Concept of Attitude in Consumer Behavior

An attitude describes a person’s relatively consistent evaluations, feelings, and tendencies toward an object or an idea. Attitudes put people into a frame of mind for liking or disliking things and moving toward or away from them. For example, many people who have developed the attitude that eating healthy food is important perceive vegetables as a healthy alternative to meat and chicken. As a result, the per capita consumption of vegetables has increased during recent years, leading the meat and chicken producers to try to change consumer attitudes that chicken and meat are unhealthy. Companies can benefit by researching attitudes toward their products. Understanding attitudes and beliefs is the first step toward changing or reinforcing them. Attitudes are very difficult to change. A person’s attitudes fit into a pattern, and changing one attitude may require making many difficult adjustments. It is easier for a company to create products that are compatible with existing attitudes than to change the attitudes toward their products. There are exceptions, of course, where the high cost of trying to change attitudes may pay off.

There is a saying among restaurateurs that a restaurant is only as good as the last meal served. Attitudes explain in part why this is true. A customer who has returned to a restaurant several times and on one visit receives a bad meal may begin to believe that it is impossible to count on having a good meal at that restaurant. The customer’s attitudes toward the restaurant begin to change. If this customer again receives a bad meal, negative attitudes may be permanently fixed and prevent a future return. Serving a poor meal to first-time customers can be disastrous. Customers develop an immediate negative attitude that prevents them from returning.

Attitudes developed as children often influence purchases as adults. Children may retain negative attitudes toward certain vegetables, people, and places. Chances are equally good that they may retain very positive images toward McDonald’s and Disneyland. Disney and McDonald’s both view children as lifelong customers. They want children to return as teenagers, parents, and grandparents and treat them in a manner to ensure future business. Many hospitality and travel companies have still not learned from those two examples.

However, once negative attitudes are developed, they are hard to change. New restaurant owners often want quick cash flow and sometimes start without excellent quality. A new restaurateur complained that customers are fickle. A few months later after the restaurant was opened, the owner had plenty of empty seats every night. Obviously, he had not satisfied his first guests. Even though he may have subsequently corrected his early mistakes, his original customers who had been disappointed, were not returning.

We can now appreciate the many individual characteristics and forces influencing consumer behavior. Consumer choice is the result of a complex interplay of cultural, social, personal, and psychological factors. We as marketers cannot influence many of these; however, they help the marketer to better understand customer’s reactions and behavior.

Attitudes are defined as a mental predisposition to act that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor. The value of attitude in marketing can be explained in terms of its importance in prediction, diagnostic value and also as relatively inexpensive information that is easily obtained.

Models of Attitude

To understand the relationships between attitudes and consumer behavior, psychologists have tried to develop models that capture the underlying dimensions of attitude. To serve this purpose, the focus has been on specifying the composition of an attitude to better explain or predict behavior. The following section describes some important attitude models like tricomponent attitude model, the multiattribute models, the trying to consume model, and the attitude-toward-the-ad model. All the above-mentioned models present different perspectives on the number of component parts of an attitude and how these parts are arranged or interrelated.

1. Tricomponent Attitude Model

According to the tricomponent attitude model, attitude consists of three major components, viz., a cognitive component, an affective component, and a conative component.

Concept of Attitude in Consumer Behaviour - Tricomponent Attitude Model

  1. The cognitive component: The cognitive component consists of a person’s cognitions, i.e., knowledge and perceptions (about an object). This knowledge and resulting perceptions commonly take the form of beliefs, images, and long-term memories. A utility function representing the weighted product of attributes and criteria would be used to develop the final ranking and thus choice. This model represents the process used by individuals with a strong Thinking Cognitive Style.
  2. The affective component: The affective component of an attitude comprises of the consumers emotions or feelings (toward an object). These emotions or feelings are frequently treated by consumer researchers as primarily evaluative in nature; i.e., they capture an individual’s direct or global assessment of the attitude-object, which might be positive, negative, or mixed reaction consisting of our feelings about an object. Buying of any product or service would be accomplished on the basis of how each product/service makes the decision maker feel. The product that evokes the greatest positive (pleasurable) affective response would thus be ranked first. The affective response may be derived through association (i.e, category attributes) or directly attributed to the interaction between the product or service and the decision maker. It is believed that the manner in which the product/service affirms or disaffirms the self concept of the decision maker has a strong impact to the decision maker’s affect response to the candidate. This model represents the process used by individuals with a strong Feeling Cognitive Style. Ordering of the three job candidates would be accomplished on the basis of how each candidate makes the decision maker feel. The candidate that evokes the greatest positive (pleasurable) affective response would thus be ranked first. The affective response may be derived through association (i.e, category attributes) or directly attributed to the interaction between the candidate and the decision maker. It is believed that the manner in which the candidate affirms or disaffirms the self concept of the decision maker has a strong impact to the decision maker’s affect response to the candidate.
  3. The conative component: The conative component is concerned with the likelihood or tendency of certain behavior with regard to the attitude object. It would also mean the predisposition or tendency to act in a certain manner toward an object.

2. Multiattribute Attitude Models

Multiattribute attitude models portray consumers’ attitudes with regard to an attitude “object” as a function of consumers perceptions and assessment of the key attributes or beliefs held with regard to the particular attitude “object”. The three models, which are very popular, are: the attitude-toward-object model, the attitude-toward-behavior model, and the theory of- reasoned-action model.

  1. Attitude toward object model: The attitude-toward object model is suitable for measuring attitudes towards a product or service category or specific brands. This model says that the consumer’s attitude toward a product or specific brands of a product is a function of the presence or absence and evaluation of certain product-specific beliefs or attributes. In other words, consumers generally have favorable attitudes toward those brands that they believe have an adequate level of attributes that they evaluate as positive, and they have unfavorable attitudes towards those brands they feel do not have an adequate level of desired attributes or have too many negative or undesired attributes. For instance, you may like BMW cars.
  2. Attitude toward behavior model: This model is the individual’s attitude toward the object itself. The crux of the attitude-towards-behavior model is that it seems to correspond somewhat more closely to actual behavior than does the attitude-toward-object model. So taking on from liking a BMW, we may say you are not ready to buy/drive one because you believe that you are too young/old to do so.
  3. Theory of reasoned-action-model: This model represents a comprehensive integration of attitude components into a structure that is designed to lead to both better explanations and better predictions of behavior. Similar to the basic tricomponent attitude model, the theory-of-reasoned-action model incorporates a cognitive component, an affective component, and a conative component; however these are arranged in a pattern different from that of the tricomponent model.

3. Theory of Trying to Consume

The theory of trying to consume has been designed to account for the many cases where the action or outcome is not certain, but instead reflects the consumer’s attempts to consume or purchase. In such cases there are often personal impediments and/or environmental impediments that might prevent the desired action or outcome from occurring. Here again, the key point is that in these cases of trying, the outcome is not, and cannot be assumed to be certain. The focus here is the “trying” or seeking part, rather than the outcome (consumption).

4. Attitude-toward-the-ad Models

The Attitude-toward-the-Ad Model lays emphasis on the impact of an advertisement, either in print or in audio-visual on the formation of consumer attitudes towards product and service offerings and or brands. The theory behind the model states that consumers form judgments and feelings as a result of exposure to an advertisement. Not only does a consumer form attitudes towards the advertisement, he or she also forms an opinion towards the brand. The gist of this model can be explained by the following:

  1. Normally, if you like an ad, you are more likely to purchase the advertised brand.
  2. For a new product/brand, an ad has a stronger impact on brand attitude and purchase intention.

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