Attitudes and Intentions

By Peter, J.P., Olson, J.C.

Edited by Paul Ducham


Consumers’ attitudes are always toward some concept. We are interested in two broad types of concepts: objects and behaviors. Consumers can have attitudes toward various physical and social objects ( A O indicates attitude toward the object), including products, brands, models, stores, and people (salesperson at the electronics store), as well as aspects of marketing strategy (a rebate from General Motors; an ad for Wrigley’s chewing gum). Consumers also can have attitudes toward intangible objects such as concepts and ideas (capitalism, a fair price for gasoline). A late 1990s survey of Americans’ attitudes toward pollution and the environment found that compared to five years earlier, 76 percent were more concerned, 19 percent were less concerned, and 6 percent were unchanged. Consumers also can have attitudes toward their own behaviors or actions ( A act indicates attitude toward the act, action, or behavior), including their past actions (Why did I buy that sweater?) and future behaviors (I’m going to the mall tomorrow afternoon).

 Levels of Attitude Concepts .  Consumers can have quite distinct attitudes toward variations of the same general concept. Exhibit 6.1 shows several attitude concepts that vary in their levels of specificity, even though all concepts are in the same product domain. For instance, Rich has a moderately positive attitude toward fast-food restaurants in general, but he has a highly favorable attitude toward one product form (hamburger restaurants). However, his attitude toward McDonald’s, a specific brand of hamburger restaurant, is only slightly favorable (he likes Burger King better). Finally, his attitude toward a particular “model”—the McDonald’s on the corner of Grant and Main—is somewhat negative (he had an unpleasant meal there).

 Note that some attitude concepts are defined in terms of a particular behavioral and situational context (eating dinner with his children at the Grant Street McDonald’s after a soccer game), whereas other concepts are more generic (McDonald’s restaurants in general). Consumers could have different attitudes toward these concepts, and these attitudes might not be consistent with one another. Rich, for instance, has an unfavorable attitude toward eating lunch with his friends at the Grant Street McDonald’s (he’d rather go to a full-service restaurant); however, he has a somewhat favorable attitude toward eating dinner there with his kids (it’s easy and fast).

 Note that although the same McDonald’s “object” is present in each of these concepts, Rich’s attitude toward that McDonald’s is different in the two situations. Because consumers are likely to have different attitudes toward different attitude concepts, marketers must be sure to measure the attitude concept at the level of specificity most relevant to the marketing problem of interest.

Exhibit 6.1


Marketers are highly interested in market share, a measure of purchasing behavior indicating the proportion of total sales in a product category (or product form) received by a brand. But marketers also need to attend to consumers’ brand attitudes.

Brand Equity .  Brand attitude is a key aspect of brand equity. Brand equity concerns the value of the brand to the marketer and to the consumer. From the marketer’s perspective, brand equity implies greater profits, more cash flow, and greater market share. For instance, Marriott estimated that adding its name to Fairfield Inn increased occupancy rates by 15 percent (a tangible indicator of the value of the Marriott brand). In England, Hitachi and G.E. once co-owned a factory that made identical televisions for both companies. The only differences were the brand name on the set and a $75 higher price for the Hitachi, reflecting the equity or value of the Hitachi brand.

 From a consumer perspective, brand equity involves a strong, positive brand attitude (favorable evaluation of the brand) based on favorable meanings and beliefs that are accessible in memory (easily activated). These three factors create a strong, favorable consumer–brand relationship, one of the most important assets a company can own and the basis for brand equity. Consumer Insight 6.2 presents more about the concept of brand equity.

 Basically marketers can acquire brand equity in three ways: They can build it, borrow it, or buy it. Companies can build brand equity by ensuring that the brand actually delivers positive consequences and by consistently advertising these important consequences. Consider the considerable brand equity built up over time by Campbell’s soup, Green Giant vegetables, Mercedes-Benz automobiles, and Anheuser-Busch created the Eagle brand of snack foods (including honey-roasted peanuts) and invested heavily in creating positive consumer attitudes (and brand equity) through advertising and sales promotions.

 Companies can borrow brand equity by extending a positive brand name to other products. For example, the Coca-Cola line now includes Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Coke, Cherry and Diet Cherry Coke, Coke BlaK, Coke Zero, and others. Tide no longer refers to only one type of detergent; the brand name has been extended to other products, and presumably some of Tide’s original equity has been passed along, too. Consumer researchers are busy trying to determine if and how brand equity is transferred by brand-name extensions. Some research shows that the success of a brand extension depends on the key meanings consumers associate with a brand name and whether those meanings are consistent or appropriate for the other product.

 Finally, a company can buy brand equity by purchasing brands that already have equity. For instance, the mergers and leveraged buyouts of the 1980s were partially motivated by the desire to buy brands with strong equity. Thus, when Grand Metropolitan bought Pillsbury and Philip Morris bought Kraft, they acquired the equity of all the acquired brands.

Attitude Tracking Studies .  Because many marketing strategies are intended to influence consumers’ attitudes toward a brand, marketers can use measures of consumers’ attitudes to indicate the success of those strategies. For instance, many companies regularly conduct large-scale attitude surveys, called tracking studies, to monitor consumers’ brand attitudes over time. When these studies identify changes in consumer attitudes, marketers can adjust their marketing strategies, as The Gap did in the opening example.

