Defining Consumer Behavior

Creating effective messages to reach strategically important audiences is a critical function in public relations. Communication efficiency can be directed by increasing individuals’ levels of motivation, ability and opportunity. This theory states that individuals process information based on these three factors (motivation, ability and opportunity).

Consumer motivation is the first initiator of the model. Motivation is the state of aroused behavior toward attaining a goal.  It is a desire for product, service or experience.  Motivation begins with a need recognition. Needs are never fully satisfied and can be natural or learned.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to more advanced needs.  These needs play a major role in behavior motivation.

Needs can also conflict; Approach-avoidance conflict can be desirable or undesirable, satisfying some needs, but not others. Approach-approach conflict is when there is more than one desirable option and a choice must be made. Avoidance-avoidance conflict is when there is more than one undesirable option and a choice must then be made.

Another factor of consumer motivation is perceived risk.  Perceived risks are higher when a product is new, has a high price, and there is little information available.  The six risks that researchers have identified are:

  • Performance risk – uncertainty of the products performance.
  • Financial risk – if the product is at a high price.
  • Physical risk – potential harm to an individual.
  • Social risk – social harm from buying or using the product.
  • Psychological risk – concerned if the product fits lifestyle.
  • Time risk – time commitment.

Being brand loyal, buying through brand and store image, seeking out information and buying the most or least expensive brand can reduce consumer risks.

Consumer ability is the second forerunner of the model. High ability individuals are knowledgeable and have the capability to process information more efficiently. Inactive publics have a disadvantage compared to active publics because they are not aware or knowledgeable about certain topics and organizations.  If it is not used regularly, it is more difficult to process. Marketers need to target audiences that have a prior knowledge to the product or develop educational messages

Opportunity is the last part of the model. Opportunity favors information processing messages.  Distractions and limited exposure time affect consumers’ attention to brand information, as well as the complexity of the message. Marketers have concluded three steps in order to enhance opportunity and help consumers’ better process information: repeat marketing communications, reduce time pressure, reduce time needed to buy and learn about a product or service.

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