Magoosh GRE

Impact of marketing communications on customers’ attitudes and behaviour.

| November 20, 2012


The aim of this essay is to explain how marketing communications can be used to change customers’ attitudes and influence customers’ behaviour. Marketing communications play a significant role in changing customers’ attitudes because customers have different attitudes and it could be positive or negative attitudes. Attitudes are erudite from past experiences which may relate to the product itself, brand and purchasing decision.

According to Hughes and Fill (2007) “attitudes are defined as the expression of an individual’s feeling towards a product, service or organisation”. Customers’ attitudes could not be observed directly but it can be detected by using market research methods. There are three main components of attitudes which are cognitive (learn) that is; what target audience know about the product or service, affective (feel) is what they feel about the product or service and conative (do) is about the action taken based on their knowledge and feelings. This essay will cover information processing models, attitudes formation and change, and customers’ response behaviour.

There are different models that could be used to communicate to both customers and potential customers. These models are AIDA principle (Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action) (Blythe 2006), McGuire’s information processing models (Shimp 1997), AILA models and hierarchy of effects model are used by organisations to communicate messages to the customers or potential buyers (Blythe 2006). The AIDA model lacks in the retention ability of the consumers, also quite simplistic. This will allow the author to focus on McGuire’s information processing model which emphasis on the retention, which is very important in a communication campaign.

Shimp (1997:118) identify the stages of McGuire’s information Processing model which are; Exposure to information, Selective attention, comprehension of attended information, agreement with comprehended information, retention in memory of accepted information, retrieval of information from memory, consumer decision making from alternatives and action taking on the basis of decision. These points will be discussed below.

However, the first stage is to expose the information to consumers, that is; consumers should be aware of the messages being delivered. “Exposure means that customers come in contact with the marketer’s message (they see a magazine ad, hear a radio commercial, and so on)” (Shimp, 1997 p.118). Thus, this stage is a crucial stage because it is necessary for consumers to be aware of the messages but it does not guarantee communication success in the sense that the message might not have any impact on consumers.

The next stage is selective attention. Consumers attend to a message being aware of and reflect on a message. However, attention is extremely selective because not all the messages being exposed to would consumers pay attention to; consumers could only pay attention to the advertisement that is relevant to them. Therefore “selective attention occurs as a result of limited mental ability to process information; ego-defence; the personal relevance of the information to which the individual is exposed; and limited motivation to process…” (Kitchen, 1999 p.161).

Moreover, consumer needs to comprehend what is attended to. This means that, the message which has been attended to must be clearly understood by consumers that is, consumers should be able to understand and interpret the message. Therefore marketing communicators have to ensure they comprehend customer interpretations and their messages reflect them. However, having comprehended the message, consumers need to agree with what they have understood in the message. Though, this does not guarantee that the message will change consumers’ attitudes or influence their actions, the agreement could only state whether the message is reliable or not with the values that are essential to consumers.

Furthermore, the next stage of information processing is message retention, search and retrieval. This involves consumers’ ability to retain and recall the message and how customers could access and retrieve information/message when making buying decision. However, marketing communicators need to ensure that the messages enter customers’ long term memory by highlighting the benefits, and where messages can be retrieved to influence future decision… (Kitchen, 1999).

The next stage is for customers to decide among alternatives that is, which product or brand to purchase. However, at this point it is not always easy for customers to decide on what brand or product to purchase because consumers might have stored different information in term of facts, beliefs, and benefits and so on in their long term memory about each product or brand. It is possible for consumers to recall from his or her memory attitude toward relevant alternatives and pick the one that affect individual positively. However, Shimp (1997) stated that when making choices under nondominant situations, consumers must give something up in order to get something else. That is, high involvement decision making most always requires that trade-off be made.

The last stage in information processing is for consumers to act on the basis of the decision. For consumers to act positively toward the brand or product, marketing communicators must make use of communication tools especially sales promotion such as BOGOF-buy one get one free, discounts and so on. Moreover all marketing communication tools must be coordinated and integrated in order to get consumers act fast. Thus, having gone through information processing model, the author believes that this information processing could form consumers’ attitudes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Dibb et al (1997) also defined attitude as an individual’s enduring evaluation, feelings and behavioural tendencies towards an object or activity.

Blythe (2006) states attitudes can be formed by translating customer’s needs into motivation to process information, and consequent exposure to stimulus and the processing of this information leads to cognitive responses and affective responses which may lead to conation, or intended behaviour of a customer. This means that customers learn about a product, they feel and take either positive or negative action based on what they’ve learnt. Cognitive, affective and conative are the three main components of attitude identified by Fill (2009). These three components tend to be consistent that is, a change in one attitude component tends to create related changes in other components (Botha et al, 2004).

Cognitive component is about customers understanding or knowledge about a product, brand or service. Customers and potential customers tend to learn more about the products they intend to buy. For example, when a customer lack information or misunderstand a brand or product attribute, marketing communication must play a significant role by providing right or up to date information about the product or service and this will facilitate customers to learn and allow them to see the clear picture (truth) of the product, information should be rational that is, it must be based on facts. However, “it is important that the level and quality of the information provided is appropriate to the intellectual capabilities of the target audience” (Fill, 2009:153). In order for customers to learn more about a product or brand, marketing communication tools must be adopted such as advertising or public relations. These will create awareness, give full information about the product and influence the way customers see a product. Although while advertising is said to be more sophisticated in order to stimulate demand, consumers do fear the manipulative and subliminal techniques that is used (Heath and Heath 2008) cited (Pollay and Mittal 1993).

