If industrial buying behavior is complex, then all the more so is consumer behavior? The social sciences which could contribute to our understanding include economics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and perhaps psychiatry and psychoanalysis. None is yet a complete science of human behavior, although each has a voluminous literature.

The ability to understand consumers and to influence them or at least predict the effect on them of marketing programs, is the equivalent of the philosopher's stone which would turn base metal to gold. Over the years, marketing people have adopted the social sciences for ideas which offer promise, and have also produced their own models. The problems with most of this work are the following:

1. eclectic: only parts of a body of theory are chosen, with little regard for the overall theoretical framework;

2. ad hoc; not programmatic: pieces of research are carried out to tackle particular problems, rather the programs of work over years to build up generalizable knowledge;

3. commercial: that is, kept secretly especially if the results are valuable.

Marketing - men and perhaps executives generally - are also prone to fashion: the latest technique or gimmick is taken up to loud claims, then quickly dropped when difficulties appear, as they inevitably do. All this makes it extremely difficult to present a body of knowledge which is generally accepted, and which is helpful in carrying out the marketing functions.

Chisnall (1975), listed the following main areas of knowledge which contribute to the understanding of marketing, looking in particular at those ideas which are commonly used by marketing executives or appear in the literature, and examining the models used by marketing practitioners, such as:

1. Cognition
2. Motivation
3. Interpersonal response traits
4. Attitudes
5. Culture
6. Social class
7. Group Influence
8. Innovation and Marketing Strategy

1. Cognition: This covers mental processes such as perception and learning, and as such has been of particular interest in advertising. One concept which enjoyed great favor was cognitive dissonance, associated with Festinger. The aspect of the theory which was used in marketing suggested that when we make a decision, dissonance occurs because we are not certain that we have made the right choice. We indulge dissonance reduction activity, trying to convince ourselves, as it were, or rationalize.

The theory of cognition could explain why people who have bought a brand are more likely to pay attention to advertisements for that brand than non-buyers. Other uses of cognition theory have concentrated on learning process; complex models have not on the whole produced widely used results.

2. Motivation: Motivation is fundamental in buying behavior. Unfortunately its success relied mainly on the aspiration of the practitioner concerned, and was not reproducible. The theory which has lasted best, and is still used, is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow believes that human beings are motivated by a series of needs; when a basic need is more or less satisfied, the next level comes into operation. A.H. Maslow identified the eight (8) levels of need priority as follows:

a. Psychological: hunger, thirst, bodily, comforts, sex, etc;
b. Safety/Security: out of danger;
c. Belongingness and love: affiliate with others, be accepted;
d. Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition;
e. Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore;
f. Aestatic: symmetry, order and beauty;
g. Self actualization: to find self fulfillment and realize one's potential; and
h. Self transcendence: to connect to something beyond the ego or to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.

Maslow's basic position is that as one becomes more self-actualized and self-transcendent, one becomes more wise (develop wisdom) and automatically knows what to do in a wide variety of situations. Daniels (2001) suggests that Maslow's ultimate conclusion that the highest levels of self-actualization are transcendent in their nature maybe one of his most important contribution to the study of human behavior and motivation.

Norwood (1999) proposes that Maslow's hierarchy be used to describe the kinds of information that individuals seek at different levels. For example, individuals at the lowest level seek coping information that is not directly connected to helping a person meet his/her needs in a very short time span is simply left unattended. Individuals at the safety level need helping information. They seek to be assisted in seeing how they can be safe and secure. Enlightening information is sought by individuals seeking to meet their belongingness needs. Quite often this can be found in books or other materials on relationship development. Empowerment information is sought by people at the esteem level. They are looking for information on how their ego can be developed. Finally, people in the growth levels of cognitive, aesthetic, and self-actualization seek edifying information. While Norwood does not specially address the level of transcendence, he believes it safe to say that individuals at this stage would seek information on how to connect to something beyond themselves or to how others could be edified.

According to Chisnall (1975), Maslow's theory has been used in recent years in studies of the differences between nations of the world; some studies claim to show differing patterns of basic motivation, which could be used in positioning brands and developing advertising strategies. On the whole, motivation remains elusive, through it is borne in mind in a qualitative way.

3. Interpersonal Response Traits: Personally, as we might more normally express it, has been a rich sources of investigation for marketing. There have been many attempts to discover personality types associated with product and brand buying. The typical pattern is for a few studies to claim success, and many to be partially or totally unsuccessful.

