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1. Introduction
1.1 Problem description
Nowadays, the habits of consumers are changing more often as it was decades ago. What was
“in” yesterday is “out” today. Being able to identify and understand the subliminal triggers
are responsible for specific customer actions and reactions is a key factor for companies
creating effective solutions. If they have technology at their fingertips to interact in the
marketplace in new ways, we will be remiss, as marketers, if we do not prepare for that
technology. Being oblivious to customer behaviour is not a viable option for businesses.
There are many factors that influence human behaviour. The decision-making process is
by cultural and social factors, for example through the individual’s family and friends. Our
childhood, what we learned and how we perceived during this time, has a fulminant impact
our decision. Moreover, it is influenced by the personnel characteristics (e.g. age, lifestyle)
psychological factors (e.g. motivation, beliefs and attitudes).
Consumer behaviour refers to the process of acquiring and organizing information in the
direction of a purchase decision and of using and evaluating products and services. The
is more the key which the customer can use to get information according to his attitudes. A
factor for successful competing in today’s business word for a company is the understanding
consumer behaviour.
Behaviour occurs either for the individual, or in the context of a group (e.g., friends influence
what kinds of clothes a person wears) or an organization (people on the job make decisions as
which products the firm should use).
To take adequate actions in the area of marketing, one must understand how people perceive
example advertising, how they learn to consume, how they make decisions and how
affects those decisions.1 One must also analyse what motivations influence the individuals’
decisions, how attitudes are formed and how groups affect the consumer behaviour.
The analyses of this phenomena requires the consideration of various processes, internal and
external to the individual.2 Hence, to understand the purchasing behaviour one need to
2 Engel, J.F.; Blackwell, R.D.; Miniard, P.W., Consumer Behaviour.
Forming and changing of Consumer Attitudes and Behaviour
the complex interaction of a lot of elements, present at different stages, from arousal to
as well as from purchase to post-purchase experiences.
1.2 Purpose
The aim of this essay is to give a view on customer behaviour and answer the following
“How attitudes are formed and changed? Analyse the forming and changing of attitudes when
consumers are likely to devote a lot of effort to processing information and making
1.3 Methods
First, we choose to understand what customer behaviour is. It will be described and explained
part 2.1. Hereon follows a description of the consumer behaviour process, which includes a
presentation of the marketing mix, an extensive characterization of the individual and
environmental Factors, and a description of attitudes, which impacts the behaviour process.
In the conclusion, we come back to our problem and we are come up with proposals, how
attitudes are formed and changed. The authors collected the information for the theory part
books, articles and lecture material. The books are partially form the library and private ones.
The articles that we use are from different databases and from different websites. Most of
were found by the help of a special search-tool, which is called Copernic 2001 Pro.
1.4 Limitations
Since we have a limited time frame and limited resources, we have some limitations to
We are not going to have a look on Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Some theories are only short explained.
2. Theory
The following part presents a general overview on consumer behaviour and attitudes. By
the model of consumer behaviour process the different levels of a buying decision should be
described. According to this model the buying decision is influenced by several factors. This
factors are described nearer in this theory part.
2.1 Consumer Behaviour
Since consumer behaviour is one of the most important areas in marketing there are many
different theories and definitions. We select the following definition:
“Consumer behavior is the study of individuals, groups or organizations in
obtaining, using and disposing of products and services, including the decision
processes that precede and follow these behaviors.”3
2.1.1 Consumer behaviour process
Figure 1: A Model of the Consumer Behaviour Process.
Source: Own creation according to Prof. Dr. M. Zerres.
