Consumers make decisions every day on the type of products and services they purchase. These decisions are often made because of the awareness and trust of a brand’s products. People form impressions of brands based on their interaction and experience with them.

Positive and negative impressions can be formed by a company’s product, customer service, expectations, reputation, social responsibility, employee treatment and the overall look and feel of the brand. One or all of these touchpoints can influence a consumer’s buying decision. The decision-making process can vary depending on the product category — for instance, purchasing an industrial product requires a different thought process than purchasing a consumer product.

The decision to purchase a product can be classified as either compulsive or noncompulsive and takes into account a person’s psychological make-up in addition to the brand’s influence.

Category of Products

Products can be identified as either consumer products or industrial products (Kurtkoti, 2016, Products & Brands, para 1).

  1. A consumer product is a common product that is bought by individuals and is used in a person’s daily life.
  2. Industrial products are items such as machinery that are used by industries.

There is a different mindset as it relates to decision-making based on whether the product is consumer based or industrial. For consumer products, a person can be influenced by their social circle, social media, advertising and sales staff (Kurtkoti, 2016). For consumer goods, a purchase might also be made based on the type of goods and the role of the person influencing the buyer. For example, a mother might be influenced by her family who prefers a particular brand (Kurtkoti, 2016).

When it comes to making an industrial purchase, there are additional people involved with the decision. Outside influences can be upper management and other departments. Industrial purchases are more collaborative than consumer purchases (Kurtkoti, 2016).  The buying process can only begin after receiving authorization. There are purchasing limits and guidelines in place, and the purchaser has little emotional attachment to a particular company. However, if competing brands are considered equal in quality, price, and service — the purchaser may lean towards the company where they have developed personal relationships (Kurtkoti, 2016).

Compulsive Buyers and Noncompulsive Buyers

Within the consumer category, research by Horváth and Birgelen (2015) found that there are two types of buyers that can be influenced by branding: compulsive buyers and noncompulsive buyers. These two types of buyers react differently to brands. Noncompulsive buyers tend to favor branded products and look for quality and function, whereas compulsive buyers are more inclined to be sold on the emotional and social benefits of a product (Horváth & Birgelen, 2015).

Compulsive buyers seek to improve their current emotional state by buying. In this case, the act of shopping is more important than acquiring the product. This raises ethical questions for brand communication that promote those types of messages. The findings of Horváth and Birgelen (2015) indicated that having a large consumer base of compulsive buyers may not be beneficial to brands with high brand equity. Compulsive buyers are less likely to align themselves with a particular brand. Consequently, they are not likely to develop into brand-loyal customers. Compulsive buying may help boost sales short term — but building a lasting relationship with the consumer can lead to brand loyalty which can enable a company to charge higher prices for their products (Horváth & Birgelen, 2015).

Brand trust is developed through repeatedly kept promises by a brand (Horváth & Birgelen, 2015). Compulsive buyers develop a lower degree of brand trust than noncompulsive buyers and are more likely to brand switch. The findings by Horváth and Birgelen (2015) are in line with psychology which found that adults with insecure attachment styles are more anxious in their relationships and are less likely to develop trust and turn to external help to boost their self- esteem (Horváth & Birgelen, 2015). Attachment styles are developed during infancy and refer to the positive or negative way in which a person interacted with their primary caregiver. That relationship can influence the success of future relationships.

Research in marketing suggests that consumers with secure attachment styles develop stronger commercial relationships and felt attached to their favorite brands. By sticking with their favorite brand, they had the opportunity to strengthen the relationship with that brand as an emotional connection is formed (Horváth & Birgelen, 2015). People are drawn to brands that help them define their values, appearance, and status (Vlachos, Theotokis, & Vrechopoulos, 2010).

These findings support the application of attachment theory in marketing which indicates that commercial relationships are similar to personal relationships (Vlachos et al., 2010, “Consumers’ Emotional Attachment,” para. 1). Therefore, marketers make strong efforts to create psychological bonds with consumers.

Brand Personality

Over time, a psychological bond can be formed if a company develops a strong brand personality that consumers can identify with (Toldos-Romero, Orozco-Gómez, 2015). If a company has a strong brand personality, it can drive a consumer to make a purchase decision based on preconceived perceptions, and can sometimes be more important than the product features (Toldos-Romero, Orozco-Gómez, 2015).

