Topic III. Marketing research and consumer behavior ed 5


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Ed 5

Gregory J. Baleja

Alma College
Marketing Research:

Questionnaire Construction Process

Each year during my lectures on Marketing Research, I spend one full class period discussing the Questionnaire Construction Process in great depth. I find the presentation of the concepts associated with the question­naire construction process to be rather straightforward. In fact the presenta­tions go so well, that many students come to the conclusion that creating a questionnaire, or evaluating a current one, in the real world is relatively easy. They seem to believe that all one has to do is to understand the basic objectives of the research, and then simply translate these objectives into a formal questionnaire. It is this erroneous assumption that bothers me.

After going through a detailed list of generalizations associated with the con­struction of a questionnaire, I then ask the students to critically evaluate the “Instructor Evaluation Form” that they have been exposed to many times during their tenure at Alma College. Some of the questions utilized on this form in the recent past, are illustrated below. Samples of the student’s com­ments are shown in italics following each of these questions. For each of these questions, the students were instructed to assign a letter grade according to the following scale:

A = Excellent/almost always

B = Good/frequently

C = Fair/sometimes/average

D = Poor/infrequently

E = Fail/almost never
1. The instructor was well prepared for class.

  • How do we know if they are, or are not, well prepared for class?
  • What is meant by “well prepared?” --- Well dressed? Awake? An outline of the lecture on the board? Etc.

  • It’s hard to judge whether the instructor is well prepared for class because the instructor can talk about numerous topics related to the subject.

  1. The instructor was aware when students did not understand the material.

  • How does the instructor know when the students do not understand?

  • How would we know if the instructor was aware or not?

  • Is it the instructor’s responsibility to find out when people don’t understand, or is it the student’s responsibility to inform the instructor?

  • Instructor awareness of a student’s not understanding is difficult to measure. Whether the instructor did anything about it is somewhat more measurable.

3. The grading methods were made clear to students.

  • This question is very ambiguous. What is clear to one person may not be clear for another.

4. Exams reflected the important aspects of the course.

  • This may not be within the respondent’s "zone of experience."

  • Who is in a better position to know the important aspects of the course, the instructor or the students?

5. The instructor was readily available for help.

  • What is meant by readily available?

  • Usually professors aren’t available between 9 p.m. and midnight, when the majority of the students do their homework, does this mean they aren’t available?

  • If the student doesn’t seek outside help, they won’t be able to answer this question.

6. The instructor showed respect for students.

  • What is considered respect?
  • The question is better set up for a dichotomous (yes/no) type of answer. It would be hard for a student to rate the respect she received from the instructor.

  • The question should be reworded to "was respectful toward students."

  • Too broad: what defines "showing respect?" A score of lower than "A" would indicate that the instructor did not "almost always" show respect.

After the students have found a variety of faults with each of the questions on our "Instructor Evaluation Form," I then assign them the task of creating their own version of this evaluation form. Once they have turned in their rendition of the form, I then allow the class to critically evaluate the best forms. It is interesting to note that typically, the class finds as much fault with the forms that they created, as they do with the current form that they have been criticizing for many years.

The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate to the students, the difficulty encountered when trying to operationalize the questionnaire construction process.

Geoffrey P. Lantos

Stonehill College
The Joy of . . . Marketing Research?

The least-loved course in our marketing curriculum is probably Marketing Research. Many students enter this course with fear and loathing. The idea of research spooks them because it conjures up images of laboratories, dull people in white smocks, archaic formulas, dry-as-dust statistics, and esoteric procedures hatched in the ivory towers of academia. The professor has a handicap from day one, as most students would just as soon be undergoing a root canal or working on a chain gang.

My philosophy is to try to make this course as painless and pleasant as possible. On syllabus day I let them know that, while they will need to think, struggle, and work hard, they can have some fun and enjoyment in learning too. I encourage them to share their personal experiences with marketing researchers, the good, bad, and ugly (e.g., being accosted by bright-eyed, zealous young fieldworkers in shopping malls, hustled by silver-tongued researchers on those dinner-time phone calls, etc.). Too, I remind them that, while research is a technical subject, much of the course is really a study in human behavior (e.g., dealing with response biases, increasing response rates, etc.), like the Consumer Behavior course which so many of them prefer.