3 Gibler, Karen M., Nelson Susan L., Consumer behavior applications to real estate education.
The model works as follows. When stimuli, often information from companies, reach a
customer the decision and evaluation process begins.4 By a complex interaction between the
individual factors (Personal and Psychological factors), environmental factors (Cultural and
Social factors), and the marketing mix the consumer evaluate the stimuli. When having
the process the consumer have reached a decision about the product or service.5
But even if the decision is positive it does not automatically mean that the consumer actually
buy the product or service.6
2.1.2 Marketing Mix
The marketing mix is the set of marketing tools a company uses to pursue its marketing
objectives in the target market.7 The most common way to look at the marketing mix is
the eyes of the seller. One then originally talked about the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place and
Promotion. When looking at the marketing mix from the buyer’s point of view you get the
Customer needs and wants, Cost to the customer, Convenience and Communication. The
companies that can meet the 4Cs will be winners.8
2.1.3 Individual and Environmental Factors
There are a lot of factors that control the consumer behaviour process. Most of these are quite
impossible to influence for a marketer. Therefore they have to concentrate even more on the
factors they can influence. The most important factor one can use to influence is perception.9
stimuli that information gives is therefore the factor that initiate the process that leads to the
consumer’s decision. This makes it very important to formulate the message in the
in the best possible way. There are many major factors that influence a consumer’s buying
behaviour. In the paragraphs below the model of Kotler should be described. Many of these
factors can used to segment the market.10
4 Zerres, M., Marketing, p.56 et sqq.
5 Zerres, M., Lecture slides Marketing I., 2001.
6 Smith, R., Psychology, p. 579.
9 Howard, J., A., Buyer Behavior in Marketing Strategy, p. 110.
10 Bliemel, F., Kotler, P., Marketing-Management, p. 280 et sqq.
Forming and changing of Consumer Attitudes and Behaviour
Figure 2: Factors Influencing Behaviour.
Source: Bliemel, F., Kotler, P., Marketing-Management.
The broadest and deepest influence on consumer behaviour is cultural factors. Roles played
culture, subculture and social class is of great importance.11
The most fundamental determinant of peoples wants and behaviour is culture. While growing
one acquires values, perception, preferences and behaviours by looking, listening and
from family, school, friends and so forth.12
Subcultures are smaller proportions of cultures that provide a more specific identification and
socialisation for its members. Examples of subcultures are:
11 Thogersen, J.; Ölander, F, Introduction to Consumer Behaviour and Marketing Strategy.
12 Meffert, H., Grundlagen marktorientierter Unternehmensführung, p. 122 et sqq.
Forming and changing of Consumer Attitudes and Behaviour
Racial groups and
Geographic regions.
The subculture identifications influence food preferences, recreation, career aspirations and
Social Class
All human societies have some degree of social stratification. The most common is social
“Social classes are relatively homogeneous and enduring divisions in a society,
which are hierarchically ordered and whose members share similar values, interest,
and behaviour.”13
Social class reflects income, occupation, education and area of residence. Other
may be difference in the way people dress, speech patterns, recreational preferences and
A cluster of characteristics indicates a person’s social class. Social classes show distinct
and brand preferences in many areas.14 Examples of this are home furnishing, clothing, and
automobiles. Media preferences also differ. Upper class prefers magazines and books
lower class likes television.
In addition to cultural factors reference groups, family, roles and statues influence consumer
Reference Groups
A number of groups influence buyer’s behaviour. Groups that direct influence behaviours and
attitudes are called membership groups. Primary groups are family, friends, co-workers and
forth. In the Secondary groups are people with a more formal interaction. The group includes
organisations like trade unions, religious groups and professional associations. Group
influences attitudes and behaviour much.
A person’s family is the utter most influential reference group. One can divide the family into
two groups. The family of orientation deals with the influence that parents have had on their
13 Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J., Wong, V., Principles of Marketing, p. 193.
14 Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J., Wong, V., Principles of Marketing, p. 193.
Forming and changing of Consumer Attitudes and Behaviour
siblings during the upbringing. When talking about the family of procreation one mean the
influence people who live together have on each other.
Husband and wife influence the buying of different products in different ways.
Husband Dominant: Automobile, television and insurance.
Wife Dominant: Furniture, kitchenware, and carpeting.
Equal: Vacation and outside domination.
Roles and Statuses
Role and status define a person’s position in each group. Roles – activities that a person is
expected to perform. Each role carries a status. Some products are considered to be status
symbols, like Rolls Royce.
