Figure 4-1 shows that the first stage in the consumer decision-making process is problem recognition, which occurs when the consumer perceives a need and becomes motivated to solve the problem. The problem recognition stage initiates the subsequent decision processes.
Problem recognition is caused by a difference between the consumer's ideal state and actual state. A discrepancy exists between what the consumer wants the situation to be like and what the situation is really like. (Note that problem does not always imply a negative state. A goal exists for the consumer, and this goal may be the attainment of a more positive situation.)
Sources of Problem Recognition The causes of problem recognition may be very simple or very complex and may result from changes in the consumer's current and/or desired state. These causes may be influenced by both internal and external factors.
Out of Stock Problem recognition occurs when consumers use their existing supply of a product and must replenish their stock. The purchase decision is usually simple and routine and is often resolved by choosing a familiar brand or one to which the consumer feels loyal.
Exhibit 4-2 Rogaine helps women recognize hair loss problems
Dissatisfaction Problem recognition is created by the consumer's dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs and/or the product or service being used. For example, a consumer may think her ski boots are no longer comfortable or stylish enough. Advertising may be used to help consumers recognize when they have a problem and/or need to make a purchase. The Rogaine ad shown in Exhibit 4-2 helps women realize that hair thinning is not just a man's problem.
New Needs/Wants Changes in consumers' lives often result in new needs and wants. For example, changes in one's financial situation, employment status, or lifestyle may create new needs and trigger problem recognition. As you will see, when you graduate from college and begin your professional career, your new job may necessitate a change in your wardrobe. (Good-bye blue jeans and T-shirts, hello suits and ties.)
Not all product purchases are based on needs. Some products or services sought by consumers are not essential but are nonetheless desired. A want has been defined as a felt need that is shaped by a person's knowledge, culture, and personality.2 Many products sold to consumers satisfy their wants rather than their basic needs.
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