 One company that failed to track consumers’ increasingly unfavorable attitudes was Howard Johnson’s, one of the original restaurant chains in the United States. During the highway building boom in the 1950s and 1960s, HoJo’s was known as a clean place with nice washrooms, predictable and wholesome food, and ice cream the kids would like. Consumers’ attitudes were positive, and Howard Johnson’s prospered. But over the next 20 years, HoJo’s did not monitor customers’ attitudes well, nor did it respond effectively to the strategies of competitors that were passing it by. For instance, Howard Johnson’s used informal gauges of consumer attitudes, such as comment cards left on restaurant tables. Competitors such as Marriott, Denny’s, and McDonald’s ran sophisticated market tests that told them what customers liked and didn’t like. Finally, after a long decline, Marriott bought out the once-powerful chain of Howard Johnson’s restaurants.

Attitudes toward Objects

 In this section, we examine the information integration process by which consumers form attitudes toward objects ( A O ), including products or brands. As shown in Exhibit 3.5 , during the integration process, consumers combine some of their knowledge, meanings, and beliefs about a product or brand to form an overall evaluation. These considered beliefs may be formed by interpretation processes or activated from memory.

 Consumer Insight 6.2

Building Brands

Corporations like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Procter & Gamble have spent years successfully developing and protecting their brands. However, in the 1990s a new breed of high-tech firm redefined the art of brand building. According to a 2000 survey by British consultant Interbrand, four of the five most valuable brands in the world are from the technology sector: Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and Nokia. The only old-line firm in the group is Coca-Cola. Furthermore, Internet firms like Yahoo! and are among the fastest-growing brands. These companies have accomplished overnight what used to take decades. How have they done it? Hint: It’s more than just advertising.*

 Brand-building tactic 1: Give away the farm. Giving away free samples is not a new or particularly innovative strategy, but some high-tech firms have taken the concept of the freebie to a new level. America Online has taken great pains to make sure its diskettes and CD-ROMs are almost everywhere—in cereal boxes, alongside in-flight meals, on music CDs, even on the plastic bags that cover your morning newspaper. AOL believed it was difficult to simply explain to consumers the benefits of its services. Rather, it felt the best way to win over potential new customers was to let them try AOL free for a limited time and learn firsthand how it worked.

 Brand-building tactic 2: Conduct public relations like a war: Sun Microsystems’ effort to promote its Java software platform is an example of brilliant guerrilla marketing in action. For example, Java Beans is a Sun technology that allows for the development of reusable pieces of code. At one point, Sun learned that rival Microsoft planned a press conference to announce the introduction of a competing technology. The day before Microsoft’s official rollout, Sun mailed bags of coffee beans to reporters. The bags contained a note asking, “Why is Microsoft so jittery?” and inviting reporters to a Java Beans seminar at a hotel next door to where the Microsoft announcement was taking place. According to Sun, more than 250 people attended to learn more about the company’s Java Beans technology. Sun thus stole some of Microsoft’s thunder while promoting its own product at the same time.

 Brand-building tactic 3: Work the Web. Amazon has successfully spread its name all over the Web. Shortly after it opened its Internet “storefront” in 1995, Amazon received a request from a customer to create links from book recommendations on her Web site to Amazon. Not only did Amazon agree, but it also worked diligently to set up similar so-called “Associate” agreements with other Web sites. In exchange for posting an Amazon link on your site, you would receive from 5 to 15 percent of any revenue generated. By 1998, Amazon boasted more than 40,000 Associates.

 Brand-building tactic 4: Make it funny. A number of Internet firms have capitalized on the irreverent spirit of the Web. Sun was one of the pioneers, publishing a comic book for software developers at the 1996 Internet World trade show. The comic book featured the bizarrelooking Java mascot, Duke, who pledged to “keep the Internet safe for everyone.” Sun used humor to try to differentiate itself from Microsoft and its comparatively straitlaced image. produced a series of funny TV and radio ads featuring actor William Shatner “singing” about the virtues of saving money on Priceline. Yahoo! positioned itself as a fun, hip, slightly off-the-wall site, thanks to clever advertising and the memorable tag line “Do you Yahoo!?”

 For these technology firms, the next challenge is to maintain the successful brand image they have built. Can they keep their brands relevant in the minds of consumers for decades, as Disney, Coca-Cola, and some other more traditional companies have done? For these older giants, the challenge is to figure out new, innovative methods of building brand equity as the rules of the game change more rapidly than ever before.


Through their varied experiences, consumers acquire many beliefs about products, brands, and other objects in their environment. Exhibit 6.2 presents some of the beliefs one consumer has about Crest toothpaste. These beliefs constitute an associative network of linked meanings stored in memory. Because people’s cognitive capacity is limited, only a few of these beliefs can be activated and consciously considered at once. The activated beliefs (highlighted in Exhibit 6.2 ) are called salient beliefs . Only the salient beliefs about an object (those that are activated at a particular time and in a specific context) create a person’s attitude toward that object. Thus, one key to understanding consumers’ attitudes is to identify and understand the underlying set of salient beliefs.

