This week, I’m going to be a little scholarly with you. So back to school, we will go to discuss a theory behind consumer behavior. In particular, I’d like to discuss the Theory of Planned Behavior. The Theory of Planned Behavior was coined by Icek Ajzen and surmises that human behavior is guided by three kinds of considerations; behavioral beliefs, normative beliefs, and control beliefs.
The first is behavioral beliefs, those beliefs about the likely consequences of the behavior and are most closely aligned with a consumer's attitude, favorable or unfavorable, toward a behavior. The second is normative beliefs or beliefs about the normative expectations of others. These beliefs are influenced by social norms or pressures and influence the control beliefs. The third and last are control beliefs or the beliefs about the presence of factors that may facilitate or impede the performance of the behavior. These beliefs are associated with the consumer's belief that they have control over the behavior. Stay with me as we move through the Theory of Planned Behavior visual below.
The effects of attitude toward the behavior (behavioral belief) and subjective norm (normative belief) on intention are moderated (contributes to in some way) by the perception of behavioral control (control belief).
Why is this important?
As a general rule, the more positive the attitude and subjective norm, and the larger the perceived control, the stronger the consumer intention are expected to perform the behavior under consideration. Additionally, when consumers are given an adequate degree of control over the behavior; when an opportunity arises, they are expected to actualize their intentions. What this means, when intentions are good, consumers are assumed to lead to the behavior.
How this applies?
Say you have a Call-To-Action (CTA), an essential component of any marketing communication, but I digress. That CTA should effectively help to guide your consumer to their next action. Your marketing communication should focus on all three facets of the Theory of Planned Behavior. First, the importance of creating a positive brand interaction is essential for building brand recall for your target consumer. When they think of your brand, the goal is to have it a happy thought!
Building positive, relevant communications will help to foster a positive behavioral belief. Communication is visual, just as much or more, than written or auditory. Helping your target consumers to believe that your brand is aligned with social norms and cultural values, can be achieved through the proper use of visuals and capturing testimonials from customers. This all means that you have to understand who your customer is and develop data-driven personas and map out your consumer journey (all the ways they interact with your brand during their decision-making process).
Questions To Ask
If you haven’t ever thought about asking your customers their opinion, now is a good time to start. Understanding your customer's feelings can help you to best position your product or service to meet their needs. Whether creating a survey or asking your customers directly, here are three examples of questions you might ask to understand each behavior.
To understand the attitude, ask about what they might do, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant as it relates to your product or service category. To understand social norm behaviors, ask about how they feel about people important to them or their social circle feeling about what they are doing with regards to your product or service, agree or disagree or likely or unlikely. Lastly, to measure perceived behavioral control, ask your customers about their confidence in their ability to interact with your product or service, true or false, or agree or disagree.
Initially only surveying or interviewing a few people will help to provide important feedback in order to reach out to a larger group. Adding additional insights such as the types or names of individuals that are influential in their lives, or circumstances that make it easy or important to interact with your product or service, and why or what benefits your products or services offer them. This feedback will help you to edit and refine your questions to access important insights into your consumer decision-making.
Lastly, in order to properly segment your customers and provide communications that reflect and engage, it’s important to ask some background information such as demographic (age, gender, ethnicity, level of education, income), geographic, behavioral, and lifestyle questions.
Incorporating the Theory of Planned Behavior into your marketing strategy can help you to create marketing programs based on validated data and refine your data-driven personas to engage in conversations that are relevant and realistic with your audience. The planet is in a constant state of motion, innovation is continuous and consumers are continuously adapting and changing their behaviors. As a marketer, the best practice you can engage in is building market research into your objectives, and approaching your marketing programs agilely and scholarly. As with the Theory of Planned Behavior, if you feel like you can, have the support needed, and feel that it’s in your control, your intentions will likely lead to your behavior of a smart marketer.