Once the sugar-coating message has been imparted, you can use the usual suspects: interesting videos; guest speakers; case studies; debates on eth­i­cal issues; pass-arounds of real research proposals, research reports, and syndicated data, etc.; and a semester-long project to gain their involve­ment and which you can continuously implore them to discuss as examples of concepts throughout the course. In addition, I try to follow up in gaining their interest (if not enthusiasm) in some of the following specific ways:

I clip interesting material from the popular press, which is always reporting polls on various political, social, and marketplace issues and occasionally contains a cute (if not uproariously funny) cartoon. Make trans­parencies of or scan these into your PowerPoint presentation (e.g., a percentage distribution showing the proportion of people who favor each of the Three Stooges is more interesting than the proportion of companies in the widget industry that make high-end vs. low-end widgets).

When discussing organizational and human relations issues in mar­keting research (e.g., disagreements between marketing managers and researchers over issues such as time, money, and decision making), I have stu­­dents "choose sides" and role play either the manager or the researcher en­gaged in a heated discussion on each issue, defending their point of view.

Exploratory/qualitative research is probably the topic that generates the most opportunities for enjoyable learning. I break students into small groups and have them brainstorm ways to find "professional consumer detec­tives" (a sort of expert opinion approach) for various target markets (e.g., to learn about tennis players, talk to professionals who have frequent or intense contact with them, such as coaches, trainers, and sporting goods sales­­people). You (or one of your students) can lead a student through part of an in-depth interview or several students through a focus group on a sub­ject of interest to students (e.g., music, sports, and fashion always hit their hot buttons), and have students critique it afterward. Find an example or two of specific uses of projective techniques not found in your text­­book and try them out on students to see what you can learn about their "deep thoughts."

Secondary research is one of the dullest subjects to teach. Rather than drone on about all of the different information sources, have student teams go on a "scavenger hunt" in your library and/or on the Internet during a class period to see who can find the most of a list of twenty or so specific pieces of information you request (e.g., Coca-Cola's market share last year, growth rate of the personal computer industry, etc.).

Discussing the different types of survey error can be deadly if you don't have interesting examples. Scan other textbooks and the popular press for these. A form of marketing research students can all relate to is student course evaluations. These can be used to discuss such issues as auspices bias (students are often kind to their professors), extremity bias (they often "strongly agree" or "strongly disagree" with all Likert items), and social desirability bias (some students claim they study more than twelve hours per week for this course!).

It is easy to draw them into a discussion of questionnaire design since most mistakes result from lack of understanding of human psychology. For instance, in discussing memory error ask how many can recall things like the losing vice presidential candidate in the most recent election or the loser in the last World Series. Try to draw out areas where they might be subject to social acceptability bias (e.g., dating and drinking behavior). Involve them by having them analyze actual questionnaires that you've received in the mail (many of these are more full of holes than a piece of Swiss cheese) or that your colleagues in industry pass along to you.

Another killer topic is measurement. Have them come up with con­cep­tual and operational definitions of intriguing and controversial con­structs such as "alternative music" and "sexual harassment." In order to demonstrate the importance of precision in formulating an operational definition, I ask students to imagine I'm a Martian (not hard for many of them) and have no concept as to how to heat a cup of water using a hot pot. I do exactly as they tell me to do. For instance, if they tell me to plug in the hot pot, I put the plug in an unlikely place, such as the overhead machine outlet. When they tell me to plug it into the wall, I pretend to keep my finger on the prongs and get electrocuted, and when I'm instructed to pour the water out of the cup (presumably into the pot) most of it ends up on the floor (bring paper towels!). To illustrate validity I bring a dartboard and darts, have several students give it their best shot, and then discuss the accuracy of their efforts in terms of validity (hitting or being near the bulls eye) and reliability (being consistent in where the darts land).

The subject of sampling can be spiced up by bringing a bucket of marbles to class. After telling students that, despite what they might think, I haven't lost them yet, I note how there are different kinds of marbles: large and small, solid color and multicolor, clear and opaque. A la "Sesame Street" I pretend that they are people to be sampled, and illustrate con­cepts such as sampling units and population elements, random error, and the various sampling methods (convenience, quota, etc.). Hamming it up a bit, talking to the marbles and such, makes it amusing for students.

