Consumers are individuals with likes and dislikes. When the preponderance of people in a particular group feel one way or another about a product, service, entity, person, place or thing, it is said to be a generalized consumer attitude that could affect the marketing of that person, product or entity in positive or negative ways. Marketers strive to influence consumer attitudes, and understanding the prevailing attitude is the first step to changing it if needed.
One of the prime reasons for conducting marketing research is to understand consumer attitudes. Attitudes affect behavior. In marketing, the desired behavior is to purchase a product or service. Marketers need to know what attitudinal barriers exist in purchasing so they can strategize how to counter those obstacles through marketing activities.
Large companies will conduct market studies that survey the opinions of hundreds or thousand of people. Their goal is to survey a sample size large enough so that the results are deemed “significant.” They pose questions to study participants that attempt in every way possible to understand all the attitudinal nuances of the study subject. Findings from research are used as the basis for marketing and advertising strategies. Big marketers will benchmark attitudes and do successive studies over a number of years to determine if marketing efforts have worked to change consumer attitudes.
People develop attitudes almost from birth. Some attitudes are learned, likely from parents. The influence of a respected person can be a powerful and long lasting attitude influencer. A marketer of a new detergent might have difficulty persuading a group of people who hold the belief that only the detergent brand Mom used is best. From the marketer's perspective, these learned attitudes are negative ones because they can affect receptivity to his product. Despite the marketers’ best efforts, there might be little that can be done to dissuade such a belief if it's strongly ingrained.
Learned attitudes can be deep-seated, emotionally charged feelings that dictate behaviors which can even baffle the person exhibiting those attitudes. When marketers encounter consumers with learned negative attitudes, they usually write off those groups as not worth the time and effort to target for marketing purposes.
Consumers who have positive learned attitudes are an automatic consumer franchise for marketers. They tend to exhibit loyalty and purchase frequently as well as defend the product or service to others who may criticize it. They take criticism as a negative reflection of the individual from whom they learned the attitude. The higher the regard they hold the original opinion holder, the more likely they are to hold onto their attitudes about a product or service.
Most consumer attitudes are borne out of experience with products and services. A person who has a bad experience with a type of car might never be persuaded to purchase that kind of car again, no matter how attractive the price offer. Consumers can generalize a negative attitude toward whole categories of goods and services or even groups and communities. People who eat organic foods might have negative attitudes about non-organic foods. Similarly, someone who got sick from eating too much ice cream as a child might have the attitude that all dairy is bad. Negative experiences adversely affect consumer attitudes.
Positive experiences work to the advantage of marketers. Getting 20 years out of one make of car likely will make the next car purchased of the same make. Positive experience equals favorable behavior. Marketers work to make experiential attitudes as positive as possible.