 In principle, consumers can have salient beliefs about any type and level of meaning associated with a product. For instance, consumers who possess complete means– end chains of product knowledge could activate beliefs about the product’s attributes, its functional consequence, or the values achieved through using it. In addition, beliefs about other types of product-related meanings, such as country of origin, could be activated. Salient beliefs could include tactile, olfactory, and visual images, as well as cognitive representations of the emotions and moods associated with using the product. If activated, any of these beliefs could influence a consumer’s attitude toward a product.

 Many factors influence which beliefs about an object will be activated in a situation and thus become salient determinants of A O . They include prominent stimuli in the immediate environment (point-ofpurchase displays, advertisements, package information), recent events, consumers’ moods and emotional states, and consumers’ values and goals activated in the situation. 20 For instance, noticing a price reduction sign for hiking boots may make price beliefs salient and therefore influential on A O .

 Marketers may find that consumers’ salient beliefs vary over time or situations for some products. That is, different sets of salient beliefs about a product may be activated in different situations or at different times. 21 For instance, a consumer who has just returned from the dentist is more likely to activate beliefs about tooth decay and cavities when thinking about which brand of toothpaste to buy. Variations in the set of salient beliefs over time and situations can produce changes in consumer attitudes depending on the situation, context, time, consumer’s mood, and so forth. Consumers have more stable attitudes toward objects that have a stable set of salient beliefs. Normally, though, the amount of variation in salient beliefs and attitudes is not great for most objects.

Exhibit 6.2


A great deal of marketing research has focused on developing models for predicting the attitudes produced by this integration process. These are called multiattribute attitude models because they focus on consumers’ beliefs about multiple product or brand attributes. 22 Of these, Martin Fishbein’s model has been most influential in marketing.

 The key proposition in Fishbein’s theory is that the evaluations of salient beliefs cause overall attitude. Simply stated, people tend to like objects that are associated with “good” characteristics and dislike objects they believe have “bad” attributes. In Fishbein’s multiattribute model, overall attitude toward an object is a function of two factors: the strengths of the salient beliefs associated with the object and the evaluations of those beliefs. Formally, the model proposes that:



AO = attitude toward the object
bi = strength of the belief that the object has attribute i
ei = evaluation of attribute i
n = number of salient beliefs about the object

 This multiattribute attitude model accounts for the integration process by which product knowledge (the evaluations and strengths of salient beliefs) is combined to form an overall evaluation or attitude. The model, however, does not claim that consumers actually add up the products of belief strength and evaluation when forming attitudes toward objects. Rather, this and similar models attempt to predict the attitude produced by the integration process; they are not meant to describe the actual cognitive operations by which knowledge is integrated. In this book, we consider the multiattribute model to be a useful tool for investigating attitude formation and predicting attitudes.

 Model Components.  The two major elements of Fishbein’s multiattribute model are the strengths and evaluations of the salient beliefs. Exhibit 6.3 illustrates how these components are combined to form attitudes toward two brands of soft drinks. This consumer has salient beliefs about three attributes for each brand. These beliefs vary in content, strength, and evaluation. The Fishbein model predicts that this consumer has a more favorable attitude toward 7UP than toward Diet Pepsi.

 Belief strength (bi) is the perceived probability of association between an object and its relevant attributes. Belief strength is measured by having consumers rate this probability of association for each of their salient beliefs, as shown here:

“How likely is it that 7UP has no caffeine?”

Extremely Unlikely 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Extremely Likely

“How likely is it that 7UP is made from all natural ingredients?”

Extremely Unlikely 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Extremely Likely

 Consumers who are quite certain that 7UP has no caffeine would indicate a very strong belief strength, perhaps 9 or 10. Consumers who have only a moderately strong belief that 7UP is made from only natural ingredients might rate their belief strength as 6 or 7.

 The strength of consumers’ product or brand beliefs is affected by their past experiences with the object. Beliefs about product attributes or consequences tend to be stronger when based on actual use of the product. Beliefs that were formed indirectly from mass advertising or conversations with a salesperson tend to be weaker. For instance, consumers are more likely to form a strong belief that “7UP tastes good” if they actually drink a 7UP and experience its taste directly than if they read a product claim in an advertisement. Because they are stronger (and more likely to be activated), beliefs based on direct experience tend to have a greater impact on AO . Marketers therefore try to induce potential customers to actually use their products. They may distribute free samples; sell small, less expensive trial sizes; offer cents-off coupons; or have a no-obligation trial policy.

 Fishbein argued that the typical number of salient beliefs about an attitude object is not likely to exceed seven to nine. Given consumers’ limited capacities for interpreting and integrating information, we might expect even fewer salient beliefs for many objects. In fact, when consumers have limited knowledge about low-involvement products, their brand attitudes might be based on very few salient beliefs, perhaps only one or two. In contrast, their attitudes toward more self-relevant products or brands are likely to be based on several salient beliefs.

 Associated with each salient belief is a belief evaluation (ei) that reflects how favorably the consumer perceives that attribute. Marketers measure the ei component by having consumers indicate their evaluation of (favorability toward) each salient belief, as follows:

 “7UP has no caffeine.”

Very Bad -3 -2 -10 +1+2 +3  Very Good

“7UP has all natural ingredients.”