The decision to buy is also influenced by personal characteristics such as age, stages in the
cycle, occupation, economic circumstances, lifestyle, personality and self-concept.15
Age and Stages in the Life Cycle
The taste in clothes, furniture, recreation and the need for different kinds of food, services is
related. The consumption is also shaped by the family life cycle. The family’s financial
and product interest have impact on the buying behaviour. Psychological life cycle stages –
transformations through life such as marriage and divorce.16
Occupation influences a person’s consumption pattern. Managers buy suits. Carpenters buy
working clothes. Therefore marketers try to find the occupational groups who have above
average interest in their product.17
Economic Circumstances
Economic Circumstances greatly influence product choices. It consists of people’s disposable
income (level, stability and time pattern), savings, assets, debts, borrowing power and
toward spending versus saving.18
15 Kotler,P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J., Wong, V., Principles of Marketing, p. 198 et sqq.
16 Bliemel, F., Kotler, P., Marketing-Managment, p. 1075 et sqq.
17 Bliemel, F., Kotler, P., Marketing-Managment, p. 1076 et sqq.
18 Meffert. H., Grundlagen marktorientierter Unternehmensführung, p. 465.
Forming and changing of Consumer Attitudes and Behaviour
Even people coming from the same subcultures, social class and occupation can lead to
“A person’s lifestyle is the person’s pattern of living in the world as expressed in
the person’s activities, interests and opinions.”19
Personality and Self-concept
Every individual has a distinct personality that influences his/her buying behaviour.
characteristics are: 20
Defensiveness and
Personality is a useful variable when analysing consumer behaviour. Self-concept (Self-
image) is
related to personality. This often differ from the actual self-concept (How one views oneself.)
and others-self-concept (How one thinks others see oneself).21
Four major factors influence the buying choice - motivation, perception, learning and beliefs
Individuals have many needs at any given time. Physiological needs (Maslow’s Theory of
Motivation) like food and shelter is motivated by survival.22 Social and esteem needs like
of belonging and recognition is not intense enough to motivate a person immediately. It
a motive when the need is aroused to a sufficient level of intensity.
19 Kotler,P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J., Wong, V., Principles of Marketing, p. 201.
20 Fishbein, M., Ajzen, I., Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior, p. 120.
21 Cote, D.; Johnson, M, Consumer Attitudes, Uncertainty, and Consumer Spending, p. 3 et sqq.
22 Smith, R., Psychology, p. 372.
When a person is motivated he/she is ready to act. How one acts is influenced by ones
of the situation.
“Perception is the process by which an individual selects, organises and interprets
information inputs to create a meaningful picture of the world.”23
Physical stimuli as well as stimuli’s to the surrounding field and conditions within the
influences also the perception.
When people act, they learn.
“Learning involves changes in an individual’s behaviour arising from experience.”24
Human behaviour is mostly learned. Learning is produced by interplay of drives, stimuli,
responses and reinforcement.25
Beliefs and Attitudes
By doing and learning one acquire beliefs and attitudes.
“A belief is a descriptive thought that a person holds about something.”26
“An attitude is a person’s enduring or favourable evaluations, emotional feelings
and action tendencies toward some object or idea.”27
Attitudes make people act in a fairly consistent way toward similar objects or situations. In
to change one single attitude one often has to make major adjustments in a lot of attitudes.
Consequently it is difficult to change attitudes.28 Concerning to the problem formulation it is
important to have a closer look on attitudes.
2.1.4 Attitudes
The word attitude originates from Latin: aptus which means fitness or adaptedness. A
of attitude by L. L. Thurstone is:
“The amount of affect or feeling for or against a stimulus”.29
23 Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J., Wong, V., Principles of Marketing, p. 208.
24 Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J., Wong, V., Principles of Marketing, p. 209.
25 Smith, R., Psychology, p. 262.
26 Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J., Wong, V., Principles of Marketing, p. 210.
27 Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Saunders, J., Wong, V., Principles of Marketing, p. 210.
28 Kleine, R. E., Kernan, J. B., Measuring the Meaning of Consumption Objects: An Empirical Investigation.
29 Mowen, J., C., Minor M., Consumer Behavior, p. 249.
This factor is one of the most interesting and important factors for marketers. Attitudes
toward a
company create a company image. People tend to act according to these patterns when
Hence, a strong company image gives good business.30
Depending on the type of product a consumer wants to buy, the buying behaviour varies.
