An attitude expresses how a person feels towards an object. It expresses (1) direction – the person is either favorable or unfavorable toward or for or against the object (2) degree – how much the person either likes or dislikes the object and (3) intensity — the level of sureness or confidence of expression about the object or how strongly a person feels about his or her conviction. Although degree and intensity might seem the same and are actually related, they are not synonymous. For example a person may feel that a Snapper riding mower is very poorly made. This indicates that his attitude is negative and the degree of negative feeling is quite extensive. However, the individual may have very little conscious or feeling of sureness (intensity in attitude) that he is right. Thus, his attitude could be more easily changed in a favorable direction than a person who feels a strong conviction that Snapper mower is poorly made.
The direction degree and intensity of a person’s attitude toward a product have been said to provide marketers with an estimate of his or her readiness to act toward, or purchase the product. However a marketer must also understand how important the consumer’s attitude is vis-à-vis other attitudes and the situational constraints such as ability to pay, that might inhibit the consumer from making a purchase decision.
Attitudes have structure
Attitudes display organization which means that they have internal consistency and possess inter-attitudinal centrality. They also tend be stable,, to have varying degrees of salience and to be generalizable.
The structure of human attitudes may be viewed as a complex Tinker Toy set erected in a type of circular pattern. At the center of this structure are the individual’s important values and self concept. Attitudes close to the hub of this system are said to have a high degree of centrality. Other attitudes located farther out in the structure possess less centrality.
Attitudes do not stand in isolation. They are associated (tied in) with each other to form a complex whole. This implies that a certain degree of consistency must exist between them. That is, because they are related there must be some amount of fit between them, or conflict will result. Also, because the more central attitudes are related to a larger number of other attitudes they must exhibit a greater degree of consistency than more peripheral attitudes do.
Because attitudes cluster into a structure they tend to show stability over time. The length of time may not be infinite but is far from being temporary .Also, because attitudes are learned they tend to become stringer, or at least more resistant to change, the longer they are held. Thus, newly formed attitudes are easier to change and less stable than are older ones of equal strength.
Attitudes tend to be generalizable . That is, a person’s attitude toward a specific object tends to generalize toward a class of objects. Thus, a consumer who purchases a Porsche which develops mechanical difficulties may believe that all Porsches and Volkswagen products and possibly all German made products are poorly constructed. Consumers tend to generalize in such a manner in order to simplify their decision making.
Among all of the attitudes in a person’s attitudinal structure, some are more important or salient to her than others. For example, a US consumer might feel that buying American is more important than saving money. Therefore, she might purchase an American car that costs more than a comparable foreign car. Also, the buy American attitude can be closely tied to attitudes of creating American jobs keeping money at home and the like which thereby support the buy American attitude and increase its salience.
Attitudes are learned
Just as a golf swing, a tennis stroke, and tastes are learned, so are attitudes. They develop from our personal experiences with reality as well as information from friends salespeople and news media. They are also derived from both direct and indirect experiences in life. Thus, it is important to recognize that learning precedes attitude formation and change and those principles of learning discussed in which can aid marketers to developing and changing consumer attitudes.