Very Bad -3 -2 -10 + 1 +2 + 3  Very Good

 As shown in Exhibit 6.3 , the evaluations of salient beliefs influence the overall AO in proportion to the strength of each belief (bi). Thus, strong beliefs about positive attributes have greater effects on AO than do weak beliefs about equally positive attributes. Likewise, a negative ereduces the favorability of AO in proportion to its bi “weight.”

 As you learned in Chapter 4 , consumers link beliefs to form Means–End Chains of product knowledge. Exhibit 6.4 presents means–end chains for three attributes of 7UP. Note that the evaluation of each product attribute is ultimately derived from the evaluation of the end consequence in its means–end chain. As shown in Exhibit 6.4 , the evaluation of the end “flows down” the means–end chain to determine the evaluations of the less abstract consequences and attributes. 26 For instance, a person who positively evaluates the end “relaxation,” an instrumental value, would tend to positively evaluate the functional consequence “I’m not jittery.” In turn, the product attribute “no caffeine,” which is perceived to lead to not being jittery and relaxation, would have a positive evaluation. These attribute evaluations would then combine to influence the overall attitude, AO, toward 7UP. Consumers’ evaluations of salient attributes are not necessarily fixed over time or constant across different situations. 27 For instance, consumers may change their minds about how good or bad an attribute is as they learn more about its higher-order consequences. Situational factors can also change the ei components. In a different situation, some consumers may want to be stimulated (when getting up in the morning or working late at night to finish a project). If so, the now negative evaluation of the end value “relaxation” would flow down the means–end chain and create a negative evaluation of the “no caffeine” attribute, which in turn would contribute to a less positive overall attitude toward 7UP (for that situation). In this situation, the consumer might have a more positive attitude toward Diet Pepsi, which does contain caffeine. This is yet another example of how the physical and social environment can influence consumers’ affect and cognitions.

Exhibit 6.3

Exhibit 6.4


Marketers have been using multiattribute models to explore consumer behavior since the late 1960s. These models became popular because they have an intuitive appeal to researchers and managers and are relatively easy to use in research. 28 Not all of these models accurately reflect the basic Fishbein model, but most are adaptations of it. We will discuss a few of the many applications of these models next.

 Understanding Your Customers.  The multiattribute model is useful for identifying which attributes are the most important (or most salient) to consumers. For instance; airline passengers love to complain about the lousy food served on planes. 29 Yet a survey found that only 40 percent of passengers rated good food and beverage service as important, whereas other attributes were mentioned as important much more frequently. These included convenient schedules (more than 90 percent), fast check-in (about 80 percent), comfortable seats (about 80 percent), and good on-time performance (about 85 percent). Perhaps airlines use such data to justify not improving the quality of the food they serve. The relative importance of different attributes is likely to vary across market segments. For instance, three segments of the airline market—light travelers (1 or 2 trips per year), moderate travelers (3 to 9 trips per year), and frequent travelers (10 or more trips per year)—evaluated some attributes differently. Light travelers had greater concerns about safety and efficient baggage handling, whereas frequent travelers were more concerned with convenient schedules and frequent-flier programs.

 Diagnosis of Marketing Strategies.  Although multiattribute models were developed to predict overall attitudes, marketers often use them to diagnose marketing strategies. By examining the salient beliefs that underlie attitudes toward various brands, marketers can learn how their strategies are performing and make adjustments to improve their effectiveness. For instance, in the value-conscious 1990s, marketers found that many consumers were more concerned with the quality and value of products relative to their prices. 30 Finding a bargain, spending one’s money wisely, and not overpaying for quality became fashionable once again. Many companies adjusted their strategies in light of these beliefs. Consider the motto of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer: “Always Low Prices, Always.” Southwest Airlines combined low fares with friendly but bare-bones service to enhance consumers’ value beliefs and overall attitudes. Taco Bell and many other firms reduced operating costs enough to feature items on the menu around $1 to create stronger beliefs about the exceptional value the fast-food restaurant provided.

 Understanding Situational Influences.  Marketers can also use the multiattribute attitude model to examine the influence of situations. The relative salience of beliefs about certain product attributes may be greatly influenced by the situations in which the product is used. Situations vary in many ways, including time of day, consumer mood, environmental setting, weather, and hundreds of other variables. These Situational Characteristics affect which beliefs are activated from memory, and influence attitudes toward the brands that might be purchased for use in those situations.

 For instance, one study of snack products found that beliefs about economy and taste were most important for three common snacking occasions: everyday desserts, watching TV in the evening, and kids’ lunches. However, when buying snacks for a children’s party, beliefs about nutrition and convenience were most important. Such variations in salient beliefs can lead to different brand attitudes in these various situations.


The multiattribute model is a useful guide for devising strategies to change consumers’ attitudes. Basically a marketer has four possible attitude-change strategies: (1) add a new salient belief about the attitude object—ideally, one with a positive e i , (2) increase the strength of an existing positive belief, (3) improve the evaluation of a strongly held belief, or (4) make an existing favorable belief more salient.

