Introduction. Consumer attitudes are a composite of a consumer’s (1) beliefs about, (2) feelings about, (3) and behavioral intentions toward some object--within the context of marketing, usually a brand or retail store. These components are viewed together since they are highly interdependent and together represent forces that influence how the consumer will react to the object.
Beliefs. The first component is beliefs. A consumer may hold both positive beliefs toward an object (e.g., coffee tastes good) as well as negative beliefs (e.g., coffee is easily spilled and stains papers). In addition, some beliefs may be neutral (coffee is black), and some may be differ in valance depending on the person or the situation (e.g., coffee is hot and stimulates--good on a cold morning, but not good on a hot summer evening when one wants to sleep). Note also that the beliefs that consumers hold need not be accurate (e.g., that pork contains little fat), and some beliefs may, upon closer examination, be contradictory (e.g., that a historical figure was a good person but also owned slaves). Since a consumer holds many beliefs, it may often be difficult to get down to a “bottom line” overall belief about whether an object such as McDonald’s is overall good or bad. The Multiattribute (also sometimes known as the Fishbein) Model attempts to summarize overall attitudes into one score using the equation:
That is, for each belief, we take the weight or importance (Wi) of that belief and multiply it with its evaluation (Xib). For example, a consumer believes that the taste of a beverage is moderately important, or a 4 on a scale from 1 to 7. He or she believes that coffee tastes very good, or a 6 on a scale from 1 to 7. Thus, the product here is 4(6)=24. On the other hand, he or she believes that the potential of a drink to stain is extremely important (7), and coffee fares moderately badly, at a score -4, on this attribute (since this is a negative belief, we now take negative numbers from -1 to -7, with -7 being worst). Thus, we now have 7(-4)=-28. Had these two beliefs been the only beliefs the consumer held, his or her total, or aggregated, attitude would have been 24+(-28)=-4. In practice, of course, consumers tend to have many more beliefs that must each be added to obtain an accurate measurement. Affect. Consumers also hold certain feelings toward brands or other objects. Sometimes these feelings are based on the beliefs (e.g., a person feels nauseated when thinking about a hamburger because of the tremendous amount of fat it contains), but there may also be feelings which are relatively independent of beliefs. For example, an extreme environmentalist may believe that cutting down trees is morally wrong, but may have positive affect toward Christmas trees because he or she unconsciously associates these trees with the experience that he or she had at Christmas as a child. Behavioral Intention. The behavioral intention is what the consumer plans to do with respect to the object (e.g., buy or not buy the brand). As with affect, this is sometimes a logical consequence of beliefs (or affect), but may sometimes reflect other circumstances--e.g., although a consumer does not really like a restaurant, he or she will go there because it is a hangout for his or her friends. Attitude-Behavior Consistency. Consumers often do not behave consistently with their attitudes for several reasons: Ability. He or she may be unable to do so. Although junior high school student likes pick-up trucks and would like to buy one, she may lack a driver’s license. Competing demands for resources. Although the above student would like to buy a pickup truck on her sixteenth birthday, she would rather have a computer, and has money for only one of the two. Social influence. A student thinks that smoking is really cool, but since his friends think it’s disgusting, he does not smoke. Measurement problems. Measuring attitudes is...
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