What makes People Buy one thing rather than another?

This is something every business needs to know; and a basic understanding of such things can make the difference between success and failure.

Attitude toward a product or service can be a complex thing.

Attitude can be not only positive or negative; but the strength of feeling can also vary.

In addition, a consumer may have a positive attitude toward some aspects of a product or service and negative attitudes toward some aspects of the same product or service.


When a person says they like a well-known product (eg. Coca-cola), the answer is either yes they like it or no they don’t. This type of answer tells us very little about the consumer’s psychology. For a better understanding of the consumer, you need to ask a different question (or series of questions), that will determine both quantitative and qualitative aspects of their attitude toward a product.

(eg. How necessary is coca cola to them? How often do they purchase it? How does it rank in importance relative to other drinks they purchase? …etc).


Defining Attitudes

Attitude is a term which has been defined in many different ways by psychologists.

From amongst these many definitions, a common definition might be:

“A stable, long lasting, learned predisposition to respond to a particular thing in a predictable way”


The concept of attitude has the following three aspects or components:


A/ Cognitive (belief)

  • concerned with what you think about a product or service.
  • concerned with opinions such as it’s physical attributes (eg. whether you think it is quality, inexpensive, big, small, etc).


B/ Affective (feeling)

  • concerned about less tangible attitudes such as emotional responses (eg. is it appealing or unappealing; does it stir emotions such as loyalty, love or patriotism, etc).


C/ Conative (action)

  • concerned with the consumers likely behaviour (eg. are they likely to buy it, are they likely to use it, etc).


How are attitudes formed

Many animals (eg a lion) may have 90% of their brain development complete at birth; whereas humans have only around 10% at birth. As a result, an animal tends to be more predictable than a human is; and a human’s behaviour tends to be almost completely dependent upon the influences it has as it grows and develops.

This is particularly relevant to “attitude”.

People are not born with attitudes: they develop attitudes as they develop.

There is therefore, opportunity for a marketer to influence the development of attitudes, and in doing so, influence the tendency to of potential customers to buy.

The information above comes from our course on Marketing Psychology.  For a course outline and enrolment details, click here

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