 Adding a new salient belief to the existing beliefs that consumers have about a product or brand is probably the most common attitude-change strategy.  Consumer Insight 6.3 describes such a strategy in an antismoking campaign. Sometimes this strategy requires a physical change in the product. For instance, crunchy is an attribute now added to many food products. Consider Honey Crunch Corn Flakes from Kellogg, French Toast Crunch from General Mills, and Cranberry Almond Crunch from Post. Candy is getting crunchier too—Reese’s Crunchy Cookie Cups from Hershey and Nestlé’s White Crunch. Even smooth Yoplait Yogurt (by General Mills) has a Crunchy Lite line containing nuts. People in general have positive attitudes toward “crunchy” and “crispy,” which seem to be linked to feelings of freshness, fun, and stress relief. As one customer put it, “I don’t know if it is the sound or what, but crunchy foods are satisfying.”

 Marketers can also try to change attitudes by changing the strength of already salient beliefs. They can attempt to increase the strength of beliefs about positive attributes and consequences, or they can decrease the strength of beliefs about negative attributes and consequences. For years Papa John’s pizza ( ) has outperformed the fast-food industry. Yet Papa John’s costs a bit more than Little Caesar’s, arrives no faster than Dominos, does not sell salads or sandwiches, and does not offer sit-down service. 35 Instead, Papa John’s focuses on taste, as indicated by its corporate slogan, “Better ingredients, better pizza.” It makes its own dough with purified water and its own sauce from fresh tomatoes, and uses only premium mozzarella cheese. Papa John’s works hard to create strong consumer beliefs that its pizza tastes better, and apparently many consumers do believe. Many publications in markets around the country have rated Papa John’s as the best-tasting pizza.

 Marketers can also try to change consumers’ attitudes by changing the evaluative aspect of an existing, strongly held belief about a salient attribute. This requires constructing a new means–end chain by linking a more positive, higher-ordered consequence to that attribute. Cereal manufacturers such as Kellogg once tried to enhance consumers’ attitudes by linking the food attribute of fiber to cancer prevention.

 Consider how evaluations of beliefs about food attributes have changed (in the United States, at least) as their means–end meanings have evolved. Attributes such as butterfat and egg yolks once were evaluated highly because they gave foods a rich, satisfying taste. But in the 1990s they became negative attributes, whereas attributes such as low fats, once seen as rather undesirable, became more highly valued. For instance, Sealtest tried to link nonfat characteristics of “Sealtest Free” ice cream to important values such as health and fitness. Likewise, Kraft tried to link the key attributes of its fat-free line of salad dressings and mayonnaise (egg whites, skim milk, cellulose gel, and various gums) to important health consequences and values (lower risk of heart disease and longer life).

 The final strategy for changing consumers’ attitudes is to make an existing favorable belief more salient, usually by convincing consumers that the attribute is more self-relevant than it seemed. This strategy is similar to the previous one in that it attempts to link the attribute to valued consequences and values. Creating such means–end chains increases the salience of consumers’ beliefs about the attributes as well as the evaluations (ei) of those beliefs. For example, the marketing strategies of sun care lotion manufacturers such as Hawaiian Tropic emphasized the perceived risks of not using their lotions, which had a sunscreen attribute. By linking the sunscreen attribute to important ends such as avoiding skin cancer and premature wrinkling, they sought to make the sunscreen attribute more salient (more self-relevant) for consumers. Such means–end chains should make sunscreen beliefs more likely to be activated and considered during decision making.

Attitudes toward Behavior

 Consumers’ attitudes have been studied intensively, but marketers tend to be more concerned about consumers’ overt behavior, especially their purchase behavior. Thus, it is not surprising that a great deal of research has tried to establish the relationship between attitudes and behavior. Based on the idea of consistency, you might expect attitudes toward an object (AO) to be strongly related to behaviors toward the object. For instance, most market researchers believe, and operate under the assumption, that the more favorable a person’s attitude toward a given product (or brand), the more likely the person is to buy or use that product (or brand).

 Thus, a marketing researcher might measure consumers’ attitudes toward Pizza Hut and use the results to predict whether each person will purchase a pizza at Pizza Hut within the next month. If this approach seems reasonable, you may be surprised to learn that consumers’ attitudes toward an object often are not good predictors of their specific behaviors regarding that object. In fact, with a few notable exceptions, most research has found rather weak relationships between AO and specific single behaviors.

 Exhibit 6.5 illustrates one problem with relating AO to individual behaviors. The exhibit presents the relationships among a consumer’s beliefs, attitude, and behaviors concerning a particular object: Pizza Hut. First, note that Judy, our consumer, has a single overall attitude toward Pizza Hut (in her case, a favorable AO), which is based on her salient beliefs about Pizza Hut. For instance, she might go to Pizza Hut on Friday night and order a pizza, ignore a Pizza Hut ad on television, use a Pizza Hut coupon for a free soft drink, or recommend Pizza Hut to her boss. However, none of these specific behaviors is necessarily consistent with or even strongly related to her overall AO , although some of them might be.

 This does not mean consumers’ attitudes are irrelevant to their behaviors. As shown in Exhibit 6.5 , Judy’s overall attitude ( AO) is related to the overall evaluative pattern of her behaviors (all of her behaviors regarding Pizza Hut taken together). However, it is not possible to predict with accuracy any specific behavior based on knowing a person’s overall attitude toward the object of the behavior.