Interviewing and fieldwork is a pretty Mickey Mouse topic. Rather than regurgitating material in the textbook, have them get involved in the class­­room. Pick a topic, have the class brainstorm a list of, say, ten ques­tions on the topic, improve their wording and sequence according to the guide­lines for good questionnaire design, and ask students to pair off for con­ducting interviews. They interview each other for ten or fifteen minutes each, then summarize each other’s answers for the class and cri­tique each other’s interviewing style.

I tell students that editing, coding and keyboarding data is about as much fun as peeling potatoes and onions -- it might even make you want to cry. I share some of the editing problems I encounter with my student evaluations (circling two response categories, questions answered in the wrong place, etc.) and how I deal with them. I also give them a post­coding exercise in which I pick a topic they can all relate to (e.g., likes and dis­likes regarding cafeteria food) and have them write their open-ended responses to a few questions. After class, I write out the verbatims, put them on a transparency, break them into groups, and have each group come up with a postcoding scheme. The different ways various groups post­­code is a good illustration of the subjectivity of research.

Data analysis is probably the most difficult topic to make palatable. My best advice here is to collect lots of interesting and amusing examples, stay interested and enthused yourself (fake it if you have to!), and don't take it oh-too-seriously.

While implementing these ideas probably won't elevate Marketing Research to the status of favored marketing course on your campus, it might make students a little more at ease, interested, and involved, and might even improve a tad your own marketing research (student evaluations).

Mark A. Mitchell, University of South Carolina Spartanburg

Stephen J. Taylor, Palmetto Council of the Boy Scouts of America

Replication of a National Study

for Local Use: The Case of the

Boy Scouts of America


A university is (and should be) an integral part of the surrounding community. Increasingly, experiential- or application-based learning exer­cises are being incorporated into university course offerings. Many not-for­-profit service organizations within your local marketplace are seemingly in constant need for assistance without the ability to pay for such work. These organizations provide an excellent opportunity for exper­iential learning and professional service to be combined effectively.

It is not uncommon for national studies to be commissioned for larger not-for-profit service organizations that seek to document their positive con­tributions to society. For example, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) commissioned Louis Harris & Associates to con­duct a study evaluating the influence of Scouting on the values and achievement of men and boys in the United States of America. However, local branches of the BSA typically raise resources in their local com­munities. Further, some funding sources such as the United Way or pr­ivate foundations may wish to see results of local research to validate the social contributions of these organizations. As such, the stage is set for a win-win partnership by replicating the national study at the local level. Integrating a replication of a national study, such as the Louis Harris study, into your course will simultaneously satisfy the following needs:

  • The local BSA council’s need for local research results for funding, recruiting, and promotional efforts.

  • The instructor’s need for an experiential learning project integrated into a class.

  • The student’s need for experiential learning as a means to differentiate students during their job search activities.

  • The University’s need for community service.

Organizing for Success

The Boy Scouts of America commissioned Louis Harris & Associates to study the influence of Scouting on its past, present, and future partici­pants. These results have been disseminated in summary form to local councils of the BSA. Working with these summary results, you can create self-administered questionnaires to be used to replicate the Louis Harris study. In particular, the study focuses on the influence of Scouting on the values and achievement of two groups: boys (age 12-17) and adult males (over age 21). As such, developing two separate self-administered ques­tion­naires allows a comparison of boys with/without Scouting experience and adult males with/without Scouting experience. For our replication, each self-administered questionnaire consisted of two parts:

Part One - a series of attitudinal statements (created from summary results of the Louis Harris study) to which the respondents reported their relative level of agreement or disagreement using a Likert Scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Indifferent/Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree).

Part Two - personal characteristics such as age, level of education (adults only), and an inventory of youth activities to identify other group involvement (e.g., youth baseball, soccer, church group).
Data Collection

In order to identify the influence of Scouting on participants, four separate samples are needed:

  • Boys with/without Scouting experience.

  • Adults with/without Scouting experience.

Due to all-too-common time and money constraints, divide data collection as follows:

  • Deliver self-administered questionnaires to your local BSA coun­cil for data collection of boys and adults with Scouting exper­ience. The data can be collected at a pre-arranged Scouting function.

  • Use students for data collection of boys and adults without Scouting experience. The data can be collected using random or convenience sampling techniques. For our replication, we found the convenience sampling technique to be very time-efficient by allowing each student to collect a predetermined number of usable instruments from within their work, social, or family network.

