Understanding consumers' perceptions is critical to marketing and advertising. Consumers are increasingly selective with regard to the advertising that they pay attention to and mass marketing is fast losing its effectiveness and appeal. There is any number of strategies that marketers can employ to increase positive consumer perception of their brands. Several suggestions follow: (1) Engage in socially responsible investing in causes that can reasonably associated with the company or the brand: Examples of this strategy can be seen in programs that Starbucks has established to give back to domestic communities and to engage in foreign communities in need. Sale of Ethos water provides a portion of the revenue to be used for infrastructure changes to communities that do not have reliable sources of clean water. The Red program -- a collaborative effort which extended to other firms -- used a portion of sales revenue from specially marked products and red Starbucks cards to send money to African communities where HIV / AIDS are substantive and resistant problems. (2) Actively engage in social media networking: This is getting to be a ubiquitous activity with companies of all sizes ensuring that they have a presence in social media networks. Consumers expect the marketing that takes place on social media networks to be low key, and, in fact, are looking for actual conversations or fun activities about brand with the moderators and other consumers on the social media networks. An example of just-for-fun social media networking is the competition between American Express and Frito Lay to break the Guinness World Record for the most Facebook "Likes" in 24-hours. Frito-Lay had the edge over American Express because they gave away free bags of chips. (3) Engage consumers in a high stakes, highly visible game centered around a product launch: Ford turned the new Fiesta model launch into an ongoing road trip for a small group of consumers who were selected to be Fiesta Ambassadors. Ford Fiesta fans could follow the progress of the rally online and interact through games and experience rewards. The buzz generated on social media networks from these Ford Fiesta games was amazing and the wide exposure did not require any traditional media spend. (4) Integrate the brand into activities that consumers enjoy: RockYou has incentivized ads embedded in their game content that increase the click-through rates and reward consumers of social media entertainment content. The basic idea for the brand integration in social games it that gamers will engage with brands that they already like and develop positive attitude for RockYou because of the branded mini-games they get to play with their favorite brands. (5) Solicit ideas from consumers and mean it: Starbucks engages consumers in a forum called My Starbucks Idea. Here customers can share original ideas, comment on the ideas proposed by other customers, and just generally engage in a conversation with other people who enjoy Starbucks. The forum does two things: It provides a sense of belonging -- this is the tribe of thoughtful Starbucks customers -- and it conveys to customers that they are taken seriously and can contribute to the brand they love.
Consumers will inevitably -- at some time -- experience frustration in their exchanges with companies and brand purchases. Typically, consumers will exhibit the use of a defense mechanism to preserve their self-identify or self-image. The defense mechanisms that consumers employ when frustrated by companies or their purchases are ways for them to deal psychologically with what may have been a poor decision or their inability to maintain vigilance in the marketplace. Defense mechanisms that people commonly employ in consumer relationships include: Aggression, rationalization, regression, identification, and projection.
(1) When consumers adopt an aggression as a defense mechanism, they tend to go on the attack, becoming verbally abusive and so aroused that their perceptions are significantly impacted. A strategy to be used with an aggressive consumer is to ensure that you maintain a calm manner and restate the problem, followed by asking for their suggestions about what should be done to remedy the situation. For example, presented with a customer who has a malfunctioning cellphone, a customer service representative could empathize with the customer's problem, acknowledge the inconvenience, and offer a replacement with a better performance and service record.
(2) A consumer adopting rationalization as a defense mechanism will cast about for a reason for the problem, and then attempts to convince the company representative that their reasoning is sound. An effective strategy for dealing with a consumer who is rationalizing a problem or behavior is to acknowledge their argument, and then propose an alternative train of though followed immediately by a solution. For instance, a consumer who has incorrectly laundered an article of clothing argues with the customer service representative that the tag with the laundering directions is impossible to read might respond well when there is agreement about the tag's inadequacy, and a promise to forward that information to the person in charge of the garment manufacturing at the factory. Then, of course, the customer should be offered a replacement garment.
(4) A customer who uses regression as a coping mechanism would tend to become childlike in their behavior, whining and trying to call attention to themselves in inappropriate ways. This person might try to extend the time that they are at the customer service counter, all the while, loudly complaining about a problem. The strategy to effectively deal with this type of customer is to try to minimize their opportunity to influence other customers' perceptions and to make the company representatives appear in the best light. Asking the customer to choose from an array of remedies on the spot may help to bring their minds back to a more adult level. Of course, the customer service representative must be prepared to make good on each of the options offered.
(5) A consumer who used identification as a defense mechanism may associate their situation to that of someone they know who has had a similar experience. This would not necessarily be a problem except that it generally means that their perceptions are distorted, which can make it more difficult to remedy the situation. The strategy for working with a customer who is using identification as a defense mechanism is to clearly line out the two distinct situations and help the customer respond in the particular to their own situation.
(6) A customer who is using projection as a defense mechanism is going attribute their attitude, emotional responses, and behavior to the customer service representative. One of the best ways to deal with projection is to convey to the person what is observed in a neutral manner. The idea is to acknowledge the behavior that they perceive and then to suggest that they begin the transaction again with a focus on generating a solution. The goal is to move the customer away from the subjective thoughts to productive action.
Both classical conditioning and operant conditioning bring about learning in an organism, but the two processes are quite different. Behavior is considered to be a chain of conditions and events that can be represented symbolically. The convention used to represent the streams of behavior that occur is as follows: U = Unconditioned; C = Conditioned; S = Stimulus; R = Response. Generally, the initial condition is considered to be neutral until some stimulus (S) is introduced. Once an organism perceives the stimulus (S), it responds in some way. The organism's response is signified by (R). The behavior stream is a ? R.
A comparison of classical and operant conditioning invariably engages with the work of Pavlov and B.F. Skinner. Classical conditioning was first described by a physiologist from Russia whose name was Ivan Pavlov. In classical conditioning, a neutral signal is made to occur -- over time -- before the occurrence of a natural reflex. Classical conditioning is centered on the automatic and involuntary behaviors of an organism. Operant conditioning was introduced by B.F. Skinner, a psychologist form America who had studied classical conditioning and extended the concept of conditioned learning. Operant conditioning increases the probability that a behavior will occur or will not occur through the provision of reinforcement or punishment following a behavior. Here, the term reinforcement means providing or applying something that is perceived as positive by the organism, and doing so in close temporal proximity to the behavior that is the target for change. And, here, the term punishment means providing or applying something that is perceived as negative by the organism, and doing so in close temporal proximity to the behavior that is the target for change. Operant conditioning is centered on strengthening or weakening behaviors that are voluntary -- that is, behaviors that are under the conscious control of the organism and are not reflexive or automatic. An organism makes an association between their behavior and the consequences of that behavior. More sophisticated analyses, such as those conducted by Skinner and others, show…