 Although this proposition may seem strange, there are many examples of its validity. Consider that many consumers probably have positive attitudes toward Porsche cars, Rolex watches, and vacation homes, but most do not buy these products. Because favorable attitudes toward these products can be expressed in many different behaviors, it is difficult to predict which specific behavior will be performed. Consider three consumers who have generally favorable attitudes toward Porsches but do not own one. One consumer reads ads and test reports about Porsches. The second consumer goes to showrooms to look at Porsches. The third consumer just daydreams about owning a Porsche. In sum, having a generally favorable (or unfavorable) attitude toward a product does not mean the consumer will perform every possible favorable (or unfavorable) behavior regarding that product. Marketers need a model that identifies the attitudinal factors that influence specific behaviors. Such a model is provided by Fishbein’s theory of reasoned action.

 Consumer Insight 6.3

Changing Teenagers’ Attitudes toward Smoking

In recent years, many attempts have been made to convince teens of the dangers of smoking. One of the highest-profile efforts has been The Truth campaign from the American Legacy Association. You can see The Truth’s approach firsthand at its Web site,

 The Truth targets teens aged 12–17, because most adult smokers have their first cigarette experience before the age of 18. The Truth’s ad campaigns are marketed to the “edgier” teens—those who are more willing to take risks and take up smoking. The ads themselves have a more raw, independent feel in an attempt to resonate with these teens.

 The Truth’s edgy and brutally direct ads have created controversy and attracted national attention. For example, a TV spot featured an angry tobacco company executive ushering a young woman out of an office building while she loudly chastises him for his company’s misleading marketing tactics. A magazine ad pictured a hand with bandaged fingers and asked readers to “Rip out the next cigarette ad you see because tobacco killed about 430,000 people last year and paper cuts didn’t kill anybody” (interestingly, that ad ran in Spin magazine, which also accepts advertising dollars from tobacco companies). The Truth also has taken its campaign to the streets, filling part of an empty lot in Washington, DC, with 1,200 body bags, representing the number of people who die each day from tobacco-related illnesses. The Truth itself has become a cool “brand” among teens. During a summer-long promotional campaign in 2000, The Truth representatives gave away 150,000 baseball caps and T-shirts.

 The ads are funded in part by money paid by tobacco companies as part of a 1998 agreement between the tobacco industry and 46 states. One stipulation of the agreement was that the ads should not “vilify” the tobacco companies. The definition of vilify was left open to interpretation. Does an ad that shows the Philip Morris headquarters in New York surrounded by body bags qualify as vilification? The tobacco industry has had little to say on the issue, although a Philip Morris spokesperson claims, “We’re disappointed with some of the ads and the tone of the website. We don’t think they accurately depict our company, our employees, and the way we do business.” However, Mitch Zeller, executive vice president of the American Legacy Foundation, contends an in-your-face approach is the best way to reach teens: “Teenagers have a sense of immortality. They think the dangers don’t apply to them. The body bags are designed to break through that kind of mindset.”

 Although some find The Truth ad campaigns are vilifying the tobacco industry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 21.9 percent of high school students reported smoking in 2005, down from 36.4 percent in 1997. The American Legacy Foundation, which funds The Truth, started running ads in 2000. Are antismoking campaigns the reason for this?

Exhibit 6.5


Fishbein recognized that people’s attitudes toward an object may not be strongly or systematically related to their specific behaviors. Rather, the immediate determinant of whether consumers will engage in a particular behavior is their intention to engage in that behavior. Fishbein modified and extended his multiattribute attitude model to relate consumers’ beliefs and attitudes to their behavioral intentions. The entire model is presented in Exhibit 6.6 .

 The model is called a theory of reasoned action because it assumes that consumers consciously consider the consequences of the alternative behaviors under consideration and choose the one that leads to the most desirable consequences. The outcome of this reasoned choice process is an intention to engage in the selected behavior. This behavioral intention is the single best predictor of actual behavior. In sum, the theory of reasoned action proposes that any reasonably complex, voluntary behavior (such as buying a pair of shoes) is determined by the person’s intention to perform that behavior. The theory of reasoned action is not relevant for extremely simple or involuntary behaviors such as automatic eye blinking, turning your head at the sound of the telephone, or sneezing.

 Formally, the theory of reasoned action can be presented as follows:

Formula 1

 According to this theory, people tend to perform behaviors that are evaluated favorably and are popular with other people. They tend to refrain from behaviors that are regarded unfavorably and are unpopular with others.

 Model Components.  In this section, we describe and discuss each component of the theory of reasoned action, beginning with behavior. Note that all the components of the model are defined in terms of a specific behavior, B.

 Behaviors are specific actions directed at some target object (driving to the store, buying a swimsuit, looking for a lost Bic pen). Behaviors always occur in a situational context or environment and at a particular time (at home right now, in the grocery store this afternoon, or at an unspecified location in your town next week). 44 Marketers need to be clear about these aspects of the behavior of interest because the components of the theory of reasoned action must be defined and measured in terms of these specific features.

 Basically a behavioral intention ( BI ) is a proposition connecting self and a future action: “I intend to go shopping this Saturday.” One can think of an intention as a plan to engage in a specified behavior in order to reach a goal. Behavioral intentions are created through a choice/decision process in which beliefs about two types of consequences Aact— and SN —are considered and integrated to evaluate alternative behaviors and select among them. Behavioral intentions vary in strength, which can be measured by having consumers rate the probability that they will perform the behavior of interest, shown as follows:

 “All things considered, how likely are you to use newspaper coupons when buying groceries this week or next?”

