Consumer Behavior: Factors Influencing People’s Buying Habits
Persuasion is not a simple thing to do but complex; and for it to be really effective, the work of advertising, which in itself is to persuade, has to be convincing. Being certain of the nature of this enterprise, big companies incorporate into their advertising work a study and thorough investigation and thus understanding of human behavior and the milieu around which certain individuals or group of people converge and operate.
Elements essential to such significant comprehension include the world of sensation and perception of the perceiver, or organism and the environment from which the stimuli potentially affecting the said perceiver or organism come from.
Consumer behavior is a distinct field which makes use of contributions from scholarly branches of learning (Craig-Lees, Joy & Browne, 1995). Approaches as to its insights are varied as they are also complex. There are different theoretical models from which these approaches are drawn from. Basing on the Brennan and Marriot model (1996), there are these important factors that influence buyer behavior.
Psychological variables, such as personality and lifestyle, attitude, learning, perception, and motivation are components that are basically being considered. So, looking now at a purchase situation, essentially it involves the following variables: contextual issues, purchase reason, time, and surroundings. Other influences affecting consumers also include, the social influences as the family, social class, reference groups, culture and subculture, the need arousal, set criteria for evaluation and evaluate alternatives, decision and the search for information, etc (Brennan and Marriot, 1996).
Many authors on consumer behavior claim that the description and the understanding or explanation of the consumer buying phenomenon is indeed complicated. However, in the light of studies made, and in particular, in this study, the researcher attempts to describe this arena of buyer behavior, and how celebrity athletes influence the purchases of individuals. Drawing from different literature, examples and illustrations will be presented to shed light into the world of consumer behavior.
II. Statement of the Problem
Since, as mentioned in the introduction, consumerism is complex and involves a variety of factors, this paper seeks to address the concern that surrounds consumer behavior especially as influenced by sports celebrity endorsers. More specifically it seeks to answer the following questions:
1. What is the nature of consumer or buyer behavior?
2. What are the common factors that influence the buying habits of young adults?
~ Definitions and Demographics
Before discussing the various factors which motivate consumers to buy a certain product rather than another, or to act one way or another, it is important to make a proper distinction between consumers and customers.
Miranda (1970) defines the term consumer which came from the Latin con meaning “together” and sumo signifying “take” as “all persons who make final or ultimate use of economic goods for their personal satisfaction or benefit.” Thus, broadly speaking, they include all people regardless of age, gender, and economic status.
On the other hand, customers are “purchasers of goods or services whether for their own satisfaction or for resale to others.”
Dr. Lars Perner suggested that though there can be a variety of definitions that can shed light as to the nature of consumer behavior, one of the “official” definitions is: “The study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society” (http://www.larsperner.com). This one definition covers almost everything there is in consumer behavior. It is true that individuals that compose certain sectors, groups, and organizations, go through some processes – whether they are conscious or not of these processes – that influence their buying and selection of particular products and brands. They may not be aware of the fact that their behavior is being studied and investigated but this is what it is in the market place. The fact is: People have needs (i.e. people buy and consume) and in the eyes of the marketeers, there must be plenty of ways to meet the needs (legitimate or illegitimate). Whatever the case, consumerism is a fact of life.
In a 1998 Market Research Report on the US footwear sales, data revealed that Nike has led with an eleven percent share in the US footwear market while Reebok come second in the pack. Nike reportedly dominated the athletic shoe category “from sneakers to sports management,” added the report from MindBranch which is a leading investigative and investment research group in the United States. This no longer comes as a surprise to many in the business. In footwear advertizing, a whopping $400 million was invested. The Nike-Michael Jordan “nexus” is no secret to this worldwide success: both to Nike and his “airness” as Michael Jordan is synonymously labeled (______Accessed in http://www.mindbranch.com).
Several studies were made on this association like the works by Sawatari and Kellner. Sawatari anchored his study on the attractiveness and trustworthiness variables (among others) to determine whether these have effects on consumers of athletic shoes (Sawatari, 2006). Kellner on the other hand examined the media spectacle that was Michael Jordan, the making of his image and the good and bad sides of the “success” that he was made of (Kellner, 2007). Both these studies confirmed other studies that celebrity endorsers do influence many of the young adults and youth in their purchasing decision-making process. Jordan brought Nike to its heights and Nike also further cemented Jordan’s place in sports history.
