Learning

When people act, they learn. Learning describes changes in an individual's behaviour arising from experience. Learning theorists say that most human behaviour is learned. Learning occurs through the interplay ofdrfoeS, stimuli, cues, responses and reinforcement.

We saw that Anna Flores has a drive for self-actualization. A drive is a strong internal stimulus that calls for action. Her drive becomes a motive when it is directed towards a particular stimulus object - in this case, a camera. Anna's response to the idea of buying a camera is conditioned by the surrounding cues. Cues are minor stimuli that determine when, where and how the person responds. Seeing, eameras in a shop window, hearing a special sale price, and her husband's support are all cues that ean influence Anna's response to her interest in buying a camera.

Suppose Anna buys die Nikon. If the experience is rewarding, she will probably use the camera more and more. Her response to cameras will be reinforced. Then the next time she shops for a camera, binoculars or some similar product, Che probability is greater that she will buy a Nikon product. We say that she generalises her response to similar stimuli.

The reverse of generalization is discrimination. When Anna examines binoculars made by Olympus, she sees that they are lighter and more compact than Nikon's binoculars. Discrimination means that she has learned to recognize differences in sets of products and can adjust her response accordingly.

The practical significance of learning theory for marketers is that they can build up demand for a product by associating it with strong drives, using motivating cues and providing positive reinforcement. A new company can enter the market by appealing to the same drives that competitors appeal to and by providing similar cues, because buyers are more likely to transfer loyalty to similar brands than to dissimilar ones (generalization). Or a new company may design its brand to appeal to a different set of drives and offer strong cue inducements to switch brands (discrimination).

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