One of the newer and increasingly important set of factors that is being used to understand consumer behavior is lifestyle. Lifestyle has been generally defined as the attitudes, interests, and opinions of the potential customer. Such variables as interest in hunting, attitude toward the role of women in society, and opinion on the importance of dressing well can be used to better understand the market and its behavior.
It is the multifaceted aspect of lifestyle research that makes it so useful in consumer analysis. A prominent lifestyle researcher, Joseph T Plummer, summarizes the concept as follows:
...life style patterns, combines the virtues of demographics with the richness and dimensionality of psychological characteristics....Life style is used to segment the marketplace because it provides the broad, everyday view of consumers life style segmentation and can generate identifiable whole persons rather than isolated fragments.8
A useful application of the lifestyle concept relates to consumer's shopping orientation. Different customers approach shopping in very different ways. They have different attitudes and opinions about shopping and different levels of interest in shopping. Once people know their alternatives, how do they evaluate and choose among them? In particular, how do people choose among brands of a product? Current description of this process emphasizes the role of attitudes. An attitude is an opinion of a person, idea, place, or thing. Attitudes range based on a continuum from very negative to very positive. Traditionally, an attitude is broken down into three components: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. That is, an attitude is first what we know/believe, followed by what we feel, and ending with an action. Thus, we have learned that a particular company has been polluting a local river; we feel very strongly that business should not do this and feel very angry; and we boycott the product made by that company.
A great deal of marketing strategy is based on the idea that the cognitive, affective, and behavioral components of an attitude tend to be consistent. Thus, if it is possible to change what people believe about Yamaha CD players, their feelings and their actions may eventually change as well. However, this relationship among the three components of an attitude seems to be situation—or even product—specific. For example, attitudes tend to predict behavior better in high-involvement decisions. Thus, if someone has a strong attitude about wearing stylish clothes, then it is possible to predict that the person will restrict purchases to a particular set of brands. Furthermore, we do not react to products in isolation. The situation, or our attitude toward the situation, plays an important role in how well attitudes predict behavior. For example, assume that a consumer likes pizza but does not like Pizza Inn pizza. In a social setting where everyone wants to go to Pizza Inn for pizza, this person might eat this brand rather than not have pizza at all.
Despite limitations on the predictive power of attitudes, attitudes can help us understand how choices are made. However, we need to carefully assess the validity of the attitude-behavior relationships for each situation and product.
- The following factors influence consumer behavior:
a. situational influences
- the buyer task: high-involvement vs low-involvement
- market offerings
b. external influences
- social class
- reference groups
c. internal influences
- learning and socialization
Given the hypothesis that attitudes influence buying behavior, how can a company bring its products and consumers' attitudes into a consistent state; that is, into a situation where consumers evaluate a given product or brand as satisfying their need? Marketers have two choices: either they can change consumers' attitudes to be consistent with their product, or they can change the product to match attitudes. It is easier to change the product than to change consumers' attitudes. Nevertheless, attitudes can sometimes be modified. Modifying attitudes might be the only reasonable choice, as when a firm is introducing a truly new product or an unusual new use for an existing one. Marketers should nevertheless face the fact that it is extremely difficult to change consumers' attitudes. If there is to be change, it is most likely to occur when people are open-minded in their beliefs or when an existing attitude is of weak intensity; that is, when there is little information to support the attitude or very little ego involvement on the individual's part. The stronger a person's loyalty to a certain brand, for example, the more difficult it is to change that attitude.