Student Applications and Accountability
This project can be administered in a Principles of Marketing, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Research, or Marketing Management course. The project is developed over the life of the term with the final output delivered to local BSA leaders at the end of the term, thus satisfying the university’s service mission. A critical success to such a replication is the students’ accountability to the client. As such, it is imperative that students meet with local council leaders throughout the replication. Further, it is important for the students to present their research results to the client in person to allow for the open exchange of information. This brings closure to the project and fully illustrates the marketing research process to all participants. Finally, students are encouraged to include their participation in the project on their resumes as an example of experiential learning throughout their degree programs.

Rosa T. Cherry

Williamsburg Technical College
To illustrate the principle of market segmentation, use this assign­ment. Complete ONE of the following activities and bring to class next time:

  1. Bring 5 cigarette ads from the same manufacturer. Note how this major manufacturer offers a variety of brands to appeal to different target markets. Write up your analysis of the segment being targeted in a short paragraph. Your grade will depend on how well you relate this to the book’s discussion of segmentation.

  2. Bring 5 car ads from the same manufacturer. Same instructions as in #1 above.

  3. Visit your local supermarket. Make a list of all the brands of cereal offered by a single company. Note what markets are being targeted for each. Write up your analysis in a short paragraph. Your grade will depend on how well you relate this to the book’s discussion of seg­men­tation.

  4. Visit your local supermarket. Make a list of all the brands of tooth­paste offered by a single company. Same instructions as #3 above.

Sanjay S. Mehta

Sam Houston State University


Get Students, Faculty, and

Administrators Involved in

Conducting Institutional Research

Today's competitive educational environment demands an ever-increasing responsiveness from universities to be marketing oriented. No institution, large or small, private or public, can afford to neglect customer needs and wants. Many universities hire "consultants" to help them serve customers better. The labor, drive, curiosity, and knowledge of students and faculty are excellent assets to universities. Students often become tired of studying abstract topics without seeing how the knowledge can be applied. This is especially true among senior undergraduate and graduate students who wish reassurance that what they are learning is in fact valid and useful outside the classroom. Presenting these students with "real world" problems is often a challenge for faculty members. One solution to providing senior undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to solve real world problems is by conducting institutional research.

Also, increasing legislative input into the faculty evaluation and performance system (e.g., post-tenure review) coupled with the domi­nating "publish-or-perish" philosophy, has compelled faculty members to look for alternatives, besides teaching and service, to secure promotion and tenure. One possible alternative for faculty members is to be actively involved in institutional research. Involving students in the collection and analysis of primary data coupled with solutions to real world problems give faculty members an excellent opportunity to publish and disseminate research.

While the term institutional research has disparate interpretations, here it means "research done for the betterment of the institution." In the past, I have conducted studies for the university public relations office, the College of Business Administration, the university library, students' union, and computer services. All of these studies were conducted in conjunction with students of marketing research classes. These studies have led to several publications in conference proceedings and academic journals.

The institutional research project begins with an administrator (e.g., public relations officer, dean of the college, director of computer services) approaching the faculty member for some assistance in data collection and statistical analysis in an area the university can improve upon. The admin­is­tra­tor provides the managerial questions that the professor fine-tunes before sharing it with his/her students. The students collectively develop the instruments for the study, using standard questionnaire development proce­dures and word processors. The administrator is requested to evaluate the instru­ment to ensure that it answers all of the research questions and/or objec­tives. After completing the institute's human subject approval require­ments, a pretest is conducted using a small representative sample from the pop­ula­tion. Reliability and validity should be checked before the instrument is dis­tri­buted on a larger scale. The students are instructed to collect data using one of many probability sampling techniques (e.g., stratified sampling). This may involve distributing the instruments through mail, telephone, or per­sonally interviewing potential respondents. The students are then taught to edit, code, and input the data into the computer (e.g., spread-sheet). The pro­fes­sor shows the students how to check the data and perform some of the requi­site tests (e.g., frequency, cross-tabulations, Analysis of Variance, t-test, regression analysis). The students, in teams or alone, write a report sum­marizing the findings of the study. The faculty member, along with student(s), may present the findings to the administrator through a formal presentation.