4. Attitude: Of all the areas listed, attitude research has been adopted more than any other in marketing. Perhaps, this seems to be an intuitive reaction: marketing-men measure attitudes to their brands anyway, and communication strategies are often complaint tactfully in attitudinal terms. Incidentally, even in the psychological literature, the concept of attitude is the subject of disagreement, and most marketing measurement is rather loose. The main problem, however, is the connection between attitude and behavior.

According to Randall (1993), we are interested only in  people's behavior, in particular whether they buy our brand of product or not. Attitudes are only a convenient intermediary, but the assumption is too easily made that the connection between favorable attitude and behavior exists and is proven. There is no evidence of a direct link between attitude and behavior.

The fact that people have a favorable attitude towards our brand, it does not necessary mean that their behavior will change and buy our brand. It is worth spending a little time on this because it is one of the fundamental misconceptions held about marketing. It seems intuitively right that attitudes and behavior are linked, and we feel more comfortable when our brand is looked on favorably than unfavorably. But it must be stressed that, at least in the way that attitudes to brands are usually measured, attitudes cannot be used to predict behavior.

Fishbein, an American psychologist, introduced a number of new ideas, such as:

  • It is attitude to the act (e.g. buying, using the brand) which should be measured, not to the object (the brand itself); and
  • The number of attitudes to be elicited is quite small,  say six or seven. Then, the link between attitudes and behavior is mediated by normative beliefs ("what other people important to me think is right"). Fishbein's approach has had some impressive successes, but not many applications have been reported in marketing.

5. Culture:"Culture" means the whole complex of traditions, myths, beliefs and values which form a society. The notion has become more important in marketing as its international dimension has grown. It has become clear that although in some ways people in western countries are becoming more similar to each other, they are still different in many ways which cannot be explained in terms of superficial variations.

6. Social Class: This factor has been used in Britain for many years (much more so than in USA and in Asia) to measure and explain consumer behavior. It has become progressively less useful, however, and there are now few markets in which it is a valid discriminator. The terminology is still with us, however, and should be properly explained. The British classification is briefly stated:

AB: senior management, professional, etc.
C1: lower management, clerical white collar
C2: skilled manual workers
D: unskilled manual workers
E: unemployed, pensioners, etc.

In the Philippines classification includes the following:

A: High income group
B: Upper middle income group
C: Lower middle income group
D: Low income group
E: Unemployed and no income

The British government uses a different social (or socio-economic) classification, as the other countries of the world do. All are based on the occupation of the head of the household. Other methods of classification are now much more useful, such as those based on residential neighborhood.

7. Group Influence: The use of the theories about group influence falls under three main items:

a) The reference group - is that group of people to whom we consciously or unconsciously refer in our actions and thoughts. There many be number of such groups - friends, workmates, groups to which we aspire (including heroes and idols). Some purchases are influenced by group thinking, and it can be seen that many advertising campaigns play on this.

b) Opinion Leadership - is a seductive idea: that within all groups there is a small number of people whose opinions are important and influential. If these people could be identified and reached by marketing effort, it would make campaigns much more efficient. Unfortunately, the task has proved difficult in practice.

c) The family - is clearly a special sort of group, and is highly influential in many situations (though perhaps becoming less so). Interestingly, industrial marketing ideas on buying center and the roles of influencer, decider, etc. can be applied to the family. The housewife may make the actual purchase, but is often acting as the agent for other family members. As roles within the family behavior up to date. The various stages of the family life cycle and their influence on buying patterns are referred to in Segmentation and Positioning.

8. Innovation: The theories on how innovation spreads are of significant interest in marketing, both consumer and industrial users. If we could explain and predict how new products and new ideas would be adopted, many errors could be avoided. The main theoretical work was done by Everett Rogers (1962). Rogers split the population info five (5) categories, according to the speed with which they adopted an innovation:

a) Innovators - 2.50 percent
b) Early Adopters - 13.50 percent
c) Early majority - 34.00 percent
d) Late majority - 34.00 percent
e) Laggards - 16.00 percent

These categories form a normal distribution. Rogers stated that there is a link with the idea of opinion leaders; if innovators are also opionion leaders, for example, they would be prime targets for marketing activity; however, life is not so simple. There appears to be no general category of innovators: people who innovate in one field maybe conservative in others. Others studies suggest that is in fact the early adopters who are opionion leaders; innovators will try anything new, but will move on to the next novelty quickly.

That it is how marketing is important for the success of your business. Always remember this quote from Thomas Jefferson:

The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time. - Thomas Jefferson