~ What is the nature of consumer or buyer behavior?
The nature of buyer behavior, of course, varies as there are many groups as well as individuals. Often, however, as is the case, individuals are influenced by larger groups. Behavior is developed and shaped within the framework of a crowd. In short, people in general behave or consume in such a way as the whole population acts. The so called trends are actually the result of the existing lifestyles of the populace. The business world just looks and observes the common people and soon products will be available designed to match or meet the clamour of the public. For example, why is it that fast-food chains are selling so much? The obvious answer to this is, because there is a portion of the general public which cannot afford to cue a long line just to wait for their turn to eat their snacks. Hence, the reason that prevalence of quick service fast-food restaurants is increasingly felt.
Operating on the simple principle of “supply and demand,” though, is not always positive as to its outcome when evaluated on holistic scale. For instance, the popularity of fast-food has had its negative effects on the health of the majority of its consumers. Diseases related to heart problems have become common and have to be dealt with by the Government with substantial corresponding budget to alleviate this setback. In whatever goods, there has to be a public policy attached that states the repercussions (positive or negative) of consumption of a product.
During the 1980s, a medicine which could cure acne was introduced – Accutane. True to its promise, its cure at that time was almost miraculous. The only problem was, along with its cure for acne, is its side effects especially to pregnant women. It could cause serious defects on the babies of mothers who are users of the said drug. Because of the harmful side effects, physicians were given orders to warn their female patients of the grave threat the medicine poses to their pregnancy. After some time elapsed and realizing that there are still women getting pregnant, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) decided to make a more radical step. They required that “very graphic pictures of deformed babies be shown on the medicine containers” (ibid).
~ What are the common factors that influence the buying habits of young adults?
The people in a particular community constitute the market for goods and services. They are the consumers, and businessmen have to understand their behavior. They ought to know the consumers’ wants, their beliefs, likes and dislikes, because the success of a business enterprise depends upon them (Sanchez et al.1997).
Most often, behavior is motivated; that is, most people have reasons for what they do. Knowledge of consumers’ reasons for buying enables the producers or businessmen to devise more effective appeals.
In motivation research which involves the analysis of motives, attitudes and thinking of consumers, the subconscious reason for buying certain products and specific brands at a particular time and place is discovered. Projective techniques are used to probe into the consumers’ hidden attitudes, preferences, feelings, motivation, dislikes and prejudices (Sanchez et al.1997).
The most common factor is the quality of the product which itself is claimed by almost all business companies. Anybody would tell you they buy a certain brand for the sole reason of its quality – its durability. However, if dug deeper, the reasons are plenty. It will go to further embrace other features of the product in question from quality to style, to its being in vogue, and at times – as crazy as it might sound – for its monetary value. People, it seems, are convinced that somehow the price tag speaks for the product’s superiority in quality in all respects. What are the common reasons, then, for the young adults’ choice/s of buying certain kind of brand? Based on established research, people buy for variety of reasons (Sanchez et al.1997):
1.) The Influence of Biological Need.
Remembering Maslow’s sequential theory of motives, it should be noted that the lowest in the hierarchy of needs, which is actually the strongest of all, is the physiological or the biological need. This is one of the causes of purchasing behavior. Consumers buy products primarily because they want to satisfy their biological needs (Sanchez et al.1997).
2.) The Psychological Need.
In the same pyramidal scale, after the physiological needs are the psychological ones that represent the next important level of needs, specifically, the sense of belongingness or affiliation need. A big share of an individual’s income goes to establishing social contacts and maintaining a circle of friends to keep his status in the group. Studies reveal that young ladies generally do not wish to wear the same dress on two successive occasions. Neighbors, friends, and associates often influence one to buy. Studies on consumer behavior disclose that the customer seldom knows what he wants. He is induced to buy by reason of “follow-the-crowd” mentality (Sanchez et al.1997).
a. Status symbol.