Conducting institutional research provides faculty members another tool to bring real life problems into the classroom. It does so at a level where the student is somewhat experienced in the arena (i.e., the univer­sity) she or he is asked to perform. The institutional research project helps bind students more closely to the university because they feel they have played a part in improving the university. The institution benefits from iden­tifying the needs and wants of its "target market" and validating its very existence. The results of the study may be presented at conferences and/or published in proceedings and journals, which benefits the faculty member toward promotion and tenure. Finally, the collection of quality institutional research can help univer­sities pass regional and national accre­di­ta­tion inspections. It is a true "win-win" situation for all parties involved.

Amy Risch Rodie

University of Nebraska at Omaha




The purpose of this team project is to investigate the affect of brand asso­ciations on consumers' product preference and purchase intent. These issues are explored by conducting a series of taste tests using a product category's most prominent or "prototype" brand along with another "off" brand from the same product category. Teams do most of their work outside the classroom but some class time is needed, including about 20 minutes for each team to make plans on the day the project is assigned and about 45 minutes on the due date for written student responses and a class-wide debriefing/discussion. There are three main components to this project: (I) collecting the data, (II) compiling the results, and (III) discussing the findings. The project is as follows.

I. Collect Data

  1. Form teams of three or four students. Teams meet and choose a pro­duct category (cookies, crackers, cereal, chips, etc), the product category's prototype brand, and an off brand (the more "off", the better). Plan to purchase enough of both brands for each participant to sample. Make sure all team members use the same brands!

  2. Develop a feedback sheet for participants' responses so that all team members use the same form to collect data. Make sure it provides (1) a way to identify the "condition" and (2) a place and space for each element of data.
  3. Collect the data. Each team member is responsible for collecting data from 12 participants. Ideally, each student will collect data from four participants in each of the three conditions described below. However, a student who has the opportunity to collect data from a group of participants (who would therefore all be in the same condition) may do so. Make sure ALL team members collect data from the same number of participants.


Condition B: "blind": each brand is presented to the participant in a zip-lock baggie. (label bags in order to distinguish the brands, e.g., “M”and “N”.)

Condition PP: "prototype/prototype": the prototype brand is pre­sented to the participant in its own, original package. The partici­pant samples the brand right from the package. Make sure the price is not visible on the package. Likewise, the off-brand is presented to the participant in its own, original package. The participant samples the brand right from the package. Make sure the price is not visible on the package.

Condition PO: "prototype/off-brand": the prototype-brand is pre­sented to the participant in the off-brand's package and vice versa. The participant samples the brand right from their packages. It is very important that the participants in this condition do NOT suspect the switch. Make sure the price is not visible on the package.

NOTE: The data from all participants (36 for a three-member team and 48 for a four-member team) will be compiled and recorded together. Verify that the same number of participants are in each of the three conditions.

  1. IF you collect data from participants in groups, prevent them from talking, making comments or "faces", or otherwise com­municating with each other during the taste test. (Difficult task!) The data you collect should reflect each participant's own response.

  2. Allow each participant to participate only once, in ONE condition.

  3. Ask each participant to initial their feedback sheet (no names please.)
  4. Ask participants examine the two brands very carefully and thoroughly. Participants should record all observations about each brand detected by their five senses and/or the most noticeable dif­ferences between the two brands. Try to get at least four observa­tions/dif­ferences.

  5. Ask participants to indicate which brand they prefer.

  6. Condition B only: AFTER they record their brand preference, tell participants the brand names and prices of both brands.

  7. Conditions PP and PO: AFTER they record their brand preference, tell participants the prices both brands. In both PP and PO, quote the appropriate price for the package (that is, the price for the brand participants believe they are sampling.)

  8. Ask participants to assume their purchase decision is limited to just these two brands. Between these two, which brand would s/he would buy the next time the product is purchased?

  9. Ask participants to identify the one factor that was most influential on the purchase decision.

  10. Important: Debriefing: Once the participant has completed the entire experience (and ONLY then--NOT before) tell him/her about the project, the three conditions, and which condition s/he was in. Be very careful not to make the person feel foolish, but explain about the importance of brand associations and cues and that you are investigating how strong is the influence packaging, price, and other cues on consumers' choices. This step is especially important for the PO condition, but is important for all participants. Talk about this issue as a team and agree on what you will say to participants. Do not skip this step!

II. Compile Results (this section must be typewritten):
A. B Condition:

  1. Based on the data for the B Condition (only), what are the four or five most commonly stated observations about either brand and/or differences between brands?

