Like computers we undergo stages of information processing in which we input and store stimuli. We receive external stimuli or sensory inputs on a number of channels. The inputs our five senses detect are the raw data that begin in the perceptional process.
Figure 2.1 shows that there are three stages that make up the process of perception. These are exposure, attention, and interpretation.
Target is an example of a retail store that has done very well using sensation to relate to consumers.
Sensory marketing means that companies pay extra attention to how our sensations affect our product experiences. Marketers recognize that our senses help us to decide which products appeal to us.
Marketers rely heavily on visual elements in advertising, store design, and packaging. They communicate meanings on the visual channel through a product’s color, size, and styling. Color can also be part of a brand’s sensory signature.
This figure illustrates that our perceptions regarding vision are not always accurate.
Odor can affect our moods and emotions. They can invoke memories or relieve or create stress. An interest in scent has spawned new products. Some brands utilize scent easily. For instance, Starbucks requires baristas to grind a batch of coffee each time they brew a post instead of just once each morning to ensure customers have that intense smell during their Starbucks’ experience. Ad companies spend about $80 million per year on scent marketing. For example, Burger King offered Flame, a body spray that smelled like flame broiled meat.
Stores and restaurants often play certain kinds of music to create a certain mood.
Recent research found that participants who simply touch an item for 30 seconds or less had a greater level of attachment with the product. This connection in turn boosted what they were willing to pay for it. Some anthropologists view touch like a primal language. Researchers are starting to identify the role haptic sense plays in consumer behavior. Haptic senses appear to moderate the relationship between product experience and judgment confidence. Kinsei engineering helps marketers to understand how to design products to follow a consumer sense of touch. For instance, the Mazda Miata was designed to emulate the feeling of a horse and rider as one.
We link the perceived richness or quality of material to its feel. Table 2.1 summarizes some of these tactile-quality associations. Men and women do tend to differ on our preferences.
Our taste receptors contribute to our experience of many products. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo use the tongue to test the quality of corn syrups. A food item’s image and the values we attach to it influence how we experience the actual taste. For instance, as consumer appreciation for ethnic foods increases, our desire for spicy food increases.
We notice stimuli that come within range for even a very short time if we choose. That’s why Cadillac developed a 5-second commercial to illustrate that Cadillac’s can go from zero to 60 in less than 5 seconds.
There are some stimuli that people cannot perceive. The absolute threshold is the minimum stimulation to be noticed. For example, the sound of a dog whistle is too high for human ears to detect – it is beyond our auditory absolute threshold. The absolute threshold is an important consideration in designing marketing stimuli.
The differential threshold is the ability of a sensory system to detect changes of differences between two stimuli. The minimum difference we can detect between two is the just noticeable difference of j.n.d. For instance, if we made a package smaller to cut our costs, we would want to make the change under the j.n.d. so that customers did not notice that they were getting less product for the price.
Marketers can use both visual and aural channels to send subliminal messages, supposedly. Embeds are tiny figures that are inserted into magazine advertising via high-speed photography or airbrushing. These hidden figures supposedly exert a strong but unconscious influence on the reader. We can do something similar for auditory messages. However, there is no evidence to support that subliminal stimuli can bring about desired changes in behavior.
Attention refers to the extent to which processing activity is devoted to a particular stimulus. The allocation of processing activity can vary depending on the characteristics of the stimulus and the recipient. Although we live in an information society, consumers are often in a state of sensory overload. Sensory overload means consumers are exposed to far more information than they can process. Much of this comes from commercial sources. We are exposed to thousands of advertising messages each day in addition to the other types of stimuli we sense. This camera ad from Singapore reminds us that consumers do tune out stimuli.
Experience is the result of acquiring and processing stimulation over time. It helps to determine how much exposure to a particular stimulus a person accepts. Perceptual filters based on our past experiences influence what we decide to process. Three perceptual filters are shown in the slide. These are perceptual vigilance, perceptual defense, and adaptation. Perceptual vigilance means that consumers are more likely to be aware of stimuli that relate to their current needs. Perceptual defense means that people see what they want to see and don’t see what they don’t want to see. Adaptation is the degree to which consumers continue to notice a stimulus over time. The process of adaptation occurs when consumers no longer pay attention to a stimulus because it is so familiar.
Several factors can lead to adaptation. Less intense stimuli have less sensory impact. Stimuli that require relatively lengthy exposure in order to be processed habituate because they require a long attention span. Simple stimuli habituate because they do not require attention to detail. Frequently encountered stimuli habituate as the rate of exposure increases. Stimuli that are irrelevant or unimportant habituate because they fail to attract attention.
Marketers need to understand the role stimuli characteristics play on attention and perception so they can create messages that have a chance to cut through clutter. We are more likely to notice stimuli that differ from others around them. A message can create contrast in several ways including size, color, position, and novelty. Novelty means that the stimuli appear in an unexpected way or place to grab our attention.
This ad is larger than others and cuts through the clutter.
The meaning we assign to a stimulus depends on the schema, or set of beliefs, to which we assign it. In a process called priming, certain properties of a stimulus evoke a schema. This leads us to compare the stimulus to other similar ones. In this ad for Toyota, the living room evokes an image of a car because of the seat arrangement.
One factor that determines how we will interpret a stimulus is the relationship we assume it has with other events, sensations, or images in memory. Our brains tend to relate incoming sensations to others already in memory based on some fundamental organizational principles. These principles derive from Gestalt psychology, a school of thought that maintains that people interpret meaning from the totality of a set of stimuli rather than from an individual stimulus. The German word Gestalt roughly means whole, pattern, or configuration, and we summarize this term as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Gestalt perspective provides several principles that relate to the way our brains organize stimuli including the closure principle, the principle of similarity, and the figure-ground principle.
This ad for the Australian postal service uses an application of the figure-ground principle.
To help them understand how consumers interpret the meanings of symbols, some marketers turn to semiotics. Semiotics is the study of correspondence between signs and symbols and their roles in how we assign meanings.
This figure illustrates the meaning of the three semiotic parts of a marketing message. For Marlboro cigarettes, the cigarettes are the product. The symbol is the cowboy which can be interpreted to mean rugged American.
How does a marketer determine where a product actually stands in the minds of consumers? One technique is to ask them what attributes are important to them and how they feel competitors rate on these attributes. This information is then used to construct a perceptual map.
We’ve covered several key concepts in this chapter including perception, our perception is affected by our senses, subliminal advertising, and the factors which affect how we process symbols.