Home » Consumer Behavior – Conceptualizing Involvement

Consumer Behavior – Conceptualizing Involvement

The plethora of consumer behavior and social psychological literature on involvement suggests considerable interest in this construct. There has not, however, been a common conceptual or methodological framework to its examination in either literature (Laaksonen, 1994; Jain and Srinivasen, 1990; Rothschild, 1984; Zaichkowsky, 1985; Traylor and Joseph, 1984). Three main perspectives of involvement are evident in extant literature; product-centered, subject-centered and response centered orientations (Finn, 1983).

The product-centered perspective defines involvement as the perceived importance of the product to the consumer, i. e. whether the product is trivial and, therefore, unimportant, or serious and thus important. The subject-centered view maintains that consumers differ in terms of involvement-type variables. Three sub-groupings of subject-centered definitions have been postulated. They include interest/importance, relevancy (goals/consequences) and commitment (ego involvement).

In this perspective, involvement has been defined as either the level of interest the consumer has in a product category or how important it is to her; the level a consumer is involved with a product in so far as it is related to some achievable end or concerns information that will directly impact on them; and, the level of commitment the consumer exhibits with respect to her position on an issue (Greenwald and Leavitt, 1984; Rothschild, 1984; Simon, 1967). The final alternative perspective views involvement as response-centered.

This view holds that involvement is the active participation in information processing (Engel and Blackwell, 1982; Bettman, 1979). Despite the many and varied definitions of consumer involvement that have emerged in the literature, two common ideas emerge: first, involvement is a multi-dimensional construct (McQuarrie and Munson, 1986; Laurent and Kapferer, 1985), and, second, it is a motivational force which can help explain various behavioral outcomes, (for example, number and type of hoice criteria, extensiveness of information search, length of decision-making process, variety seeking, and brand switching).

The multi-dimensional aspect of involvement has been demonstrated by various researchers who suggest that the dimensions include: normative involvement – the importance of product class to values, emotions, and the ego. This has also been identified as sign involvement -the relation of self-image to the product (Higie and Feick, 1988; Lastovicka and Gardner, 1979); subjective risk – the felt probability of making a mispurchase, or risk involvement (Knox et al. 1994; Jain and Srinivasan, 1990; Peter and Olsen, 1987).

Enduring involvement – the interest and familiarity with a product class as a whole (Beharrell and Dennison, 1995; Jain and Srinivasan, 1990; Higie and Feick, 1988; Ratchford, 1987; Vaughn, 1986); situational involvement – the interest and commitment within a product class, e. g. loyalty to the brand choice (Beharrell and Denison, 1995; Mittal, 1989). The construct of involvement may be germane at several levels of analysis (Finn, 1983): consumers may be involved at a product level (Alden et al. 1989), a purchase level (e. g. Clarke and Belk, 1978) or at the communication level (e. g. Petty and Cacioppo, 1981).

Purchase involvement may be perceived as a motivational purchase attitude. Attitudes, however, are not necessarily good predictors of behavior (Burke, 1992). It is argued, therefore, that involvement creates a predisposition to act in a certain manner, it is a state of motivation in which purchase behavior may take place. Environmental cues (for example, the in-store retail setting), however, stimulate the predisposition and convert it into action.

Purchasing behavior, therefore, is the result of the interaction of the predisposition to act and the environmental cues that can stimulate action. Additionally, the cultural context of behavior generates processes that account for the relationship between intra- or interpersonal antecedent conditions and behavioral outcomes (Baron and Kenny, 1986; Triandis, 1990). Thus, it is necessary to investigate the predisposition to act in each cultural environment of interest for application to a retail setting.

Contrary to Finn’s categorization (1983) of the three involvement orientations above, it could be argued that these definitions should not be viewed separately, but are linked sequentially. Involvement is a state of motivation mediating direct influences on behavior. Although involvement can take place at the communication, product or purchase level, the level of motivation results from product attributes from which the product tends to be more or less involving (product-centered view) and how related the product is to the consumer’s psycho-social wants and needs (personal relevance).

The motivation is expressed as an interest in the product category and this interest influences behavioral outcomes, including brand commitment. A revised conceptual definition of involvement, therefore, is outlined: consumer involvement is a motivational state that mediates the predictors of behavior through cognitive and affective assessment, and results in behavioral outcomes.

