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Chapter 6 - Learning

Chapter 6 Learning and Memory

After reading this chapter, students should be able to: Understand the nature of consumer learning Outline the main learning theories and their relationship to understanding consumer behaviour Discuss the concepts of conditioning and reinforcement and apply these concepts to marketing Describe the functions of short- and long-term memory Provide examples of how the concepts of learning and memory can be applied to marketing.

1. 2. 3. 4. The nature of learning What is learning? Brain functions Learning theories Behavioural theories Classical conditioning Case in point 6.1Sing a song of car ads Operant (instrumental) conditioning Case in point 6.2Yakult fermented milk drink Positive and negative reinforcement and punishment Case in point 6.3Virgin Mobiles use of promotion marketing to build loyalty Cognitive theories Rote learning Modelling/vicarious learning Reasoning Case in Point 6.4Country Road strengthens its market position Memory Sensory memory Short-term memory Long-term memory Semantic and episodic memory Schematic memory Semantic and episodic memory Case in point 6.5Viewer involvement improves TV ad recall Elements of an advertising message Forgetting and extinction


The nature of learning

Learning is not just what we study at school or college. Learning starts from the time we are born. Theres often a lot of truth in the clich you learn something every day. Learning is any process we go through to develop knowledge that will help us later. In marketing terms, learning occurs when we can retrieve information that helps us make purchase decisions. Our attitudes and opinions are also learned through personal experience, or through our social interaction with others.

Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb

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Chapter 6 - Learning


What is learning?

Learning can be defined as a change in the content or organisation of a persons long -term memory. (Mitchell 1983; text, p. 164) Figure 6.1 (text, p. 164) illustrates the role of learning in information processing. For example, a person is exposed to a stimulus (smell of hot bread) and gives at least part of their attention to it. The aroma is interpreted as the smell of hot bread, and this interpretation is stored in the brain. When you are hungry, you might remember this aroma and backtrack to the bread shop for lunch. Consider the class exercise in the next section to illustrate this point further.


Brain functions

It is rare to be good at everything. Often we are good at one thing and not so good at another. Even children of the same family vary greatly in their abilities. These abilities are related to the left- and right-hand sides of the brain. The right and left brain work in opposite ways, but also work together to complement each other. One side is usually dominant over the other, which explains why individuals learn and think in different ways. The left brain processes information in a factual and analytical way. It has the power to recall information, but focuses on one task at a time. It looks at components one at a time, rather than as a whole picture. The right brain organises the individual components into meaningful complete messages (which suggests that gestalt principles are at work here). Figures 6.2 and 6.3 (text, p. 165) illustrate these principles further. The Net Search activity (text, p. 166) encourages students to work out which side of their brain is dominant.


Learning theories

There are a number of theories on how consumers learn. These theories can be classified into two main types: behavioural and cognitive. Figure 6.4 (text, p. 167) provides a summary of these approaches to learning. Although these theories are very different, there are many similarities in terms of involvement, cues, response, stimulus and reinforcement. Behavioural theories Behavioural theories are based on the idea that learning occurs solely as a result of reinforcement of behaviour. They are often referred to as stimulusresponse (SR) theories. Behaviourists believe that if a particular behaviour is reinforced, then that behaviour is more likely to occur again if that same stimulus is presented again in the future. The two types of behavioural theories are classical conditioning and operant (instrumental) conditioning. Classical conditioning Classical conditioning relies on the association between stimuli and responses. This type of learning involves involuntary reflex behaviour. Its almost impossible to discuss classical conditioning without thinking of Pavlov and his dogs. Pavlov is the father of classical conditioning, and his experiments with dogs proved that a certain type of behaviour will occur naturally when a particular stimulus is presented. For example, when he rang a bell, a dog received food. After a short time, Pavlov discovered that when he rang a bell, the dog would salivate at the thought of the food, even if the food was not presented. It is clear why classical conditioning is helpful for dog training, but surely people are more complex than dogs? Apparently not! Classical conditioning can be confusing, so we need to break down the following terms: An unconditioned stimulus (UCS) is something that generates a natural response, such as the smell of food in Pavlovs experiments. Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb Page 2

Chapter 6 - Learning

An unconditioned response (UCR) is the natural response that is generated when the stimulus is perceived, such as salivation when Pavlovs dogs could smell food. A conditioned stimulus (CS) is the stimulus that a person has learned to respond to, such as the sound of the bell for the dogs (rather than the smell of the food). A conditioned response (CR) occurs as a result of a conditioned stimulus, such as salivation (if you are a dog!).

