Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Attitudes Drive Behavior?

One of my core beliefs about marketing is that ultimately people behave due to both immediate stimulus and core attitudes. Any purchase or defection decision is a function of a set of discrete events and of existing attitudes. To build a good model of customer behavior, it's necessary to describe both.

Attitudes are defined in psychology as a combination of "affect, cognition and behavior." Marketers commonly speak of attitudes like awareness, affinity or loyalty. Attitudes are mostly latent variables. Latent variables are not measurable by any conventional means. For example, I can't ask you how loyal you are to Company X and expect an accurate answer.

Fortunately, we can do market research that provides us good indicators of these latent attitudes. We can also look at other types of "in process" behavior that can describe these latent attitudes.

So which attitudes really do predict customer behavior? You can't really know until you start down a path of ongoing measurement, but here is a good list to start with:
  • Loyalty
  • Affinity
  • Awareness
  • Unaided Awareness
  • Comprehension
  • Recommendability
Of course, each of these attitudes needs to be measured accurately, and that's tricky. It takes a lot of thinking, a priori judgment, measurement, and subsequent refinement of the structure. However, once the structure is built, companies can begin to make much more strategic judgments about what marketing levers to pull when to get what effect. For those curious about how to start building a good attitude model for your company, I'd recommend looking at this article about factor analysis, which is a good way to understand how different metrics represent core customer attitudes, and this one on structrual equation modeling, which is a methodology for building a causal model.

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