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Louise Ripley

Consumer Behaviour
Chapter 2 Solomon Consumer Behaviour

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The picture to the right of the title above is an exercise in perception. Try saying aloud the name of the colour of each word in the box (not the word that's written there, but the colour it's written in). 

Think about what's important to your customer. Think about the product attributes that will make a difference to that customer and how your customer perceives your product in terms of these attributes, especially as compared to your competitors. What kind of a target market have you got? Are they sophisticated enough that you would be thinking of using an ad that depends on a high level of ability to perform closure? Are you dealing with a group that has a definite bias (can you sell Joe Clark T-shirts at an Liberal Party rally?). Use the material in these chapters to help you understand your customer better, and write about your customer in the Assignment. 

Sensory Systems and Ad Appeals to the Five Senses
Sensation - the body's response to these stimuli
Perception - how we interpret that response
Hedonic Consumption - acting as consumers in response to these stimuli 


Fed Ex
Many ads use hidden messages, most of them harmless. Can you find the hidden message in this company logo? Try before looking at the answer. 

Sensory Thresholds - Absolute and Differential Two of the most complicated terms in this chapter are under the heading, "Sensory Thresholds" - Absolute Threshold and Differential Threshold. They are somewhat easier to explain in terms of a specific product, which is why for the entirety of this course you have a particular product to try to fit into the structure given you. 

Absolute Threshold - the minimum level of a stimulus, below which there is no effect; the minimum amount below which something either does not exist or is so faint as to seem not to exist. Think of a lipstick. A girl can choose a dark ruby red and outline full gorgeous movie-star lips. Or she can choose a pale pale pink, nearly the colour of her own skin, so pale that you are barely aware that she's wearing lipstick. Here's where the term absolute threshold comes in. If she's not wearing any lipstick at all, she has pale lips. If she's wearing just a touch of lipstick, you can tell she's got some colour, but it looks just about natural. This lower limit of how little lipstick, how pale a lipstick a girl can wear, is an example of the absolute threshold. If she wore any less, or a colour any paler, you would not be able to tell she was wearing lipstick. (me, you can tell easily -- if I come to class without lipstick you will assume the walking dead have come to be with you). 

Differential Threshold - the difference between two stimuli or between one level of a stimulus and another level of that stimulus, where stimulus refers to something that causes a change in an organism. In the example of the lipstick, the stimulus is sight - the visible colour of the lipstick. The absolute threshold was the amount of colour less than which you would not know she was wearing any. The differential threshold for the lipstick could be the difference between the palest of pinks and the deepest of reds. Or it could be the just noticeable difference between palest pink and pale pink. Differential threshold would also be involved in determining the coverage of two different brands of lipstick. Say you had one brand that gave you a full rich pink colour and another that gave you just a pale thin pink wash; that's a differential threshold between two brands of lipstick.  

You can use the absolute and differential threshold concepts to analyze the product itself or the person who uses it. What's the difference for a marketer between the girl who uses a pale pink lipstick and the one who paints on a full theatrical red lip? Let's take another example: 

Absolute Threshold - another example, using the BMW, a high performance car. Let's consider a guy who buys a BMW, a guy who really loves his car for the sheer feel of power as it moves out onto the highway (these aren't necessarily sexist stereotypes by the way; I'm thinking of actual people, and the person I know with a BMW happens to be a guy). His absolute threshold involves the fact that he won't buy a car that isn't known as a "performance car," that doesn't at least have the reputation of being a performance car. 

Differential Threshold Let's say he's considering two different cars to buy. If you offer him a nice family sedan with enough power to move along the highway carrying four kids and a dog, he's not interested (note that these things all intertwine, we've now got both performance and style, but I digress...). If you offer him a vintage sports car that used to have power but since it got the crack in the engine block won't go up a hill at anything faster than 40 km (my old MGB), he's not interested. Let's say you even offer him another performance car, but not the BMW. He's still not interested. Compared to the BMW, these other cars have different levels of performance. He wants a minimum level of performance, yes, and that's his absolute threshold, but beyond that, he wants what the BMW has to offer, not lower levels of performance. That's differential thresholds. 

Remember when you're working on these assignments that you're not going to be graded on whether you get the particular differential threshold for a particular purchaser of your particular product "right" -- I don't have these "right" answers! You're being marked on how well you cover the material, using your product as an example, and how correct your use of Marketing theory and terminology is. 