Extremely Unlikely 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Extremely Likely

 As Exhibit 6.6 shows, the strengths and evaluations of a consumer’s salient beliefs about the functional consequences of an action are combined formula 2

 to form an attitude toward the behavior or action Aact . Aact reflects the consumer’s overall evaluation of performing the behavior. Marketers measure the strengths and evaluations of the salient beliefs about the consequences of a behavior in the same way they measure beliefs about product attributes.Consumer Insight 6.4 discusses these concepts. Aact is quite different from Aact . Although both attitudes are based on an underlying set of salient beliefs, the beliefs are about somewhat different concepts. For instance, consider the following salient beliefs about “Toyota” (an object) and “buying a new Toyota this year” (a specific action involving the object):


Note that these salient beliefs have quite different evaluations.Thus, we should not be surprised to find that some consumers like Toyota in general ( AO) but have negative attitudes toward buying a Toyota this year ( Aact ). It is possible for marketing strategies to have a differential impact on AO and Aact . For instance, one study found that information about the store where a new product was sold affected consumers’ attitudes toward purchasing the product ( Aact ) but did not influence their attitudes toward the product itself ( AO ). 46 Marketers therefore must be careful to determine whether they are concerned with consumers’ attitudes toward the object in general or some action regarding the object (such as buying it). Only attitudes toward behaviors are likely to be strongly related to specific behavioral intentions. In addition, marketers must carefully identify the level of specificity most appropriate for the marketing problem. Attitudes at one level of specificity are not always consistently related to attitudes at other levels. For instance, Rick and Linda very much like to go shopping (a general behavior) but avoid shopping on Saturdays when the malls are crowded (a more specific behavior).

 The subjective or social norm ( SN ) component reflects consumers’ perceptions of what other people want them to do. Consumers’ salient normative beliefs ( NBj ) regarding “doing what other people want me to do” and their motivation to comply with the expectations of these other people (MCj ) are combined to 2

 form SN. Along with Aact, SN affects consumers’ behavioral intentions ( BI ).

 Measuring the strength of normative beliefs is similar to the belief-strength measures discussed earlier:

 “Members of my family are in favor of my using coupons.”

 Extremely Unlikely 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Extremely Likely

Motivation to comply is measured by asking consumers to rate how much they want to conform to other people’s desires:

“Generally, how much do you want to do what your family wants you to?”

Not at All -3 -2 -10 +1 +2 +3 Very Much

The theory of reasoned action proposes that Aact and SN combine to affect behavioral intentions ( BI ) and that their relative influence varies from situation to situation. During the information integration process that creates BI, Aact and SN may be weighted differently (see Exhibit 6.6 ). Some behaviors are primarily affected by the SN factor. For instance, intentions to wear a certain style of clothing to a party or to work are likely to be influenced more strongly by SN and the normative beliefs regarding “fitting in” than beliefs about the general consequences of wearing those clothes ( Aact ). For other behaviors, normative influences are minimal, and consumers’ intentions are determined largely by Aact . For instance, consumers’ intentions to purchase Contac cold remedy are more likely to be affected by their salient beliefs about the functional consequences of using Contac and the resulting attitude toward buying it than by what other people expect them to do.

Exhibit 6.6


 Consumer Insight 6.4

JetBlue: Creating Amazing Attitudes and Intentions with Customer Service

Imagine an airline that is experiencing success while many others seem to be declaring bankruptcy. Enter JetBlue—a small, efficient airline that ingeniously cuts costs and passes those savings on to customers. The Jet- Blue motto? To make flying fast and fun. JetBlue has a modest 6,000 employees and roughly 100 jets, but it still manages to have the highest percentage of seats filled and the industry’s best operating margins. How does Jet- Blue do it? JetBlue has only one class—complete with more legroom and more seat width than typical coach class on other airlines. And your first checked bag is free. In addition, each seat is comfortable leather and has its own television, complete with DirecTV so flyers can choose their own stations and programs to watch. JetBlue views each flyer as being in “first class.” JetBlue is also known for its friendly and personable crewmembers (“employee” is a dirty word at JetBlue, so all flight attendants are called “crewmembers” to better reflect their investment in the company) who go above and beyond the call of duty for its customers.

 Perhaps this is what sets JetBlue apart from the rest of the airline industry—its customers feel important and actually cared for. Customers’ positive attitudes toward JetBlue are apparent. JetBlue has created quite a cult following—in a New York magazine personal ad a man mentioned JetBlue among one of the five items he can’t live without, after good wine and Shakespeare.

 The CEO of JetBlue sees his airplanes as a market research facility. He flies JetBlue regularly, making himself available for customers’ questions, feedback, and criticism in an attempt to make JetBlue even more successful. Customers may have favorable attitudes toward JetBlue partly because they believe their complaints and suggestions are being heard. For example, some customers suggested having low-carb snacks available, and now JetBlue plans on offering almonds to cater to those diet-conscious flyers. JetBlue is now offering its customers to come to a “story booth” in major cities, where they can record their own JetBlue experiences. On JetBlue. com, Web surfers can listen to the story of a man who loved JetBlue so much that he proposed on a flight, a man who left his iPod in his rental car only to have a crewmember go retrieve it, and a man who says his mother was treated like a queen on a JetBlue flight.

