Figure 4-6 The classical conditioning process
Figure 4-6 The classical conditioning process
Two factors are important for learning to occur through the associative process. The first is contiguity, which means the unconditioned stimulus and conditioned stimulus must be close in time and space. In Pavlov's experiment, the dog learns to associate the ringing of the bell with food because of the contiguous presentation of the two stimuli. The other important principle is repetition, or the frequency of the association. The more often the unconditioned and conditioned stimuli occur together, the stronger the association between them will be.
Applying Classical Conditioning Learning through classical conditioning plays an important role in marketing. Buyers can be conditioned to form favorable impressions and images of various brands through the associative process. Advertisers strive to associate their products and services with perceptions, images, and emotions known to evoke positive reactions from consumers. Many products are promoted through image advertising, in which the brand is shown with an unconditioned stimulus that elicits pleasant feelings. When the brand is presented simultaneously with this unconditioned stimulus, the brand itself becomes a conditioned stimulus that elicits the same favorable response.
Figure 4-6 provides a diagram of this process, and the ad for Lancome in Exhibit 4-17 shows an application of this strategy. Notice how this ad associates Lancome with the freshness and moisture of grapes. The brand's positioning plays off this association.
Classical conditioning can also associate a product or service with a favorable emotional state. A study by Gerald Gorn used this approach to examine how background music in ads influences product choice.26 He found that subjects were more likely to choose a product when it was presented against a background of music they liked
rather than music they disliked. These results suggest the emotions generated by a commercial are important because they may become associated with the advertised product through classical conditioning. Kellaris and colleagues also showed that music that was congruent with the message enhanced both ad recall and recognition.27 Richard Yalch also has demonstrated that music can be used effectively as a mnemonic device to enhance the recall of advertising slogans. Advertisers often attempt to pair a neutral product or service stimulus with an event or situation that arouses positive feelings, such as humor, an exciting sports event, or popular music.
Operant Conditioning Classical conditioning views the individual as a passive participant in the learning process who simply receives stimuli. Conditioning occurs as a result of exposure to a stimulus that occurs before the response. In the operant conditioning approach, the individual must actively operate or act on some aspect of the environment for learning to occur. Operant conditioning is sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning because the individual's response is instrumental in getting a positive reinforcement (reward) or negative reinforcement (punishment).
Reinforcement, the reward or favorable consequence associated with a particular response, is an important element of instrumental conditioning. Behavior that is reinforced strengthens the bond between a stimulus and a response. Thus, if a consumer buys a product in response to an ad and experiences a positive outcome, the likelihood that the consumer will use this product again increases. If the outcome is not favorable, the likelihood of buying the product again decreases.
The principles of operant conditioning can be applied to marketing, as shown in Figure 4-7. Companies attempt to provide their customers with products and services that satisfy their needs and reward them to reinforce the probability of repeat purchase. Reinforcement can also be implied in advertising; many ads emphasize the benefits or rewards a consumer will receive from using a product or service. Reinforcement also occurs when an ad encourages consumers to use a particular product or brand to avoid unpleasant consequences. For example, the ad for Energizer batteries in Exhibit 4-18 shows how using this product will help avoid negative consequences—that is, being without a working cell phone when you need it.
Two concepts that are particularly relevant to marketers in their use of reinforcement through promotional strategies are schedules of reinforcement and shaping. Different schedules of reinforcement result in varying patterns of learning and behavior. Learning occurs most rapidly under a continuous reinforcement schedule, in which every response is rewarded—but the behavior is likely to cease when the reinforcement stops. Marketers must provide continuous reinforcement to consumers or risk their switching to brands that do.
Exhibit 4-18 This Energizer batteries ad shows how to avoid negative consequences
Behavior (consumer uses product or service)
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