Subliminal Perception - I used to say not to spend much time on this because it does not really exist. But in the Summer S1 Term, one of my students. Monica Reis, found a website that made me see the concept differently. When something is presented subliminally, you do not see it. I used to think, if you can't see it then you can't show me an ad where there is something I don't see. But using the FedEx ample from the Waving Hand Question above, we can "see" a subliminal message in a firm's logo. Here is the answer to the question posed about finding the hidden message:

Answer to FedEx exercise
Look for the arrow between E and x 
(Sent in by Alex Katz, CB3210 Summer 2001)

If you're like most people, BEFORE you see the answer, you have not seen the little white forward arrow between the E and the x at the end of the logo. Given that we cannot "see" that until the secret is pointed out (most of us anyway), I'm willing to say that yes, there is such a thing as a subliminal message.

Do see if you can find anything related to subliminal messages in your ad or a proposed ad for your project product.


Personal Selection Factors
It's important to recognize in this discussion of perceptual filters that we are studying Consumer Behaviour with reference to North American culture; things may be very different elsewhere. They are often very different between Canada and our closest neighbour the United States; they are frequently very different between English- and French-speaking Canada. 

Perceptual Selectivity - we notice only a small amount of what's out there, utilizing Perceptual Filters
Perceptual Vigilance - we tend to notice things immediately important to us
Perceptual Defence - we don't see what we don't want to see

Adaptation Whether we notice things differently or even continue to notice them at all over time depends on how it registers with us in terms of

Stimulus Selection Factors

How much we notice and react to something also depends on the thing itself; its


Think about these factors and what it tells you about your target market when you consider how they will react to each of these. What kind of a person only notices an ad if it is totally and immediately relevant to him at that moment? What kind of person, alternatively, keeps a running file in her head of seventeen different ads for sixteen different brands of the same product before coming to a decision to buy one? 


Sunlight recently sent out samples to customers. They used the concept of Priming, whereby certain images tend to make the consumer more receptive to the advertisement. They hoped that consumers would use the first schema, but many of them used the second one:

Schema 1: Yellow = fresh colour
Lemon = fresh scent
Therefore: Use this product for cleaning

But some consumers used this SCHEMA instead:

Schema 2: Yellow = fresh colour
Lemon = fresh fruity juice
Therefore: ?? What do you think happened?

Stimulus Organization

Gestalt Psychology

Closure asks us to mentally complete a picture

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Similarity is a technique we use from our earliest days to help us remember something by how it's like something else we already know

Figure/Ground implies a situation where the subject stands out easily against the background; this can be visual, or as understood by any of the other senses

Which of these 3 kinds of advertising might work best with people who buy your product? What does that tell you about your target market?
Bias - The Eye of the Beholder - the potential for bias in interpretation is huge; at the base of all advertising strategies is the question, "How will the potential buyer interpret it?"

Symbols and Semiotics 

Cardiopulmonary Institute at King's Daughters Medical Clinic
OBJECT (what's being sold?)
SIGN (how is it depicted?)

Perceptual Positioning

Possible Dimensions

Product Class

The example given of Price Leadership in the textbook is slightly different from how we usually think of Price Leadership. Price leadership essentially means being a strong enough player to be able to set prices where you want to set them. This usually refers to setting low prices - leading the pack in providing low prices to consumers (WalMart is an excellent example of price leadership in setting low prices for the competition to have to follow). It also can refer to being known enough as a quality product that you can set a high price and know that people will pay it. Bayer Aspirin does this; it costs more than other acetylsalicylic acid. In the example in Solomon's textbook, he cites L'Oreal, a company which practices price leadership at both ends of the scale - their Noisome face cream is priced high, and their Plenitude brand is priced low, and because L'Oreal is a strong solid contender in the skin-care field, they can determine what prices they will set for each of those products.

For your product, just consider whether one or the other end of the Price Leadership scale is accurate for your product. Remember too that you don't have to come up with an example for each of these six attributes; very few products position themselves on all six. Many use just one or two dimensions. 

One Minute Paper

Time for Group Meetings


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AP/ADMS 3210 3.0 Consumer Behaviour
York University, Toronto
M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.