 A question that many are now posing is whether Jet- Blue can continue to produce the positive attitudes and purchase intentions if it grows into a larger competitor in the airline industry. What is most rare about JetBlue seems to be its enthusiastic employees and quirky counterculture image. However, this is more easily pulled off as a small, upstart company. If JetBlue continues to grow, this may be more difficult to maintain. JetBlue is betting that its above-and-beyond service will make it last. What do you think?


The situational context in which behavior occurs can have powerful influences on consumers’ behavioral intentions. Consider a consumer named Brian, a 26-year-old assistant brand manager for General Foods. Last week, Brian had to decide whether to buy imported or domestic beer in two different situations. In the first situation, Brian was planning to drink a few beers at home over the weekend while watching sports on TV. In the other context, he was having a beer after work in a plush bar with a group of coworkers. The different sets of product-related and social beliefs activated in the two situations created different Aact and SN components. In the private at-home situation, Brian’s product beliefs and Aact had the dominant effect on his intentions (he bought an inexpensive domestic beer). In the highly social bar situation, his normative beliefs and SN had the greater impact on his intentions (he bought an expensive imported beer).

 To develop effective strategies, it is important to determine whether the Aact or SN component has the major influence on behavioral intentions (and thus on behavior). If the primary reason for a behavior (shopping, searching for information, buying a particular brand) is normative (you think others want you to), marketers need to emphasize that relevant normative influences such as friends, family, and co-workers approve of the behavior. Often this is done by portraying social influence situations in advertising. On the other hand, if intentions are influenced largely by Aact factors, the marketing strategy should attempt to create a set of salient beliefs about the positive consequences of the behavior, perhaps by demonstrating those outcomes in an advertisement. In sum, the theory of reasoned action identifies the types of cognitive and affective factors that underlie a consumer’s intention to perform a specific behavior.

 Although intentions determine most voluntary behaviors, measures of consumers’ intentions may not be perfect indicators of the actual intentions that determine the behavior. In the following section, we discuss the problems of using intention measures to predict actual behaviors. 

Intentions and Behaviors

 Predicting consumers’ future behaviors, especially their purchase behavior (sales, to marketers), is a critical aspect of forecasting and marketing planning. According to the theory of reasoned action, predicting consumers’ purchase behaviors is a matter of measuring their intentions to buy just before they make a purchase. In almost all cases, however, this would be impractical. When planning strategies, marketers need to make predictions of consumers’ purchase and use behaviors weeks, months, or sometimes years in advance.

 Unfortunately, predictions of specific behaviors based on intentions measured well before the behavior occurs usually are not very accurate. For instance, one survey found that only about 60 percent of people who intended to buy a car actually did so within a year. And of those who claimed they did not intend to buy a car, 17 percent ended up buying one. Similar examples could be cited for other product categories (many with even less accuracy). This does not mean the theory of reasoned action is wrong in identifying intentions as an immediate influence on behavior. Rather, failures to predict the behavior of interest often lie with how and when intentions are measured.

 To accurately predict behaviors, marketers should measure consumers’ intentions at the same level of abstraction and specificity as the action, target, and time components of the behavior. Situation context also should be specified when it is important.

 Exhibit 6.7 lists several factors that can weaken the relationship between measured behavioral intentions and the observed behaviors of interest. In situations where few of these factors operate, measured intentions should predict behavior quite well.

 In a broad sense, time is the major factor that reduces the predictive accuracy of measured intentions. Consumers’ intentions, like other cognitive factors, can and do change over time. The longer the intervening time period, the more unanticipated circumstances (such as exposure to the marketing strategies of competitive companies) can occur and change consumers’ original purchase intentions. Thus, marketers must expect lower levels of predictive accuracy when intentions are measured long before the behavior occurs. However, unanticipated events can also occur during very short periods. An appliance manufacturer once asked consumers entering an appliance store what brand they intended to buy. Of those who specified a brand, only 20 percent walked out with it. 51 Apparently, events occurred in the store to change these consumers’ beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behavior.

 Despite their less-than-perfect accuracy, measures of purchase intentions are often the best way to predict future purchase behavior. For instance, every three months United Airlines conducts a passenger survey measuring intentions to travel by air during the next three months. Obviously, many events in the ensuing time period can change consumers’ beliefs, Aact , and SN about taking a personal or business trip by airline. To the extent that these unanticipated factors occur, the measured intentions will give less accurate predictions of future airline travel.

 Finally, certain behaviors just cannot be accurately predicted from beliefs, attitudes, and intentions. Obvious examples include nonvoluntary behaviors such as sneezing or getting sick. It also is difficult to predict purchase behaviors when the alternatives (brands) are very similar and the person has positive attitudes toward several of them. Finally, behaviors about which consumers have little knowledge and low levels of involvement are virtually impossible to predict because consumers have very few beliefs in memory on which to base attitudes and intentions. In such cases, consumers’ measured intentions were probably created to answer the marketing researcher’s question; such intentions are likely to be unstable and poor predictors of eventual, actual behavior. In sum, before relying on measures of attitude and intentions to predict future behavior, marketers need to determine whether consumers can be expected to have well-formed beliefs, attitudes, and intentions toward those behaviors.

Exhibit 6.7