  2. What percentage of participants preferred the prototype? What percentage of participants preferred the off brand?
  3. What percentage would buy the prototype? What percentage would buy the off brand?

  4. Based on the data, what factors most strongly influence purchase?

B. PP Condition:

Answer questions II. A. 1-4 based on the data for the PP Condition (only).

C. PO Condition:

Answer questions II. A. 1-4 based on the data from the PO Condition (only).

III. Discuss Findings (this section must be typewritten):
Review the results in sections II. A - C. Thoughtfully discuss whether or not your findings support one or both of the following hypotheses. Explain.

H1: Brand schemas influence consumers' brand preference.

H2: Brand schemas influence consumers' purchase intent.

On the due-date, give teams time to provide written responses to the following:

As a team, briefly discuss and summarize all of your observations about the following topics. Turn in one paragraph about each.

  1. Your observations about the process of collecting data.

  2. Your observations about participants reactions / comments about the project.

  3. Your observations about the similarities / differences in the findings among the three conditions.

  4. Other observations and thoughts regarding the project.

Facilitate a discussion, prompting students to discuss their findings as well as the challenges of data collection. This process (1) advances students' understanding of the research process and (2) allows teams who found that brand schemas influence brand preference and/or purchase intent to share their findings (and enthusiasm) with teams whose data did not support the hypotheses.

Felicia G. Lassk

Western Kentucky University

Utilizing an Internet Personality Test

in the Consumer Behavior Course

An interactive assignment that integrates personality testing and the WWW is the use of the Kiersey Temperment Sorter in a class presentation on personality. The Kiersey Temperment Sorter is located at http://www. The 70-item personality test is based on Carl Jung's psychological types. The class is held in the com­puter lab. Each student accesses the URL and completes the personality test in approximately 20 minutes. This assignment enables students to learn about their own personality type. The web site includes information about each personality type including leadership styles, career recommen­da­tions, and celebrities that are categorized under each personality type. After the students print out the information, like personalities are grouped together. These students then discuss the appropriate marketing strategies that would be successfully utilized in marketing a product to someone with their personality type. Each group presents their results to the class.

Pj Forrest

Mississippi College


Consumer Behavior

If you use a managerial approach to teaching Consumer Behavior---this is the concept, this is what you do with it---you might find the use of Print Ad Projects very helpful. This project has evolved over the years from me asking the students to bring in a single magazine ad that related to the topics we were discussing in class that day, to requiring a portfolio of ads that illustrates each of the topic areas we cover.

One of the main benefits for the student in using this project is simple---"A picture's worth a thousand words." For example one under­graduate would not be convinced that the automobile market specifically targeted women. I handed her a Chevy ad, which showed a young woman and the phrase "This is not my boyfriends truck." In gathering ads that are examples for the various consumer behavior concepts, the students are forced to look at dozens of ads in a critical thinking manner. They must analyze both the ads they chose to use and the one’s that are unsuitable for the topic they are trying to illustrate.

Over the years I have kept the "best of" ads from the student projects, and as a result I now have a thick folder of ads for every chapter in the text. After I lecture on a topic, I whip out a bundle of ads which illustrate the con­cept and show them how it is used. It is much easier to create understanding when you can show them the differences in ads which use latent motives vs. manifest motives, or a series of ads that are directed at each of the VALS 2 lifestyle segments. Generational marketing is also a very interesting one which illustrate the changes which must be made when advertising to Boomers, Generation X or the Echo Boom. And you would be amazed at the true depth and breadth of the "Where's your mustache" milk campaign-I must have 50 different print ads.

Depending on the size of the class I sometimes use this as an individual pro­ject or a group project. Sometimes I require a presentation, and some­times I have them turn in a portfolio of ads. This project has been a major con­tribution to the learning process in my consumer behavior classes and has made them more interesting---for the students and for me.

Karen H. Smith

Southwest Texas State University

Illustrating Effects of Schemas on Consumer Information Processing

Schema theory deals with knowledge that people have about concepts and how that knowledge affects their information processing (thinking).

Five activities are described below; each is followed by an “explana­tion” and key concepts are shown in bold. Make two booklets following the details below. Distribute booklet 1 to half of your students (referred to as B1 students) and booklet #2 to the other half (B2 students).

Activity #1 (give students 10 seconds)
For each concept listed, write down the first thing that comes to mind when you see that word. Please consider one word at a time. Booklet #1: airlines, delta, priest, bishop; Booklet #2: river, delta, chess, bishop.

