We often study attitudes in our qualitative and quantitative studies… But what do we get out of it? How strong do research results are linked with our business results?
Many years ago I asked this question to myself after one of the first academic research that I did on consumer behavior. It was full of attitudinal questions…
Now I think that the following quote perfectly describes those study: “Countless dissertations, theses and journal articles rely absolutely on the supposition of an attitude → intention → behavior sequence; and a whole host of commercial studies rest no less surely though perhaps less formally on the same underlying assumption. It works to some extend – students get their degrees and marketing managers find empirical bases for advertising campaigns and new product development programs. But our systematic knowledge of how attitudes are related to behavior is nowhere as certain as these pragmatic dependencies suggest” (Foxall, 2002).
Well, still lots of academic research shows that attitudes are changing over time. Thus, in one research only ~ 50% of respondents nominated any particular statement in one occasion selected the same statement in the follow up interview (Dall’Olmo Riley et al, 1997).
But what is exact time frame for them? One day, week, month or a year? One of the answers of this question can be linked with the working memory and the time that information is stored there.
Nevertheless, we continue ending up with the same fact – there is little evidence to suggest consumer attitudes are predictive and cause consequent purchase behaviour.
The routes of this problem come from the notion that initially attitudes → behavior studies were done by social psychologists on much higher involvement questions than usual purchase of FMCG products.
So, coming back to the grounds of the Social Psychology, Hewstone, Stroebe and Jonas (2008) show that to empower the predictability of the attitudinal research, it should follow the three following principles.
Social Psychology research also highlight the key factors that make the connection between attitude and behavior stronger.
To sum up, attitudinal consumer research can be still useful for the consumer understanding but should be treated with a big caution! Firstly, this should be translated in the preparation of the attitudinal studies where all 6 factors that make the connection of the attitude and behavior stronger are be consudered. Secondly, attitudinal research shouldn’t be the only source for the business decision-making. It should be combined with other research methods and real in-market tests.
Source: 1. Belinskaya, E.P., Tihomadridskaya, O.A. (2001). Individual Social Psychology, Moscow: Aspect Press; 2. Dall’Olmo Riley, F., Ehrenberg, A.S.C., Castleberry, S.B., Barwise, T.P., Barnard, N.R. (1997). The variability of attitudinal repeat-rates. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 14(5), pp. 437-450; 3. Foxall, G. R. (2005). Understanding Consumer Choice. London and New York: Palgrave; 4. Hewstone, M., Stroebe, W. Jonas, K. (2008). Introduction to Social Psychology: A European Perspective, Australia: Blackwell Publishing; 5. Sharp,B., Wright,M., Dawes,J., Driesener,C., Meyer-Waarden,L., Stocchi,L., Stern,P. (2012). It’s a Dirichlet World. Modelling Individuals’ Loyalties Reveals How Brands Compete, Grow, and Decline. Journal of Advertising Research, pp. 203-213; 6. Taylor, S., Peplau, L.A., Sears, D.O. (2005). Social Psychology, New Jersey: Person.