People, in general, value societal status. Advertisers understand this deep-seated need among people; so what they do is use or hire a celebrity and let that celebrity endorse their product to the public through advertisement. Although the advertisement itself is incidental to the whole issue of status, it is used as a vehicle to promote the product and because it is important as “socialization agent” (Bush, Martin, & Bush, 2004). Through the publicity that is achieved in advertising, the public is becoming more aware of the product; and because it is being endorsed by rich and famous figure, the product has gained a status which eventually associate people who use the product to particular status that it represents. This is what marketers and businessmen exploit most and manipulate ways to cater to this specific need of individuals.
The ego-integrative motive is strong especially among the majority of youth and the young adults. It is their desire to not only to be noticed but also to be looked up to with awe and admiration. This is a desire for distinction. Hence, textile or clothes and jewelry are in great demand (Sanchez et al.1997).
Who doesn’t want to be attractive? No one can underestimate the value of physical attractiveness. It is through the person’s physical attractiveness or unattractiveness that another person usually takes his cue in judging the other person’s individuality (Baker and Churchill 1977). First impression lasts. Largely, the reason for employing celebrities in endorsing products is their physical appeal. Somehow, buyers feel that possessing or using the same products that the people they look up to or admire might make them look attractive or desirable to others as the products’ endorsers.
3.) Learning Experiences.
Another factor that influences buying behavior is that oftentimes, people learn from their experience/s. The mature consumer is generally interested in quality products. It is observed that if he has learned from experience that a certain brand is gratifying his needs, he will prefer to buy the same brand from which he has obtained a high degree of satisfaction because of its good quality (Sanchez et al.1997).
4.) Socioeconomic Contacts.
A consumer is stimulated by another consumer to buy when he is in contact with a person who is capable of inducing him to consume a new commodity. Friendships, work and gym mates are areas where these contacts are found. It is usually found in one’s social class or standing. Reports of a new commodity from a person whose values in general, one does not share, are unlikely to have much effect (Sanchez et al.1997).
5.) Attitudes and Values.
In this criterion or factor, two things are of utmost importance when studying consumer behavior. Firstly, attitudes and values motivate other patterns of behavior. It is the motivating and guiding effects of attitudes and values that make them important in human affairs. They guide and cast an emotional coloring over many of an individual’s everyday lives (Sanchez et al.1997).
Secondly, attitudes and values influence perceptions. Consumer’s perceptions of certain products are highly influenced by their attitudes and values. They may perceive objects as being considerably different from what they really are. Many of people’s negative or rejecting attitudes toward persons or objects have emotional overtones of apprehension and fear. Some respond by active avoidance. Practically, humans perceive a certain product or a specific brand as of poor quality when they have a negative attitude towards it (Sanchez et al.1997).
VIII. Synthesis and Conclusions
The people in the community constitute the consumers whose behavior ought to be understood by the businessmen because the success of a business enterprise depends upon them.
Different people purchase the same items but for a variety of reasons, referred to as necessity, social pressures, family pressures, convenience, inadvertence and economic reasons.
The field of Psychology has provided ample explanations through theories made from researches and studies to make the understanding of consumer behavior, and its applications in a variety of ways, what it is today. Among the many reasons why people buy, are: consumers buy products primarily to satisfy their biological needs as the need for food and drink; they buy products to establish social contacts and maintain a number of friends; the desire for distinction influences many of us, especially the young to buy; learning from experience influences a matured consumer to buy good quality products; we are induced to buy by reason of “following the crowd mentality;” socioeconomic contact stimulates one to buy, and the attitudes and values that consumers hold.
Why then do people buy? Attention here is directed toward the characteristics of the consumer rather than those of the product. Techniques used for the study of personality have been adopted for this purpose and so behavior specialists make use of in-depth interviews, questionnaires, and projective techniques to probe the unconscious bases of buying. From such studies it is evident that individual patterns of motives, traits, and attitudes have as much to do with purchasing as do the stimulus properties of the product or the appeal of advertizing.
Today, when people buy things, they not only do so for what they expect the things to do, that is, the satisfactions they hope to derive from them, but they buy things also for what they mean.
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