Explanation: A schema is knowledge in memory that is structured around a focal concept (such as airlines). Cues from a stimulus (e.g., a name or a picture) activate selected pieces of knowledge that are needed for processing. . In Activity #1, you retrieved and wrote down knowledge about each concept. Each word acted as a cue or prime (as priming a pump gets the water going), activating knowledge from memory. In addition to the prime from the word itself, previous words can act as a prime to get you thinking along a certain line (context effects). Ask students what they listed for delta; B1 students tend to list words related to airlines and B2 students to land/rivers. Repeat this for bishop; B1 students tend to list words related to Catholicism and B2 students to chess.

Activity #2 (10 seconds)
Describe the typical accountant (B1) or computer expert (B2). Write each descriptor on a separate line.

Explanation: Students may list things such as "wear glasses, boring, smart" for accountant and "nerd, smart, rich" for computer expert. Once retrieved (remembered), this knowledge influences the processing of incoming information. For example, upon meeting an individual who is an accountant, the "accountant schema" will affect interpretation of what the individual says and/or does. A stereotype is a specific type of schema, where we make generalizations about individuals (i.e., specific examples of the schema) based on prior knowledge in the schema.
Activity #3 (1 minute)
Reproduce the "washing clothes passage" from Bransford and Johnson (1972). Type "The Washing Clothes Passage" above the passage in B1, but omit the title in B2.

Explanation: Ask B2 students what the passage was talking about; most will have no idea, but might guess such things as "organizing." Females are more likely to know the passage is about laundry than males. B1 students will be wondering why the other students don't know what the passage is about. Without the schema, the passage is difficult to comprehend.
Activity #4 (2 minutes)
List ten breeds of dog and ten fast-food restaurants. Rank (from 1 to 10) each dog on how typical it is and how much you like the breed among dogs listed. Repeat for fast-food restaurants.

Explanation: An instance is an example of the schema (labrador or McDonald's). Instances vary in typicality (dachsund versus labrador) and liking; however, typicality tends to be positively correlated with liking (i.e., typical dogs are the most-liked).

Activity #5 (90 seconds)
Give students 1 minute to read the new product description (new fruit juice with attributes nonalcoholic, slightly sweet, best served cold, carbonated and high preservative (B1) or all natural (B2) from Stayman, Alden, and Smith (1992). Give students 30 seconds to answer: "Check the product category YOU think best fits the product based on the description you read," with choices of fruit juice, soft drink, bottled water, and sports drink."

Explanation: Instantiation is the interaction of prior knowledge (schema) and a new instance; that is, how a new instance fits in with previous instances. The first three attributes are congruent with a fruit juice schema, but carbonation is incongruent. The combination of carbonation and high preservative (B1) is extremely incongruent with the schema; many students may switch schemas, perceiving the product to be more similar to a soft drink, rather than a fruit juice).


Bransford, J.D. and Johnson, M.K. (1972). Contextual prerequisites for under­standing: Some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, Vol. 11(Dec), 717 726.

Stayman, D.M., Alden, D.L., and Smith, K.H. (1992). Some effects of schematic processing on consumer expectations and disconfirmation judgments. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol 19(Sep), pp. 240 255.

Kim McKeage

University of Maine


Market/Product Grids on Themselves
This in-class project has students use a segmentation scheme that they have already studied. This could include:

  • VALS

  • Lifestyle

  • Price Sensitivity

  • Quality Sensitivity

  • Attributes/Features Desired

  • Involvement

  • Demographics

  • Geographic region

  • Product Usage (Heavy vs. Light Users)

If students wish to use VALS, I instruct them ahead of time to get on the internet and access the VALS survey online so that they can determine their type.

On the day when we do this exercise, students form groups of 5-8 persons. The group is instructed to pick a product category. I recommend the following categories to them as items they might be familiar with:

  • Automobiles (cars, trucks, SUVs, etc.)

  • Athletic Shoes

  • Recreational Products (Sports equipment, hiking gear, etc.)

  • Entertainment Products (Movies, CDs, etc.)