These principles are commonly applied in marketing and particularly promotion. Reflect on examples of your favourite ads, and why they are considered favourite. Maybe it is because of the jingle, or even the presen ter, humour or emotion they convey. Message (or stimulus) repetition is an important aspect of classical conditioning. The more times we see an ad, the more likely we will have the chance to respond in a certain way when we see a certain stimulus. After all, seeing a Toyota makes us all jump in the air and sing Oh what a feeling! The effect of an ad also depends on its relevance to the target audience. Examples related to particular age groups should be drawn out here. Also consider the interactive classroom exercises below. Case in point 6.1Sing a song of car ads This case states that an idea should govern an ad campaign not a song. The song that is used should be linked to the actual idea being conveyed, or at least present the emotion the ad is trying to achieve. For example, Mitsubishi have used songs in ads to display the emotions of fun and enjoyment as people sing in their cars. However, songs can make or break a campaign as well and certainly have an effect on how well the ad is remembered. Refer to Figure 6.5 (p. 168) for a diagrammatic representation of how classical conditioning can work for ads. Operant (instrumental) conditioning If you have ever bought something because of the promise of reward, then you have been working under the principles of operant conditioning. Similarly, if you have changed your behaviour (for example reduced your driving speed) to avoid a punishment, you have also learnt using operant conditioning principles. Operant conditioning involves reinforcement of behaviour and is based on the idea that consequences influence behaviour. Consequences of behaviour seen as rewards will result in an increase in that behaviour. Consequences of behaviour seen as punishments will result in a decrease in that behaviour. If the behaviour results in neither punishment nor reward, that behaviour will disappear altogether; this will result in no learning at all. Skinner was the father of reinforcement theory. He too used animals to examine his beliefs. Rats in a Skinner Box we re rewarded with food if they leaned to push a lever down. Negative consequences were experienced if the lever was pushed up. According to the principles of operant conditioning, the consumer must first engage in a certain behaviour, followed by a specific consequence, before learning can occur. Consumers learn through trial and error, where a reward acts as a motivator for behaviour to occur or not to occur in the future. In other words, using operant conditioning, a consumer needs to use the product before learning can occur. For example, if you buy a Corolla because of free inclusions like air conditioning and dual airbags, you may tend towards Corolla for your next car if the car performs as expected. The inclusions were the reinforcement for the decision. But if your particular car is a lemon, it is unlikely you would purchase the same brand again, regardless of the carrots offered by marketers. In this case, your behaviour is still reinforced, but in a negative way instead of a positive way. The reaction to a reward is based on individual drives, relevant to your target market. Use examples of realistic incentives over unrealistic ones, such as incentives more relevant to different age targets. Skinner developed his theory by determining that behaviour can be shaped by manipulating the environment through the provision of positive and negative reinforcement. Marketers can attempt to shape consumer behaviour by encouraging consumers to gain experience with their product through product samples, or rewarding them for their purchase (e.g. reward points). Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb Page 3

Chapter 6 - Learning Case in point 6.2Yakult fermented milk drink Yakult is one product that is not exactly pleasant in terms of how it works. Marketers knew the product was effective, but it was a challenge to describe that drinking bacteria was indeed good for you. For initial awareness and attitude building, samples were distributed everywhere. Consumers needed to try the product, and be rewarded for their efforts (through the product actually working). Retailers also need to have their support reinforced (with easier merchandising) for the product to be made readily available. Ask students what other products have been introduced through free samples so consumers gain experience with the product and their behaviour is reinforced. Positive and negative reinforcement and punishment Positive reinforcement occurs in the form of rewards for particular behaviour. Reward programs like Qantas Frequent Flyer and FlyBuys are examples of positive reinforcement. If consumers are rewarded with award points (and maybe a reward one day) they will feel good about the store from which they bought, and shop there again. Bonus points only heighten the feeling of positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement occurs when a bad consequence results from a certain type of behaviour. For example, if you dont use a certain type of deodorant you may be ostracised by society. Years ago, Palmolive Gold had a campaign Dont wait to be told, you need Palmolive Gold. A third type of reinforcement is punishment. Punishment occurs when there is a consequence of behaviour that decreases the likelihood of that behaviour occurring again (at least in the short term). For example, a fine for speeding will encourage you to stop speeding. Similarly, using a product that didnt perform as expected will reduce the likelihood of you buying that product again. Case in point 6.3Virgin Mobiles use of promotion marketing to build loyalty This case is a good example of a campaign to create brand loyalty through positive reinforcement. Virgin was able to encourage their customers to buy from their brands through use of simple symbols on their mobile phone. The benefits were instantaneous, which allowed them to differentiate from the competition. Cognitive theories Cognitive theories revolve around the idea that humans learn through thinking, reasoning and problem solving, rather than direct experience or reinforcement (text, p. 175). There are three main types of cognitive learning: Rote learning Rote learning is associated with low involvement learning situations. Rote learning is typically from numerous repetitions of a simple message. When the need arises, a purchase based on those learned beliefs may result. For example, Panadol has a campaign at the moment on how I choose to take Panadol. Modelling/vicarious learning Modelling or vicarious learning in consumer behaviour involves imitating the behaviour of others. This could even be considered as keeping up with the Joneses. If a fri end has a new kitchen, you may want one too! Vicarious learning is based on consumers seeing the results of another persons use of that product. Advertisers regularly use celebrities or appropriate role models to have association with their brand. This association is closely linked with classical conditioning theory. Reasoning Reasoning is a more complex form of learning, and involves consumers taking a more rational approach to their information search and evaluation. Reasoning is typically associated with high involvement products that involve greater risk. Attitude change is another rationale for using reasoning, since marketers need consumers to weigh up alternatives and draw on information stored in their long-term memory.

