Back To CourseBusiness 102: Principles of Marketing
12 chapters | 94 lessons | 11 flashcard sets
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Kelly earned her Master of Mass Communication from Arizona State and has taught consumer behavior and communication courses at the undergraduate level.
You might think that once a sale has been made, a marketer's job is done, and all of their goals have been accomplished. You're now slightly lighter in the pocket, and their sales figures for the month just went up. Really, it's not always that easy.
For some purchases, consumers go through a period of second-guessing their purchase decision, wondering if the choice they made was correct or if they should have chosen a different product to fulfill their unsatisfied need.
Marketers must implement strategies to help combat these feelings and assure us we've made the right choice. You might recall that over time, the more positive experiences and feelings we associate with a brand, the more likely we are to develop brand loyalty, where that product becomes our go-to, number one choice. The more negative experiences we encounter, the more likely we are to develop some sort of brand rejection, where we refuse to make the same mistake and purchase the same brand again, lest we experience the same dissatisfaction.
Most of us have experienced a form of this 'second-guessing' feeling when we're out at a restaurant. We order something thinking it's exactly what we're hungry for, only to look over at our dining companion's plate when the food arrives and suddenly wish we'd ordered what they're having.
This type of feeling is also known as cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can be defined as the uncomfortable tension or feelings that occur when we hold conflicting thoughts, attitudes or beliefs. So, in our restaurant example, our belief that we made the best choice conflicts with the realization that there may have been a tastier dish we would have liked more.
You might remember that with the many different types of consumer purchases, there are different levels of involvement, or how much time we spend considering alternatives before making a purchase. The level of involvement used to make a decision can be thought of like a continuum, ranging from virtually no thought to very high involvement, with points all along the line.
Although the menu mix-up situation I just described is a good example to understand the type of feeling associated with cognitive dissonance, actual cognitive dissonance is much more likely to occur in higher-involvement decisions, rather than more spur-of-the-moment, low-involvement decisions like a menu choice. The cognitive dissonance that occurs after high-involvement decision-making can also be called post-purchase dissonance.
By definition, post-purchase dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling we just described when it occurs following a high-involvement decision.
This dissonance occurs because choosing one alternative requires you to commit to its features and benefits, requiring you to give up the attractive features of other possible choices.
Because post-purchase dissonance is most often associated with high-involvement purchases, you can think of purchase dissonance almost like a scale - the likelihood you'll experience those feelings and the stronger they'll be are based on:
These are all factors that characterize a high-involvement decision. Now that we've gone over the post-purchase dissonance parameters, let's evaluate a situation using the scale I just mentioned; we'll call it the dissonance-ometer, and see how it all works together.
Let's say for your 25th birthday, you want to do something special. You decide to go on some sort of birthday vacation celebration and go all out. Now, the only question is what you'll do and where you'll go. You find yourself choosing between a Caribbean cruise and a trip to Hawaii. Going back to our dissonance-ometer, let's see how this decision ranks.
Looking at the decision's permanence, there is some degree of dissonance. While you can always take another vacation and plan a second trip for some other time, you only turn 25 once. And, unless you're some sort of celebrity or billionaire, the chances of you being able to do both for your birthday are probably pretty slim.
So the fact that you can only choose one place to visit for your birthday celebration probably contributes significantly to the amount of dissonance you'll experience once you make your final choice. Let's give this factor an eight out of ten.
The cost of the trip might also make your dissonance-ometer spike. Again, unless you've got an unlimited or very large bank account, either one of these trips will probably cost you a pretty penny and require you to do some saving or cost-cutting in other areas.
Depending on how strenuous the trip is on your budget, your dissonance-ometer will rise even more. In your case, this trip is about a seven out of ten.
The importance of the decision in your life and choosing between options depend on each individual. An avid traveler might spend weeks agonizing over the choice. Someone who is more go-with-the-flow and had the idea for this trip almost randomly might not.
Because traveling is a true passion of yours, this trip ranks about a seven out of ten on the dissonance-ometer in these categories.
So, the dissonance-ometer ranks at an eight out of ten for permanence and a seven out of ten in the other categories. For you, making a purchase decision for your birthday getaway will cause a fairly high level of post-purchase dissonance. Keep in mind, for other purchases, or even for this same purchase for a different person, the different factors can be at all different levels. They don't all have to be sevens or eights, or even close together.
Because post-purchase dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling, most consumers take measures during the purchase decision-making process to try and avoid it. In fact, rather than face the decision head-on, some consumers will simply postpone the decision.
So, even though your car left you stranded in a dark and scary parking lot for the fifth time this month, you'd rather make do and keep driving it rather than brave a new car purchase decision. After all, she still ran just fine for 25 days!
Another thing consumers do to minimize post-purchase dissonance during the decision-making process is to create a decision rule that focuses solely on minimizing their likelihood to second-guess their choice rather than trying to maximize their value.
In other words, when you're trying to decide between two dishwashers that seem equal on all other parameters, you'll go with the more expensive one simply because you have a sneaking suspicion that the cheaper one will probably need replacing first.
Alright, now that we've got post-purchase dissonance factors down, and we've looked at a couple of ways consumers avoid post-purchase dissonance during the decision-making process, let's look at what marketers can do to help circumvent post-purchase dissonance should it come rearing its ugly head after a high-involvement purchase.
Have you ever noticed how you start to pay more attention to the item or category of item you purchased after making a high-involvement purchase decision, how suddenly, after you buy a new car, you start analyzing all the cars on the road to see how yours stacks up?
Since we can't seem to forget about a major purchase once we've made it, marketers shouldn't forget about us either. Their advertising can help reassure us that we've made the right decision. So, while that magazine ad or TV commercial might have a main goal of convincing new buyers to choose their product, it also needs to confirm for existing customers that we've already made the right decision.
The advertising that marketers choose for their product can also help to minimize the negative feelings we experience during the decision process. By focusing ads on all of the positive aspects of the new purchase decision - how fun it is to drive that new car or take that Caribbean cruise - it helps us avoid the urge to delay the purchase.
One final tactic many marketers adopt to help relieve post-purchase dissonance is to make direct contact with the consumer after the purchase decision has been made. Direct communication, such as sending a thank-you note, calling to make sure you're satisfied or sending you emails allow marketers to combat post-purchase dissonance. These direct marketing appeals help to reinforce the positive aspects of your decision, and serve as a gesture to show you that the company hasn't simply written you off because the transaction is complete.
To conclude, post-purchase dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling that occurs following a high-involvement decision. It happens because settling on one option means we give up all of the possible positive benefits of the other choices available. The level of post-purchase dissonance you experience will vary, depending on how expensive, important or permanent the decision is to you.
To help mitigate post-purchase dissonance, marketers must take care to highlight any and all positive emotions associated with choosing that product. Also, using direct marketing after the purchase helps to reinforce the consumer's choice and create an even more positive brand association for future purchases.
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Back To CourseBusiness 102: Principles of Marketing
12 chapters | 94 lessons | 11 flashcard sets