These perceptions make decision-making more efficient for the buyer. According to Toldos-Romero, Orozco-Gómez (2015), this is particularly true for lower end products. The features and benefits of high-end products had a much stronger influence on consumer’s brand choices. The perceived socioeconomic class of the product along with price, packaging, and product features can determine the personality of the brand (Toldos-Romero, Orozco-Gómez, 2015). Advertising, imagery and celebrity endorsements can also combine to form a brand personality in the consumer’s minds (Toldos-Romero, Orozco-Gómez, 2015).

Marketing

Marketing is used to promote the product benefits and brand personality. This starts with data collected from market research (Perner, n.d.). Once a need is established within the marketplace, a marketing strategy is put in place to target the right people at the right time with the right message. There are four main areas of the marketing strategy that companies use to do this: product, price, place, promotion.

Oke et al. (2016) state that price is a major determining factor within the marketing mix. Prices are set according to whom the company is targeting. The place is where the exchange happens between the consumers and the organization. Promotion is how companies get the word out about their products and services. Strong brands use “Push” and “Pull” methods which implies that they push their promotional efforts towards the retailers that are distributing their products, while pulling consumers closer to the brand through marketing (Oke et al., 2016, “Promotional Activities,” para. 1).

But even utilizing all of these methods pose some challenges as people have different habits when it comes to purchasing. Some people are more traditional, and others consider themselves risky fringe buyers — meaning that they are early to embrace new things that come to market (Godin, 2015). It is sometimes beneficial for brands to market to fringe buyers, as they can influence a wider audience who begin to engage with the novel idea once it becomes more familiar and acceptable (Godin, 2015).

Companies that work hard to build strong brands recognize that the consumer decision-making process is evolving (Court, Mulder, & Vetvik, 2009). Due to the bombardment of media, consumers are more empowered than ever and are willing to initially narrow the list of brands that they will engage with. They then look to expand their list of brands while actively researching before making a final decision. And even with all of the research completed, consumers may remain undecided at the store or on the website (Court et al., 2009).

Jason Jones
jason@studiojonesdesign.com
Creative Director/Founder
StudioJones Design

References
Court, D., Elzinga, D., Mulder, S., & Jørgen Vetvik, O. (2009). The consumer decision journey. Retrieved from: http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/the-consumer-decision-journey

Godin, S. (2015). How idea adoption works — The idea progression. retrieved from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/09/how-idea-adoption-works-the-idea-progression.html
Horváth, C., & Birgelen, M. v. (2015). The role of brands in the behavior and purchase decisions of compulsive versus noncompulsive buyers. European Journal of Marketing, 49(1), 2. Retrieved from http://prx-herzing.lirn.net/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.prx-herzing.lirn.net/docview/1649067041?accountid=167104
Kurtkoti, A. (2016). Factors influencing consumer buying decision process for different products and brands. Sankalpa, 6(1), 1-16. Retrieved from http://prx-herzing.lirn.net/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.prx-herzing.lirn.net/docview/1807690548?accountid=167104

Mooz, Hal, Jeff Henley. Make Up Your Mind: A Decision-Making Guide to Thinking Clearly and Choosing Wisely. John Wiley & Sons P&T, 2012-01-30. VitalSource Bookshelf Online.
Oke, A. O., Kamolshotiros, P., Popoola, O. Y., Ajagbe, M. A., & Olujobi, O. J. (2016). Consumer behavior towards decision making and loyalty to particular brands. International Review of Management and Marketing, 6(4) Retrieved from http://prx-herzing.lirn.net/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.prx-herzing.lirn.net/docview/1796230197?accountid=167104

Perner, L. (n.a.). Consumer Behavior: The psychology of marketing. Retrieved from http://www.consumerpsychologist.com
Toldos-Romero, M., & Orozco-Gómez, M. M. (2015). Brand personality and purchase intention. European Business Review, 27(5), 462-476. Retrieved from http://prx-herzing.lirn.net/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.prx-herzing.lirn.net/docview/1697434164?accountid=167104