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Students may highlight the fact that an advertisement offers a cash-back or some other incentive (or reinforcement) which involves mental processes to interpret the message. A combination of learning theories could be used by advertisers. There is no obvious research that suggests each type of learning is mutually exclusive. Case in point 6.4Country Road strengthens its market position Country Road has used the vicarious learning theory in their advertising with the use of celebrities that provide model behaviour for their target audience.



In a simplified form, memory is like a computer, which files certain bits of information in different files ready for use a t a later date. Memory is a vital part of information processing and results from learning. Memory is the total accumulation of prior learning experiences (Bettman 1979; text, p. 177). It is also an intriguing concept, and a great opportunity to encourage student participation. There are three main stages of memory. These are sensory, short-term and long-term. Sensory memory The sensory memory acts like a filter for the short-term memory. It takes in stimuli from the senses and passes the information through to the short-term memory, retaining information for only a fraction of a second. This means marketers might expose consumers to information, but it is not always easy to make a lasting impression. Short-term memory Short-term memory is where information is rehearsed and transferred to the long-term memory. Any data that is not rehearsed will be lost within one minute. (Good chance to go back to the short-term memory exercise below) Marketers need to realise that the amount of time available for memorising is quite limited, so the message needs to be brief and catchy for immediate rehearsal. High frequency (repetition) of ads is also important. Also, arranging information in chunks (like a telephone number) can make it easier to handle). Who can remember the Pizza Hut telephone number? Long-term memory Long-term memory is like a filing system which lasts for up to many years with almost unlimited capacity (until we get older or have children!). Information is organised by linking and grouping information based on its usefulness. For example, this course will be kept in the meaningful file of your long -term memory! Marketers need to send a message that can be easily linked with other information that is stored. Semantic and episodic memory Marketers attempt to link products to episodes in your life to make them more memorable. Many marketers use happy events to demonstrate use of their products. However, even more difficult services to market, like funeral providers, use episodes in this way. For example Olsens Funerals have a group of happy people, and one person in a frame with a message of she used to laugh a lot The product or service can then be linked with a more pleasant feeling or situation. Advertisers who use fear appeals (like drink-driving and speeding) also use episodes to push their message home. Schematic memory A schema is a pattern of associations between concepts or past experiences. It is like a word association that goes beyond just words. Figure 6.7 (text, p. 179) shows how a schema will work for a wedding. In gestalt theory, experiences of individuals are perceived by the senses and interpreted and understood by relating them to existing experiences stored in the memory. In that way, our understanding is made more complete, as these traces of past experiences are added to new situations. Semantic and episodic memory

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The semantic memory involves associations of words and their meanings. You may not be able to remember the precise information, but its on the tip of your tongue. Ask students if they have been in a situation and cant recall someones name, but can remember their first initial? This is where they are actually recalling information from their long-term schematic memory. Episodic memory recalls past events like a wedding or sporting event. Ask students if they remember where they were when the Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony was being held, or when they heard of the tragedies of 9/11 in 2001. Semantic memory is memory of a more general nature, where associations are mainly recalled. In fact, learning about how our many memories work explains why individuals are so different and can perceive similar stimuli in a number of ways. Case in point 6.5Viewer involvement improves TV ad recall Research has shown that viewers pay more attention to programs (and the ads) when they are more involved with the program. For example, high-attention viewers are 21 per cent more likely to pay attention to an ad than an average viewer. Ask students what their favourite TV show is. What ads can they remember being featured on the last episode of that show they watched? Elements of an advertising message Information is encoded by a message sender, and decoded by a message receiver. A code refers to the form of information. For example, some types of codes are: Visual codessuch as pictures and photos Auditory codessound effects and jingles Verbal codeswords used in a message, such as a heading or tag line. Forgetting and extinction Extinction is the disappearance of a memory trace. This occurs when the conditioned response no longer occurs after the conditioned response is present. There are three main causes of forgetting (ask students first): 1. At the attention stage, the information does not pass into the short-term memory (explaining why we ask someone for their name, but dont really listen). 2. Information is not encoded in short-term memory, or sent to long-term memory. 3. Information is lost in the files of our long-term memory and cant be retrieved (this is why some memories of particular events, even between spouses, can be so different).

1. How might an advertiser use classical conditioning theory to prepare an advertisement for shampoo? 2. Using toothpaste as an example, create an advertisement that stresses each theory of operant conditioning: a) Positive reinforcement b) Negative reinforcement c) Punishment. 3. Identify three advertisements of both low involvement (rote) learning and high involvement (reasoning) learning. What are the key differences between each type? What are the similarities? 4. Which theory of learning (i.e. classical conditioning, operant conditioning or cognitive learning) explains the purchase of the following products? a) Staying in the same hotel chain, like Accor b) Buying a plasma screen TV for the first time c) A new brand of shampoo because their preferred one is out of stock d) Buying a can of soft drink Give reasons to support your answer. 5. Choose a service, such as a community service or charity that you are familiar with. As marketing manager for this service, how could you use your knowledge of memory to develop a memorable campaign? In your answer you need to consider sensory, short-term and long-term memory, as well as schematic and episodic memory.

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