Expensive, complex products that a consumer does not buy frequently calls for high
decisions.31 The consumer actively seeks information and learns about the different
characteristics. Nowadays this searching process is facilitated through new technologies,
especially the Internet. Consumers have better access to information about products, prices
services which allow an easier comparison between different competitors. Howard’s
problem solving work with the same pattern.32 Buying for example a sofa is a high
Low involvement decisions or routine problem solving follow a somewhat different buying
pattern. The consumer knows what he/she want and do not evaluate different alternatives.
Impulse buying (Experimental perspective) is when a consumer through positive feelings,
sensations or emotions is lured to buy a product. IKEA focuses a lot on trying to influence
consumers when the stroll through the store. This is done by putting products with extremely
competitive prices at strategic places in the store.34
When using the behavioural influence perspective companies try to influence the consumers
before the consumers have formed an opinion about the product or service.
Attitude is often said to reflect a person’s deep values meaning that the attitudes are used as
evaluative instrument. We evaluate products, people, and events and so forth by using our
experiences and attitudes. This approach is called the Tripartite Theory of Attitudes, the
traditional way or the A-B-C Theory. The attitude is divided into three elements that are not
separated from each other. The tripartite theory of attitudes corresponds well with the first
of the consumer behaviour process mentioned in figure 3. The first parts of the consumer
behaviour process is the base that leads to the consumers final decision-making. A
of the A-B-C theory made by Rosenberg and Hovland also includes the variable stimuli.35
30 Turnbull,G., Report on consumer behavior in purchasing of organic food products in Australia.
31 Meffert.
H., Grundlagen marktorientierter Unternehmensführung, p.106.
32 Howard, J., A., Buyer Behavior in Marketing Strategy, p. 18.
33 Mowen, J., C., Minor M., Consumer Behavior, p. 352.
34 Solomon, M., R., Consumer Behavior, p.201 et sqq.
35 Fishbein, M., Ajzen, I., Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior, p. 340.
link between the A-B-C theory and the consumer behaviour process is therefore rather easy to
see. Consequently one sees why it is of importance for the companies to learn about the
consumers attitudes.
Figure 3: Tripartite Theory of Attitudes.
Source: Fishbein, M., Ajzen, I., Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior.
Affect refers to a person’s feeling toward and evaluation of an object, person, product, event,
issue and so forth (The consumer analyse the characteristics.). Behaviour/conation deals with
behavioural intention and the actions with respect to or in presence of the object (He/she
establish what use the characteristics may have.). Lastly cognition denotes a person’s
opinions, beliefs and thoughts about the object (He/she think about in which way the product
satisfy him/her.). When dealing with attitudes one is concerned with the predisposition of
behaviour rather than the behaviour itself. This model emphasizes the interrelationships
knowing, feeling and doing. Consumers´ attitudes toward a product cannot be determined by
simply identifying their beliefs about it. For example, a researcher may find that shoppers
“know” a particular camcorder has an 8:1 power zoom lens, autofocus, and a flying erase
but such findings do not indicate whether they feel these attributes are good, bad, or
irrelevant or
whether they would actually buy the camcorder.
For a better overview it is important to mentioned some other theories which deals with the
forming of attitudes.
According to the principle of cognitive consistency, consumers value harmony among their
thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. They are motivated to maintain uniformity among this
elements. This desire means that if necessary consumers will change their thoughts, feelings,
behaviours to make them consistence with their other experiences.
The theory of cognitive dissonance states that when a person is confronted with
among attitudes or behaviours , he or she will take some action to resolve this “dissonance”,
perhaps by changing an attitude or modifying a behaviour. The theory has an important
ramifications for attitudes because people are often confronted with situations in which there
some conflict between their attitudes and behaviours.36
Self-perception theory provides an alternative explanations of dissonance effects.37 The
states that we maintain consistency by inferring that we must have a positive attitude toward
object if we have bought or consumed it.
Social judgement theory also assumes that people assimilate new information about attitude
objects in light of what they already know or feel.38 One important aspect of the theory is the
notion that people differ in terms of the information they will find acceptable or
Balance theory considers relations among elements a person might perceive as belonging
together.39 The theory specifies that people desires relations among elements in a triad to be
harmonious or balanced.