This definition presents involvement as a mediator of the predictors of behavior through cognitive and affective assessment, which results in behavioral outcomes. While most authors present involvement as a construct comprising of between one to eight dimensions (Knox et al, 1994; Beharrell and Denison, 1995; Laurent and Kapferer, 1985; Zaichkowsky, 1985), the literature also suggests an alternative perspective which separates cognitive from affective involvement assessment (Mittal and Lee, 1989; Mittal, 1983; Park and Mittal, 1985).

Normative and risk involvement dimensions describe rational and emotional ognitive assessment (Sheth, 1974; Sirgy, 1982; Laurent and Kapferer, 1985), whilst enduring and situational involvement seem to be the output of this cognitive assessment in terms of the affective value (Peter and Olsen, 1987; Houston and Rothschild, 1977). Thus involvement could be perceived as a two-stage development. Motivation arises from an assessment of the purchase situation in terms of normative and risk evaluation which leads to a positive or negative emotion in terms of enduring and situational interest.

Enduring and situational involvement is hypothesized to have a positive causal influence over purchase behavior (e. g. Mittal and Lee, 1989). What is social marketing? Social marketing is broadly recognized as the use of marketing strategies and techniques to achieve a social goal. For decades, social marketing has had a proven impact on the health and well being of millions of people, both in the United States and the developing world. Social marketing borrows heavily from commercial marketing and the social sciences.

Using social marketing techniques such as market research, product development, distribution, and demand creation, many development programs are able to encourage populations to practice preventive behaviors, choose the size of their family, or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle. Examples of socially marketed products and services include condoms (male and female) to prevent HIV/AIDS and other STIs, oral and injectable contraceptives, reproductive health clinic networks, oral rehydration salts, nutritional supplements and home water purification kits.

Why is social marketing important? Social marketing is considered to be effective in the area of reproductive health and family planning programs because it: Uses sound research methodologies for maximum impact. Social marketing uses both quantitative and qualitative research tools in order to study the nature of supply and demand for a particular product or service. This can include, but is not limited to, focus group research, behavioral studies, consumer intercept studies, price and ability-to-pay studies and distribution surveys.

Research results are then used to develop and guide specific initiatives. Meets the needs of low-income populations. Social marketing affects the supply side of market economies by developing and distributing products that are designed to meet the needs of low-income or otherwise disadvantaged populations. Through targeted packaging, pricing and sales techniques, programs ensure that products are appealing, easy to find and affordable. This in turn stimulates demand among people who have an unmet need for the product.

Promotes the adoption of healthy behavior. Social marketing uses sophisticated communication techniques to create awareness of roducts and services, educate target population on the need to adopt preventive behaviors, and dispel myths and misconceptions that prevent the adoption of healthy behaviors. Techniques can include mass media advertising, entertainment-based education programs, point of purchase promotion, interpersonal and peer education programs, and provider training.

These demand creation activities are often based on behavior change theory, which borrows heavily from the social sciences in its interpretation of human behavior and the factors that influence it. Commercial Market Strategies What can social marketing activities achieve? Increased accessibility to products and services. Affordable reproductive health products are often hard to come by in developing countries. This can be caused by both supply and demand conditions if demand for a given product is low, retailers will have no incentive to carry this product and supply will remain low.

Demand might be low because products are not desired, not known or simply not affordable to the majority of consumers. Successful social marketing interventions can secure lower prices, improve product packaging, and stimulate demand while creating or improving distribution networks to ensure sustained supply. For services, social marketing can stimulate demand through a combination of pricing and communication techniques while increasing the availability of health services to low income populations through the development of provider networks and quality standards.

Behavior change. Through successful behavior change interventions, many social marketing programs have created favorable environments for condoms and other contraceptive products, gathered the support of providers and community leaders, and empowered vulnerable groups to take control of their reproductive health. To improve public health, social marketing focuses on changing prevailing attitudes and behaviors at all levels. In order to do this, people must believe that they are at risk.

They must feel confident they have the power to change their own behavior, and new behavior must be compatible with prevailing cultural norms. In addition, health providers and retailers must often be convinced that the products and services being promoted are needed, safe and socially acceptable. Increased health impact. Social marketing is considered one of the most effective types of public health interventions because it offers measurable results.

The ultimate goal of social marketing is social impact. In the area of public health, this translates into reduced risky or unhealthy behaviors that can in turn have an impact on the spread of diseases, chronic malnutrition or uncontrolled birth rates. Social marketing impact is often measured in terms of CYP (contraceptive years of protection), reduced prevalence of diseases such as sexually transmitted infections, malaria and food-borne diarrhea, or increased number of patients at network clinics.

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