Consumer Behavior and Consumer Education

Consumers also stand to benefit directly from orderly investigations of their own behavior. This can occur on an individual basis or as part of more formal educational programs. As we study what has been discovered about the behavior of others, we can gain insight into our own interactions with the marketplace. For example, when we learn that a large proportion of the billions spent annually on grocery products is used for impulse purchases, and not spent according to pre planned shopping lists. We may be more willing to plan our purchases in an effort to save money. In general, as we discover the many variables that can influence consumers purchase, we have the opportunity to understand better how they affect our own behavior.

What is learned about consumer behavior can also directly benefit consumers in a more formal sense. The knowledge can serve as data from the development of educational programs designed to improve consumers’ decision making regarding products and services. Such courses are now available at the high school and college level and are becoming increasingly popular. To be most effective, these educational programs should be based on a clear understanding of the important variables influencing consumers.

Consumer behavior and De-marketing:

United States history has long been characterized by intensive efforts by private enterprise to stimulate the public to greater levels of consumption. Various government policies have supported such efforts because of their favorable effect on economic development. Recently, however, it has become increasingly clear that we are entering an era of scarcity in terms of some natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and even water. These scarcities have led to promotions stressing conservation rather than consumption. The efforts of electric power companies to encourage reduction of electrical use serve as one illustration. In other circumstances, consumers have been encouraged to decrease or stop their use of particular goods believed to have harmful effects. Programs designed to reduce drug abuse, gambling and similar types of consumption are examples. These actions have been undertaken by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other private groups.

The term “de-marketing” refers to all such efforts to encourage consumers to reduce their consumption of a particular product o service. The following example illustrates a de-marketing program:

Anti smoking Campaigns

In 1988 voters of California approved a 25 percent per pack cigarette excise tax to fund efforts aimed at reducing the percentage of California residents who smoke. The goal was to reduce the 25 percent smoking rate among residents to 20 percent by 1991. A number of advertising campaigns were developed. Many of these were targeted at specific consumer groups (teens, preteens, minorities, and pregnant women) who are more likely than others to start smoking or who suffer the greatest harm from use of tobacco. A number of the advertisements have been controversial. One radio spot used the limerick: There once was a nice pregnant lady who kept smoking, I thought she was crazy. Her child, sure enough has developed a cough. Hey, you’ve come a long way baby. Another TV ad addresses the hazards of secondary smoke by showing an adult with a cigarette and then focusing on a child next to him who exhales a puff of smoke. An additional set of ads focuses on making viewers aware of what its creators claim are the techniques employed by tobacco companies to manipulate consumers. We want people to know that they are being duped, said Director of the California Department of Health services.

Some claims that these ads will be effective in reducing the incidence of smoking, while others believe that they are misdirected. This latter group claims that smokers will not quit based on whether they think cigarette companies have been attempting to manipulate them.

Some de-marketing efforts have met with considerable success while many others have made hardly any impact on changing long established consumption patterns. An analysis of the successes and failures of various efforts strongly suggest that de-marketing programs must be based on a sound understanding of consumers’ motives, attitudes and historically established consumption behavior.