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The responsible consumer

The concept of a responsible consumer is of increasing relevance to the success of companies' marketing. Watch Dr Maria Sherrington explain more.
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In this video, we’re going to have a look at the concept of being a responsible consumer. So we are trying to find the answer to the question, what can consumers do to consume responsibly?
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First of all, we’re going to have a look at a definition of consumer behaviour. Lamb and colleagues they say that, consumer behaviour, that relates to processes a consumer uses to make purchase decisions, as well as to use and dispose of purchased goods and services. It also includes factors that influence purchase decisions and product use. The important thing to note here is that when we speak about consumer behaviour that relates to buying a product and using that, but then, very importantly, disposing of it. So, what do we do with something when we’ve finished using it? Do we pass it on? Do we donate it? Do we sell it?
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Or, if the product has reached the end of its life cycle, what do we do? Do we recycle it? What we see on this slide is the decision-making process that we as consumers go through when we buy something. And so it starts off by need recognition. So it may be that we’ve decided that we are going to live greener. We are going to cycle commute to work rather than drive our car. We haven’t got a bike so we need one. The next stage is the information search. So we start looking for information about bikes. We may have a look online, we may visit a few showrooms to view bikes and try them out.
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And once we feel that we have enough information to make a decision we start to evaluate our various alternatives. What follows next is the purchase. We may decide that we are not going to purchase on this occasion but if we decide to buy what follows next is post-purchase evaluation. So we have our bike, we cycle to work and we evaluate our purchase. Does it actually live up to our expectations? So those are the five stages. Now, those don’t happen in isolation. So, if we look on the left obviously we have the various individual influences that will have a bearing on the process. So our personality, our perception, our motivation and our attitude but it doesn’t stop there.
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So, there are various situational influences, if you look on the right at the top. So we’re looking at socio-cultural, technological, economic-competitive and political-legal influences. So what we are seeing now is that people generally are becoming more health-conscious and they recognise the value of exercise and a good diet, and so on. And that will have a bearing on this process. The marketing mix. So, the four P’s that we’ve looked at previously, so price, product, place, and promotion, they will have a bearing on the process. But also group influences. So, there are people around us that will have an influence upon the way we make decisions. So family tends to be really quite important but also reference groups.
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So going back to our bike, it may well be that someone really well known within the cycling world is sponsored by a particular brand of a bike. And that sort of thing may have a positive influence on our sequence. And we may just end up buying that particular brand of bike.
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One aspect which is really quite important when it comes to consumer buyer behaviour is that of involvement. And involvement, that refers to the amount of time and effort that we are willing to invest when we look for information and evaluate that before we are in a position in order to be able to buy something. On this slide we see three types of consumer buying decisions. So we have routine response behaviour. So this is the type of decision-making that we use for items that we buy frequently, items that are not particularly expensive. And where we feel that we don’t want to and we don’t need to search for a lot of information.
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Then we have limited decision-making And so this is the kind of purchase that requires a moderate amount of time for gathering information and deliberating about an unfamiliar brand in a familiar product category. So we tend to be fairly familiar with products here but we’re not necessarily familiar with the particular brand. So we need just a little bit more time to make that decision. Then we have extensive decision-making So this is the most complex form of consumer decision-making and that happens when we buy something which is unfamiliar, it’s expensive and we don’t buy it very often. And in this type of situation we tend to use several criteria for evaluating options. And we need more time for searching out information.
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Self-concept is really important to consumer buying behaviour. And so this relates to how consumers perceive themselves in terms of their attitudes, perceptions, beliefs and self evaluations. Self-image may change over time but if it does that change tends to be gradual and through self-concept people define their identity. This in turn provides for consistent and coherent consumer behaviour. Self-concept combines ideal self-image and real self-image. So ideal self-image that’s the way an individual would like to be perceived whereas real self-image that’s the way an individual actually perceives himself or herself. And generally what we try to do is to raise our real self-image towards our ideal. And consumers seldom buy products that jeopardise their self-image. So human behaviour depends largely on self-concept.
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Because consumers want to protect their identity as individuals, the products that they buy support their self-image. By influencing the degree to which a consumer sees a good or a service are self-relevant, we as marketers can affect consumers’ motivation to learn about, shop for and buy a certain brand. And we as marketers also consider self-concept as important, because it helps to explain the relationship between individuals’ perceptions of themselves and how they behave as consumers.
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When we looked at the buying decision-making sequence, I highlighted the importance of reference groups to consumer decision-making And we speak about two different types, so on the left we have the normative reference group. So this group would influence our norms, attitudes and values through direct interaction. So here we are talking about parents, siblings, teachers, friendship groups and so on. On the right, we find the comparative reference group. So this is a group of individuals that we compare ourselves against and we may strive to be like them. So here we might be looking at sports people, celebrities, writers, artists, and scientists, so people that we admire.
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When we explore the concept of sustainability, we recognise that consumers are embracing the idea of consuming less and in some instances not consuming at all within certain product categories. And what we see on this slide are some recent additions to the marketing lexicon. So we find anti-consumption, deconsumption, reduced consumption. And we find the idea of conscious consumption, mindful consumption, virtuous consumption, that would suggest that consumers are beginning to think more carefully in terms of the types of purchases that they engage in.
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Horst recognises that we live at a time, which is characterised by a crisis of trust. Now, what that means is that consumers have lost their faith in companies and in governments. So they are taking matters into their own hands, both literally and digitally. So on this slide you see an image of someone participating in what looks like a beach clean. Some consumers are taking to social media to voice their concern. So what consumers are doing is they are encouraging brands to join them on this crusade to fix a broken world. And they expect more from businesses than just simply selling products and pursuing profits. So, all of these activities are representative of a movement of consumer activism.
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In conclusion to this video, consumer behaviour relates to how consumers make purchase decisions, as well as how they use and dispose of purchased items. The purchase decision-making sequence is made up of five steps. Some consumers are now embracing the idea of consuming less, with some joining the consumer activist movement.
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Thank you for your attention. This week we’re exploring responsible consumption. Let’s find out what role we as consumers can play!

This video explores aspects of consumer behaviour. Consumer behaviour involves decisions associated with purchasing, using and disposing of products when we no longer have a use for them. This area is both complex and fascinating. This week, the spotlight is on responsible consumption, an approach to consumer behaviour that has initiated new descriptive terminology, such as mindful consumption and wise consumption.

You can download the deck of slides below, which you may find helpful for referring back to

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Responsible Marketing and the Fundamentals of Corporate Social Responsibility

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