  • Food (packaged, grocery, or restaurants)

  • Computer Software/Hardware

  • Clothing

Students then have to describe which market segments are represented in their group according to the segmentation scheme(s) they choose to use. They must also develop a market/product grid to describe how to target different products (within their chosen category) toward the different market segments represented within their group. The product positions can be for existing products or imagined products (especially if no existing pro­duct fits a position they want). Students must discuss the general, over­all “position” of the product and, for fantasy products, how they would accomplish that positioning. For example, if they want to position an athletic shoe as a “performance” (overall position) shoe, they might show advertisements with sports professionals using the shoe under demanding circumstances. To get credit on the exercise, students must write up a complete market/product grid with their accompanying notes. Some of the groups present their solution to the class.

This exercise quickly shows students the limitations of using only demographics to describe their customers, and really clarifies the process of segmentation and positioning for them.

Rosa T. Cherry

Williamsburg Technical College
To illustrate and emphasize the decision process, use this assignment. Choose two goods or services that you or your family has purchased recently--one costing less than $25 and one costing more than $125. Explain the decision-making process for each purchase and the reasons for each purchase. Write this information in good form. Bring to class and be prepared to discuss the findings. Your grade will depend on how well you relate your descriptions to the information in our text.

This often brings some surprising stories and offers numerous teaching opportunities!

Laura A. Williams

San Diego State University

A Personality, Lifestyle,

and Values Profile

Exercise Overview

This exercise is designed to supplement class discussion on consumer personality, lifestyles, and values. It is a two-part assignment, whereby students are asked to first create a collage and then to analyze the images in the collage and explain how these images represent their per­sonality, life­style and values. The collages are then used during class dis­cus­sion to illustrate a number of topics, including dimensions of self (i.e., actual self, social self, and ideal self), personality traits (e.g., inner/outer directed, materialism, etc.), brand image/personality characteristics, activities, interests, and opinions, and personal values.

The Assignment

Students are given a handout with the following information and instructions.

Project: Personality, Lifestyle, and Values Collage and Profile

Assignment Instructions: Create a personality, lifestyle, and values pro­file of yourself in the form of a collage. To do so, consult a variety of sources (e.g., magazine ads, direct mail, photographs, or any printed medium) and identify multiple images (e.g., products, people, places, ad copy) which you believe best represent your personality, lifestyle, and values. Compile these images in a personal collage. Write an explana­tion of why the images that you selected represent your personality, life­style and values.

The guidelines for the collage assignment include the following:

  • The collage should fill an 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper. No larger or smaller.

  • Your interpretation of the collage should typed. It should include a description of why the images portrayed in your collage represent your personality, lifestyle, and values.

To illustrate the technique, I bring examples of extraordinary collages from past semesters. Students are encouraged to be very creative with this exercise and to feel free to express themselves by selecting what­ever format best captures their personality, lifestyle and values. Past examples of exemplary creativity have been collages with multiple layers or 3-D, designed to represent various dimensions of self, and hidden flaps to depict aspects of their personality that are not easily or readily known to others.

Benefits to the Student

The greatest benefit of this exercise is that students get the oppor­tunity to apply consumer behavior principles to their lives. By examining the images selected to depict their personality, lifestyle, and values, students are required to define themselves using consumer behavior concepts. For example, during class discussion, each student is asked to iden­tify an item on their collage that depicts their actual self, ideal self, and social self. In addition, students discuss the brands, retail outlets, media outlets, and other marketing-oriented images that are included on their collages. Students are given the opportunity to explore how and why they identify with these marketing images.

It is also interesting to encourage students to compare their collages. Students are often surprised to see how much their collage differs from fellow classmates. For example, the more materialistic student will have compiled a number of products, brands, or materialistic goods and will define their ideal self in terms of possessions. The outer-directed student will have several pictures of friends and family and will depict social relationships as integral to their definition of self. Fixated student consumers will dedicate their entire collages to a specific product category or interest.

It is further enlightening for students to examine the proportion of verbal versus visual images on their collages. Many students may dis­cover that they are dominant visualizers or verbalizers. Students should also be encouraged to analyze what words or images represent their per­sonal values. Finally, it is also beneficial to explain to the students how this technique could be used by marketing managers to study brand images. An interesting variation of the assignment is to ask students to con­struct collages of a product or service and discuss the managerial impli­ca­tions of the information.

In summary, the personality, lifestyle, and values collage enables students to exert their creativity and to have the opportunity to develop a por­trait of themselves that can be analyzed using consumer behavior principles.


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