Consumer Behaviour Short Report - Selective Attention & How It Affects Consumers

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Introduction
The purpose of this short report is to discuss the selective attention process and further to that discuss how it affects consumers.

Every decision a consumer makes, whether to purchase or not, will be influenced by a number of factors. Consumers today experience a wide variety of messages (stimuli) from marketers across many different mediums.

It is the consumers’ ability to decide whether to accept or reject which messages resonate with them according to their own needs, wants and other lifestyle factors that form the basis for selective attention.

In particular Avery & Baker’s explanation of the late selection theory of selective attention allows consumers to make decisions of selection or rejection of stimuli after they have been presented with the information.[i] This will be discussed in more detail later in this report with an example of the importance of colours in branding across the key competitors in the Australian mobile phone industry.

Selective Attention
Selective attention can be described as the situation where consumers maintain a heightened awareness of stimuli that meet their needs or interests and conversely hold a lower awareness of stimuli that are irrelevant to their needs[ii].

Avery & Baker defined two clear theories of selective attention: Broadbent’s 1958 early selection theory, which limits consumers’ ability to process multiple stimuli at any one time; and, Triesman’s 1969 late selection theory, which is currently favoured now by both Broadbent and Triesman and instead allows for a primary and secondary ‘channel’ where a consumers’ attention may be taken from their first stimuli to another in the event of something significant.

To extend from Triesman’s theory are concepts about the two key ways in which a consumer may address information they are presented with. Schneider and Shiffrin (1977) suggest that predictable or familiar situations are dealt with in an automatic way, while stimuli that is new or constantly changing is controlled by the person focussing on that stimuli.

Colour, branding and consumers
In many cases a brand, or even product, may be associated to a colour that holds a certain personality trait; this concept of brand personality, as discussed by Schiffman, Kanuk and others (1997) sees consumers give human like qualities to brands and products. [iii]

The colours used by competing companies in the establishment of their brand are an important contributing factor in relation to the way customers select stimuli to accept or reject. As we will see in the below example some colours may align with brands that customers aspire to be aligned with, while others are relevant to consumers who may belong to a wider social group or ‘tribe’.

Four key mobile brands will be assessed for their brand’s primary colour and potential brand personality, which in turn will segment consumers who may be more likely to either select or reject the stimuli of these brands.

In the following table our mobile carrier’s have been tested against Bernice Kanner’s 1989 matrix of colour and personality trait, as reported by Schiffman, Kanuk and others (1997), against their in-market perception confirmed with an example of their Internet homepage.

|Carrier |Key colour |Key personality traits | |Telstra |Blue |Respect & authority | |SingTel Optus |Yellow |Novelty & warmth | |Hutchison 3 |Orange |Affordable & informal | |Vodafone |Red |Exciting & passionate |

While the above table is not exhaustive in aligning personality traits to the listed brands it does allow us to examine how and why certain consumers may accept or reject...
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