role in the decoding of the message. Mood is a psychological / mental state of an individual. More often the emotional appeals are used than the rational appeals. It applies even for highly technical and utilitarian products. Many messages are designed to set the moods of the receiver conducive to receiving message, by arousing humour, inquisitiveness, and the like.

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After setting the mood the proper message may be given, which has a better chance of creating a positive attitude.

The Influence of The Social and Cultural Environment :
Man is a social animal, and by nature like to be a part of one group or the other. 1. Definition of a Group : A group consists of two or more individuals who have some common goals, values, beliefs and aspiration. 2. Definition of a Reference Group : A reference group is a group of individuals whom one refers to or who serve as a point of reference (comparison) with regard to formation of behaviour, belief, attitudes, aspirations. Such a group is extremely important for marketers as they influence the buying behaviour of a consumer to a considerable extent. These groups have direct(face-to-face) or indirect influence on the person’s attitude or behaviour. 3. Group Affiliation – Individuals willing to associate themselves with the group they are inspired or influenced by, are called group affiliation. a. Membership Groups are those who have a direct influence on a person. The two cases are : i. ii. Primary groups – are the closer groups like family, friends, and neighbours, co-workers with whom the person interacts continuously and informally. Secondary groups – are the outer groups like religious, professional, tradeunion groups which tend to be more formal with less continuous interaction.

b. Indirect reference groups – are those which have an influence on the person but the parson has no direct (face-to-face) contact. c. Aspirational reference groups – are those groups which have an influence on the people who don’t belong to, but hope to join.

d. Dissociative groups – are those whose values and behaviour an individual rejects or does not approve of. Also called avoidance groups. 4. Influence of reference groups : The reference groups can be as small as families or as big as nations or cultures. The form of influence can be of various types as follows :Information Influence – In this case, the individual has certain amount of knowledge and information regarding the products, brands, markets, shops already. And he is also willing to enhance his knowledge by directly interacting with the direct reference group or by observing an indirect reference group. Such an individual is less likely to be influenced by the reference group even though they seek and accept information. On the other hand individuals having less information may be influenced by the reference group before making a decision. a. Reference groups and conformity : Conformity is defined as the action or behaviour in accordance with socially, culturally or religiously accepted standards, conventions, rules, laws, norms, etc. There is a tremendous pressure on the individual buyers and it is very difficult to go against it. Nonconformity or anti-conformism is a state where an individual willing to go against the norm and do things different, just because he doesn’t want to belong to the group he doesn’t like. Most marketers bank on consumer conformity by trying to influence the group leaders or other influential individual to use their product. 5. Important reference Groups and Appeals : Consumers are potentially influenced by a diverse range of people that they come in contact with or observe. Let’s discuss some of them : 9

a. General or consumer related reference groups : i. Friends : are major influencer of a lot of consumption choices of an individual and come next only to the family. They are categorized as informal groups because of lack of any structure, hierarchy or specific authority. Seeking and maintaining friendship is a basic drive for most people. Friends are the first social circle an individual has outside family and provide a sense of security independence and companionship and opportunities. Thus the friends have a substantial influence on the buying behaviour of individuals. Shopping group : is group of two or more people shopping together for any of their needs or simply to pass time. They may be members of family and friends of an individual, are also called “Purchase Pals”. Here the decision is often made collectively, and hence each feel confident about it.

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iii. Work group : People spend a substantial amount of time at their job or workplace. This provides ample opportunity to get influenced by the people around at a workplace called a work group. Formal work group consists of individuals working in the same team or section, and informal work group consists of individuals working in the same firm and have become friendly. During the time of interaction, like lunch time, tea time, and rest time or off time, they influence the consumption pattern of each other. iv. Virtual communities : Thanks to the computers and internet we are witnessing a new type of group who communicate through the net. There are various types of groups always maintaining contact with each other, and discussing every aspect of life. These individuals influence the group and get influenced by it. v. Brand communities : A further development to the Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) is establishing brand communities. Modern marketers feel that if you want to build up loyalty to your brand, then your product must have an active social life. This is a triad model of interaction between consumer-brand-consumer. The members may be concentrated geographically or in the era of internet can be scattered. Ex. the Mercedes owners’ club of Bombay. vi. Consumer action groups : Today there are a very large number of consumer action groups that are dedicated to providing consumers with assistance in their effort to make the right purchase decisions, consume products and services in a healthy and responsible manner, and to generally add to the overall quality of their lives. The overriding objective of many consumer action groups is to bring sufficient pressure to bear on selected members or the business community to make them correct perceived consumer abuses. Consumer action groups can be divided into two broad categories : 1. Those that organise to correct a specific consumer abuse and then disband, 2. Those that organise to address broader, more pervasive problem areas and operate over an extended or indefinite period of time. b. Speciality reference groups : Marketers use specific reference group (as celebrities) appeals to communicate with their markets. Different types are given below : i. The Celebrities : Celebrities, especially movie stars, TV personalities, sports stars, provide a very common type of reference group appeal. These 10

personalities are generally held in high esteem by the consumers and the consumers try to emulate their life style which most dream of living. ii. The Experts : This is another type of reference group appeal used by marketers is the expert, a person who because of his occupation, special training or experience, is in a unique position to help the prospective consumer evaluate the product or service before making a buying decision.