Affective component has to do with customers’ feeling about a product or service. It is possible for customers to feel positive or negative about a product or brand. However, it is important that customers have positive attitude toward a product or brand because this will prompt both existing and potential customers to buy the product or brand but when customers develop negative attitude to a product or brand, this would be difficult to change therefore information provided for customers at this stage should be emotional rather than rational approach because emotional messages could be used to change customer’s feeling and their interest to use the product or brand. For example a tone of a voice, attractive colours, suitable music, style and so on. All these could be used to generate emotional disposition about a product or brand.

Furthermore, conative component signifies the result of the cognitive and affective components whether to buy or not to buy the product (Botha et al, 2004). This means that customers take action based on their knowledge and feelings whether to accept or reject the product/brand. Fill (2009:155) states that “a conative approach stimulates people to try, test, trial, visit (a showroom or website) a brand usually free and often without overt commitment.” This involves the customers to try the products/services before beliefs or feelings are changed either negative or positive about the products/services and this can be achieved through marketing communication tools such as sales promotion, direct marketing or personal selling. These tools can be used to force behavioral change for example sales promotion prompts customers to try a product or brand, direct marketing promotes a response from customers and engages in interaction, and personal selling remind the customers about the benefits and persuade them to take positive actions. However, sale promotion for example could be by given free samples of the product to customers or organize an open days where potential customers and their families partakes in trial sections. Thus, at this stage the priority of marketing communications is to change customers’ attitudes in line with organization culture and this must be continuous and ongoing process which takes time.

Marketing communications can change customers’ negative attitudes into positive attitudes. Attitude towards a certain brand or product/ services are quite important dimension since they affect consumer’s tendency to purchase. It has to be emphasized that attitude is often difficult to change, with a coordinated communication campaign, this can be changed overtime. For example, if a consumer is of the view that smoking kills, no amount of persuasive information or advertisement can change such believe. According to Fill (2009) there are different techniques used by marketing communication to change customers’ attitudes. The author will explain these below:

Firstly, marketing communication can be used to change customers’ misunderstanding. It is possible to change customers’ misunderstanding about a product or brand through product demonstration and functionality. For instance, if a potential customer have a negative impression or misunderstand the benefits of a product, communication campaign could be done to correct this impression by changing the packaging or the name of the product.

Secondly, marketing communication can be used to change customers’ performance beliefs. Customers’ attitudes about a product or service can be change through appropriate marketing communication campaign for example, if a product presentation is in doubt, marketing communication could be used to provide  right information to correct the misperception. Also, marketing communication can be used to change consumer priorities. For example, if customers are too focused on one feature of the service or product say price for example without recognizing the variety of benefits it gets, a communication campaign could be used to change this attitude.

Furthermore, marketing communication can be used to change the physical product element by modifying or reformulating the product. Using communication campaign might change consumer’s attitude and perception. Marketing communication campaign can also be used to change competitor’s perception- Changing the way competitor’s products are perceived by customers can differentiate the company brand positively.

Lastly, change attributes priorities can be used to change attitudes that is, initiating a strategy to differentiate attribute can change attitudes. For example, by stressing the importance of ethical organisations behaviour such as cause related marketing and giving back to the community or third world countries, over rival competitors who stresses on innovation. Having gone through attitude formation and change,

there are some models to consider in customer’s behaviour response to marketing communication. One of the models is AIDA model which will be discussed below.

Procter et al .(1982) cited by Ayanwale et al (2005) states that the principal aim of consumer behaviour analysis is to explain why consumers act in a particular way under certain circumstances. Barry and Howard (1990) cited in Egan (2007) also states “that proponent of the traditional hierarchy framework suggest that customers respond to message in a very ordered way that is cognitively (thinking), then affectively (feeling) and conative (doing).” This means that customers respond based on what they know and their feelings about the product or service.

Yorke and Littler (2011) assumed that learning about a product will lead to customers’ feeling about the product that results in the buy of the product. Also, stated that it is a learn-feel-buy model of consumer responses to marketing communications. This also means consumers response to marketing communications based on what they know, feel about the product or brand then take action.

However, AIDA is one of the models of marketing communication based on a hierarchy of effects. Blythe (2006) states that AIDA is an easy model of consumer response to marketing communications and it stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. These are four steps marketing communicator needs to take customers through before they buy a product or brand.

Moreover, cognitive component signifying that marketing communicator must get customer’s attention first before doing anything and this could be done for example using powerful words, music or pictures that will grab customer’s attention. Developing interest and desire to buy a product or brand are parts in the affective component, that is, where positive attitude toward the product or service required. The last stage is action which is the conative component where customers and potential customers take action, that is, to buy or not to buy the product.

Yorke and Littler (2011) also assumed that progression logically through the AIDA stages is not always possible it depends on the product or service being offered and the target customers.

However, attitude influences purchase decision. In some cases exposure to certain brand(s) through advertisement message may tempt the consumer to purchase the product, if the consumer on the other hand is dissatisfied with the purchase, or does not match the expected promises or requirement from the advertisement, then a process known as dissonance occurs. If this happens the advertised message will be viewed in a different way.

In conclusion, marketing communications play a significant role in changing customers’ attitude and influence customers’ behaviour. Having considered McGuire’s information processing model, attitude formation and change and also consumer’s response behaviour, it could be said that customer’s attitude is not easy to change. This means attitude can be complex and difficult to study because different customer have different attitude for example, customer’s attitude A towards a product or brand may be different to customer’s attitude B. Attitude can be inferred from customer’s behavioural pattern or by creating a group of discussion to observe the consumers, or by simply using market research methods. Marketing communicators should understand customer’s behavior in order to provide them with right information.




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Yorke, D. and Littler, D. (2011) AIDA Model [Online] Available from: {Accessed 17 March 2011}

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Category: Free Essays, Marketing