Seeking New Information

A second way consumers may reduce dissonance is by seeking additional information in order to confirm the wisdom of their product choice. According to dissonance theory, dissonant individuals would be expected to actively avoid information that would tend to increase their dissonance and seek information supporting their decisions. It seems reasonable to assume that consumers would seek out advertisements for products they have purchased and tend to avoid competing ads. Research on this topic, however, has failed to support this hypothesis. Although it is widely documented that consumers experiencing dissonance do seek additional information there is no evidence to substitute either a general preference by consumers for supportive over non-supportive information or a greater information seeking / avoidance tendency by high dissonance consumers. Consumers sometimes seek consonant information to support their choice, sometimes seek discrepant information to refute it and sometimes look merely for useful information, no matter what the content. It appears to depend on the amount of information gathered before his decision and whether he perceives that he has made a wise choice. Thus, if the consumer gathered much evidence before purchase to support his decision and if he strongly believes he made a wise selection , he will feel free to seek out exposure to discrepant as well as consonant information

Unfortunately the research findings in this area have numerous methodological problems, so at present it cannot be concluded that dissonance factors have any effect on the consumer’s post purchase information seeking behavior. Nevertheless the fact that individual’s do engage in selective exposure to marketing information and may at the same time be experiencing dissonance does have some implications for the marketing manager, these will be examined shortly.

Changing Attitudes:

As a result of dissonance the consumer may change his attitude to make them consonant with his behavior, for example when the marketer secures new product trial among target customers who initially have an unfavorable attitude toward the item (let’s say they purchased it because of a coupon offer, or were given a free sample, this situation is likely to produce dissonance . That is, unfavorable attitudes toward the product are inconsistent with the behavior of product trial. Motivation to achieve consonance will likely take the form of attitude change because that is easier than renouncing the purchase and returning the product. By reevaluating the product and adopting a positive attitude towards it, attitudes and behavior are now consistent and consonance is achieved

Marketing Implications

There are several marketing implications that arise from our discussion of cognitive dissonance. Most of these suggestions relate to the promotional variable.

Confirming Expectations:

When the purchase confirms the consumer’s expectations, reinforcement takes place. When expectations are not confirmed however cognitive consistency develops and the consumer will likely reduce the dissonance by evaluating the product (or store) somewhat negatively. Thus, where a product fails to measure up to the consumer’s expectations or guidelines for evaluation the result may be no initial sale, no repeat sale, or unfavorable word of mouth communication.

It is important therefore for the product to confirm expectations, Similarly it is imperative that the marketer not build up expectations unrealistically . Marketers should first design products that will fulfill consumers’ expectation in so far as possible. As our scientific progress advances, people come to expect fewer technical deficiencies in products. These expectations may be set unrealistically high, with resultant dissatisfaction when they are not fulfilled as when the product breaks down for some reason. In order to reduce this occurrence products should be carefully developed with the consumer in mind. A clear understanding of how the product will be used and how it fits into the consumer’s lifestyle is necessary.

Much of the advertising done today may appear to be harmless exaggeration or puffery, but it may actually be contributing unwittingly to less satisfaction on the part of buyers. Promotions that promise more than the product can possibly deliver may be destined for problems. As a result , disconfirmed customers can spread unfavorable word of mouth communications and refuse to purchase the item again.

Source: Consumer Behavior