iii. The “Common Man” : A reference group appeal that uses the testimonials of satisfied customers is known as common man approach. The advantage of the common man appeal is that it demonstrates to prospective customers that someone just like them uses and is satisfied with the product or service. Thus the buyer can relate him to the common man. iv. The executive and employee spokesperson : The CEOs of marketing companies often act as spokespersons of their products and services. Like celebrity spokes-persons executive spokespersons seem to be admired by the general public because of their achievements and status implicitly conformed on business leaders. The appearance of a CEO is in the ad seems to imply that someone at the top is watching over the consumers’ best interest, and it encourages consumers to have more confidence in the firm’s products or services. v. Trade or spokes-characters : This is a fictional person or a character (cartoon or animated) created by the marketers that closely resembles the brand’s personality or just help deliver the brand message with greater effectiveness. vi. Other reference group appeals : Apart from the above, there are several other influential reference groups like magazines, news papers, some specialist associations, movies, leisure industry and even big retailers who can influence consumer buying behaviour. 6. Opinion Leadership : Till now we discussed about the influence of the group on the buying behaviour of individuals. Similarly, there are several individuals who are considered as experts on some subject and others seek their expert opinion to help in their buying decision. Such expert people are known as “Opinion Leaders”, and the others seeking their advice are opinion seekers. The opinion leadership is a word of mouth communication between the opinion giver and opinion seeker. When the seeker actively seeks info then he is a seeker, but when he doesn’t actively seek but somehow receives info, then he is an opinion receiver. Word of mouth or interpersonal communications implies sharing information through direct communication between people – face-to-face, over the phone, thro’ internet, mail etc.

SOCIOLOGICAL FACTORS INFLUENCING CUSTOMER BEHAVIOUR :
Man is a social animal, and from time immemorial loves to live in societies. Some form of social class structure or social stratification existed in all societies throughout the history of human existence. In the contemporary society, we find that the people who are better educated or have privileged occupation with mental involvement, often are more highly valued than others who have occupation with physical involvement in a society. This is so even though the society needs equally the contribution of all such members for its well being. This is known as the class structure of a society.

Social Class :

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1. Social Classes and stratification : Although the social class is thought to be of uniformly changing class levels from the lowest to the highest, some experts like to divide this entire social class into smaller groups of specific social classes called social strata. In this concept individuals or families having some common level of attributes so as to place them in the same social-class category. This is known as stratification of social classes. 2. Definition of Social Class : It is defined as the division of members of a society into a hierarchy of distinct status classes so that members of each class have relatively the same status, and members of all other classes have either more or less status. 3. Social Status : It is defined as the relative ranking of members of each social class in terms of specific status factors. These are the general factors on the basis of which social class and social status are formed : a. Relative wealth – amount of economic assets, b. Occupation – the type of involvement whether mental, academic, skilled or physical c. Power – the degree of personal choice or influence over others,

d. Prestige - the degree of recognition received from others, e. Lifestyle – the amount of surplus wealth coupled with spare time to enjoy life. 4. Social comparison theory – this is a social-psychological concept where human beings have a natural tendency to compare their own possession with that of others to know their relative social standing. This concept is very important for marketers because it is directly associated with consumers’ purchasing power. In other words, individuals with more purchasing power or a greater ability to make purchases have more status. 5. Hierarchy in Social class : Social class categories usually are ranked in a hierarchy, running from lower to higher status. Thus members of a specific social class perceive members of other social classes as having either having more or less status than they do. Generally people at the same level in the social class hierarchy have similar background w.r.t. education, job, taste and preference. It is this characteristic that is used for a natural segmentation process. 6. Social stratification : For the convenience of marketers, researchers have fixed the no. of social classes between two (Upper and Lower) and nine (Upper, Middle and Lower; with each divided into Upper, Middle and Lower).

Culture :
1. Cultural Factors Influencing Consumer Behaviour : The study of culture is challenging because its primary focus is on the widest component of social behaviour – the entire society. It includes the detailed analysis of characters of the total society like language, knowledge, rules and laws, religion and rituals, food customs, music and art, literature, technology, work patterns, products, and other artefacts. In short it’s the society’s personality, and hence it is difficult to define its boundaries. 2. Defining Cultures : Culture is defined as the sum total of learned beliefs, values, customs, that serve to direct the consumer behaviour of members of a particular society. 3. The beliefs and values - refer to the accumulated feelings and priorities that individuals have about things and possessions. In a broad sense, both beliefs and 12

values are mental images that affect a wide range of specific attitudes that, in turn, influence the way a person is likely to respond in a specific situation. 4. Customs – are overt modes of behaviour that constitute culturally approved or accepted ways of behaving in specific situations. While beliefs and values are guides for behaviour, customs are usual and acceptable ways of behaving. 5. Influence of culture – Consumers both view themselves in the context of their culture and react to their environment based on the cultural framework that they bring to that experience. Each individual perceives the world thro’ his own cultural lens. 6. The cultural value system influences three essential constructs of human behaviour : a. Ethics – good, bad, moral, immoral; b. Aesthetics – beautiful, ugly, pleasant, unpleasant; c. Doctrine – political, social, ideological.

Sub-Culture :
A society with a common culture can be further divided on the basis of socio-cultural (nationality, social class, religion) and demographic ( region, language, occupation, age, gender) variables into various groups called sub-cultures. A sub-culture is a social group within a national culture that has distinctive patterns of behaviour and beliefs. Culture is thus related to the dominant cultural beliefs, values and customs of a society, irrespective of the different traits of the multiple sub-cultures within that culture. Subculture is defined as a distinct cultural group that exists as an identifiable segment within a larger, more complex society.

© Himansu S M / Written Oct-2006, Published Feb-2010

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