2.2 Practical Example
To provide a better understanding of the theory and the forming and changing of attitudes,
authors present an example where they analyse and visualize the model of consumer
In the example, a 43 years old man plans to buy a car. His old car is a Audi, and he is
with it. This is the reason why he plans to buy a product of this company again. His
and attitudes are influenced by many different factors, which are described in the following
36 Festinger, L., A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.
37 Bem, D., J., Self-Perception Theory, p. 35 et sqq.
38 Hovland, C., I., Sherif, M., Social Judgment: Assimilation and Contrast Effects in Communication and Attitude
39 Heider, F., The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations.
Environmental factors
Because he is Norwegian and lives in Oslo, he is first of all influenced by the local culture.
him and his family religion is not important. Concerning his social class he is always well
dressed and prefers expensive brands. According to the reference groups, he is only
by the primary group, which is explained in the theory part. He is well socialized and cares
the opinion of friends and co workers. His family (wife and two children) has also a great
influence on his decision making process. Buying decisions, for example purchase a car or
an insurance, are his duties in the family. For him status symbols are really important.
Individual factors
Working as a manager his income is 60.000€ per year and there are no major open depth.
Because of his job, he has several occupation like to buy a suite. He prefers leisure time
like skiing trips and golf, for this he needs to have a big car. His personality is influenced by
high education and a high self confidence.
Marketing mix
His buying decision is also influenced by different advertisings. Further he informed himself
comparing different offers in the internet and by sales conversations.
This three factors (Environmental and Individual factors, Marketing mix) are
the stimuli of his buying decision. According to the model, stimuli influences the attitudes.
As described in the attitude theory part, the planned purchase is a high involvement decision.
This includes complex products that a consumer does not buy frequently. The consumer
seeks information and learns about the different characteristics and advantages.
After several conversations with good friends and co workers, who are driving other cars and
satisfied with the quality of there product and the service from the companies, he decided to
more information about other car brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. For a first overview
had a look on the web-sides of this companies. By comparing the information like price,
and service, he is impressed of the BMW performance. Concerning to the decision making
process, he elected to have a sales conversation with the local dealers of the different brands.
By using the behavioural influence perspective companies try to influence the consumers
the consumers have formed an opinion about the product or service. In our example the man
3. Conclusion
The aim of our essay was to give a view on consumer behaviour, especially showing how
attitudes are formed and changed and what are the most important factors which influence
behaviour. We explored and analysed the forming and changing of attitudes when consumers
likely to devote a lot of effort to processing information and making decisions. The paper
an overview of the theories according to the model of the consumer behaviour process. In this
model the stimuli is influenced by individual and environmental factors, and the marketing
When the information from companies reach a supposed customer, the decision and
process begins. By a complex interaction between the individual factors (Personal and
Psychological factors), environmental factors (Cultural and Social factors), and the
mix, the consumer evaluate the stimuli. The stimuli is influencing the attitudes. The ABC-
which is explained in the theory part, shows how the stimuli is evaluating the attitudes. In our
point of view, this model provide the best possibility in describing the forming and changing
attitudes, if the frame is limited. The result of this hole process influence the consumer’s
In order to show this complex interaction between these factors, we presented the example of
consumer behaviour process. This model underline implicit assumption when attitudes are
formed and changed. The old attitude is literally replaced through the newer attitude. We
recognized that in many cases the prior attitudes might remain at least partially the new one.
our example, the man had a formed opinion about a specific car brand, but then, after many
efforts he changed his attitude. This change was influenced as described in the example by
several factors. Not only the personal, also the social, culture and psychological factors have
direct impact on the attitudes, the consumer behaviour and the decision making process. In
example the social factors show the impact of family and reference groups. The culture
underline for instance the importance of the social class. If taking a closer look on the
psychological factors, the relevance of motivation, learning and perception is getting clear.
Furthermore, the company itself can use the marketing mix as a tool in order to form and
the attitudes of the consumer. The marketing mix is the possibility for a company to influence
the consumer behaviour. Therefore, this term is getting more and more important for
This essay pointed out the importance for companies of recognizing different consumer
in order to form and change them. Dealing with this term is not a viable option for companies
today’s business, it is important in order to reach competitive advantages.
Forming and changing of Consumer Attitudes and Behaviour
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