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Chapter 4. Consumer Perception. Consumer Perception. What Is Perception?. The process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting sensation into a meaningful and coherent picture of the world “How we see the world around us”

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Chapter 4

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Chapter 4

Consumer Perception

Consumer Perception

What Is Perception?

  • The process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting sensation into a meaningful and coherent picture of the world

  • “How we see the world around us”

  • Two individuals may be exposed to the same stimuli but recognize, select, organize and interpret them differently based on their own needs, values and expectations

  • Consumer perceptions are vital to marketers and often underlie the success or failure of products in the marketplace

  • In order to understand how perception affects the marketing process, we need to understand some of the basic concepts that underlie the perceptual process

Three Concepts Related to Perception

  • Exposure

    • The act of deliberately or accidentally coming into contact with stimuli

  • Attention

    • The allocation of mental capacity to a stimulus

  • Sensation

    • Responses of the sensory receptors to a stimulus and transmission of this information to the brain


  • Sensation is the immediate and direct response of the sensory organs to simple stimuli

  • The human organs that receive sensory inputs are called sensory receptors











Exposure toRaw Data

Processingof Inputs

Interpretationof Inputs

Sensory Systems


  • Vision is the dominant human sense, so we know more about it than the other senses

  • Vision is known to stimulate physiological changes

    • Warm hues (red, orange) increase blood pressure and heart rate

    • Cool hues (blue, green) have the opposite effect

  • Orange is used in fast food restaurants to increase hunger

  • Blues and greens are used in hospitals to reduce patient anxiety


  • Smell is the most direct of the senses

  • No sense evokes memory more than smell

  • Exposure to odors remembered from childhood can induce mood effects like those experienced in childhood

  • Marketers understand this and build mood effects into products through odors

  • Research has shown that a pleasant odor increases lingering and the amount of time spent in a store


  • Taste has an obvious impact on the success of food and beverages

  • North Americans appear to have a preference for fatty foods

  • Thus the success of fast food and pizza restaurants

  • Culture plays a powerful role in determining taste


  • Sound, in the form of speech and music, is important to marketers

  • Research shows a positive connection between the use of popular songs in ads and consumers’ recall of those ads

  • Research also shows a positive connection between music and store sales and a negative connection between noise and sales


  • Physical contact with a product often provides consumers with vital information

Input Variation and Sensation

  • Changes in what we feel, hear, see, etc. at any given time

  • As input increases, the ability to distinguish differences decreases

  • As input decreases, the ability to distinguish differences increases

  • Perceptual overloading: the inability to perceive all competing stimuli for one’s attention

  • Perceptual vigilance: the ability to disregard much of the stimulation one receives

  • Consumers easily ignore ads when bombarded by them constantly

Perceptual Selection

  • Each day consumers are surrounded by stimuli

  • They are able to subconsciously exercise selectivity over which stimuli they perceive

  • Which stimuli are selected depend on two major factors

    • Consumers’ previous experience (what they are prepared to see)

    • Their motives (needs, desires, interests, etc.)

Some Important Concepts Regarding Selective Perception

  • Selective Exposure

    • Consumers actively seek out messages they find pleasant or are sympathetic to and avoid painful or threatening ones

  • Selective Attention

    • Consumers exercise selectivity over attention given to commercial stimuli; they have a heightened awareness of stimuli that meet needs/interests and minimal awareness of irrelevant stimuli





  • Selective Interpretation

    • The interpretation of stimuli is also uniquely individual, because it is based on what people expect to see in light of previous experience, their motives and interests

  • Adaptation Levels

    • Indifference to a stimulus to which one has become accustomed

  • Attention Stimulation

    • Placement, timing, and presentation of stimuli so that target consumers are most likely exposed to them

Threshold Levels of Perception

  • Sensation is the immediate and direct response of the sensory organs (e.g., eyes, ears, etc.) to a stimulus (e.g., an ad, a package, a brand name)

  • Sensation is provoked by changes in sensory input

  • The more stimuli that are present, the greater the change must be, and vice versa (e.g., pin dropping)

  • For marketers’ purposes, there are two levels of sensory input (thresholds) of importance:

  • Absolute threshold

  • Differential threshold (“just noticeable difference”)

1. The absolute threshold

  • The lowest level at which an individual can experience a sensation

  • I.e., the lowest level of stimuli at which a person can detect a difference between something and nothing

  • Over time and exposure, the absolute threshold drops as consumers “get used to” a stimulus (sensory adaptation)

  • Marketers need to increase/change sensory input in order to keep the attention of their target market

2. Differential Threshold (JND)

  • The minimum change in sensation necessary for a person to detect it

  • 19th century German scientist Ernst Weber discovered that the JND between two stimuli was not absolute, but varied according to the intensity of the first stimulus

  • Weber’s Law thus states that the greater the initial stimulus, the greater the additional stimulus needs to be in order to be noticeable

Implications for marketers

  • Manufacturers and marketers try to determine the JND for their products

  • There are two primary reasons

  • So that negative changes (e.g., reduction in product size or quality or increases in price) are not noticeable

  • So that product improvements (improved packaging, larger quantities, lower price) are very apparent

Ethical issue

  • Reductions in quantity and size may not be reflected in different packaging

  • Marketers may attempt to differentiate product lines that are minimally different by increasing price differences between the lines

  • Thus consumers perceive the lines as different when they are not

Perception and Image

  • The view or portrait of a product, brand, store or company created in consumers’ minds

  • Image is a major factor in consumers’ choice of one brand or store over another

  • Images may be created around a number of categories:

  • Economy

  • Safety

  • Reliability

  • Pleasure

  • Status

  • Distinctiveness

Subliminal Perception

  • Research shows that people are stimulated below their level of conscious awareness—they can perceive stimuli without being consciously aware they are doing so

  • Federal Communications Commission was concerned enough to ban it from television and radio


  • In the 70’s interest was renewed due to claims advertisers were using subliminal embeds in print ads

  • The most common claims involved the use of suggestive symbols in ice cubes floating in a pictured drink

  • Research indicates sexually oriented embeds do not influence consumer preferences

  • Because there is no evidence it works, there are no laws or regulations prohibiting it

Link to Subliminal Advertising Websites

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