Changing Consumer Behaviour. Analysis of Behavioural Concepts based on the Example of Cadbury Dairy Milk

Term Paper, 2019

33 Pages, Grade: 1,0



Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Theoretical Framework
2.1 Operant Conditioning
2.1.1 Reinforcement and Punishment
2.1.2 Strategic Applications
2.1.3 Limitations
2.2 Attitude-Toward-the-Ad Model
2.2.1 Antecedent
2.2.2 Limitations

3 Analysis of the Behavioural Concepts on the basis of Cadbury's Social Media Posts
3.1 Application of Operant Conditioning
3.2 Application of Attitude-toward-the-Ad Model

4 Recommendations

5 Conclusion



1. Introduction

In recent years, the UK chocolate confectionery market has been characterised by a high level of competition. Nevertheless, Cadbury Dairy Milk has managed to be the market leader, counteracting the overall decline in the segment with a growth of 4% in 2017. This development has been built on high levels of trust among their customers and the perception of them offering good value for money which reflects their long history in the market and extensive advertising efforts (Winter, 2018). It can be said that advertising creates and transfers social trends as well as core beliefs and values which entail the formation of an attitude and can result in a purchase intention (De Mooij, 2004, 312). Understanding how people choose between several similar products and brands as well as how they arrive at their choice, can be seen as an important aspect among marketers. Theories have been developed to describe how people make their decisions and what might influence their decision-making process. Consequently, it has become a key strategy for marketers to change consumers' behaviour and alter their attitudes towards a company, product or service through advertising (Adhikary, 2014, 231).

Based on this, the aim of this paper is to critically examine the impact of behavioural concepts on consumers and their decision-making process. Due to practical constraints, this paper cannot provide a comprehensive review of all theoretical concepts and therefore, the following two models have been chosen: operant conditioning and Attitude-Toward-The-Ad model.

Each of these models will be explained theoretically and then applied to a recent advertising campaign of Cadbury to analyse the effectiveness and the impact of the campaign on consumers. Subsequently, recommendations will be given on the basis of the findings.

2 Theoretical Framework

2.1 Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning, also known as instrumental conditioning, is considered as a behavioural learning theory developed by Burris F. Skinner (1938). According to this theory, learning occurs through a trial-and-error process in which some purchase behaviours have a more favourable outcome than others (Appendix A). This approach emphasises that learning can be encouraged through the use of punishment, positive or negative reinforcement after consumers have performed a desired behaviour. Thus, consumers associate their behaviour with a consequence in the form of rewards or penalty (Blythe, 2014, 95).

2.1.1 Reinforcement and Punishment

It is assumed that operant conditioning generally occurs in one of three ways, which influence the likelihood that a response will be repeated.

The first type, positive reinforcement, is probably the most widely applied principle used by marketers to influence consumer behaviour. In this process, consumers run through several stages which are illustrated in Figure 1 below.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

According to the literature, positive reinforcement can become a pleasant experience for an individual after certain behaviour. Individuals are rewarded and thereby they are encouraged to repeat their behaviour, meaning that they are likely to have been becoming 'conditioned' to buy the product or service again next time (Blythe, 2015, 96). For example, when an advertisement shows a certain soap that makes the skin soft (stimulus), customers may buy the product. If they are satisfied (reward) after using it, they will be reinforced through the reward to buy this specific product again.

The second type is negative reinforcement. In this case, the operant conditioning involves the removal of a negative outcome or the demonstration of an aversive stimulus which serves to encourage certain behaviour. Consequently, individuals learn how to avoid negative consequences when facing difficulties (Wells, 2014, 1134). For instance, after a consumer has purchased a certain toothpaste (stimulus), it will help them to avoid bad breath (reward).

On the contrary, punishment as the third alternative is defined as the opposite of reinforcement. It involves either presenting or taking away a stimulus. The response is followed by an unpleasant experience, which consequently weakens or discourages the behaviour of individuals. It is assumed that this approach has fewer implications for marketers but might be applied by governmental organisations or reform bodies (Sethna and Blythe, 2016, 277). In this case, individuals learn not to do something, an example being the 'Don't drink and drive campaign'.

However, when a person no longer receives a positive or negative consequence, meaning that consumers are neither reinforced nor punished, extinction is likely to occur. In this case, the learned stimulus-response connection will disappear and thereby the repetition of the response will be discouraged (Solomon, 2018, 139; Appendix B).

2.1.2 Strategic Applications

Marketers can make use of operant conditioning in form of rewards when a consumer decides to choose their brand. One of the major tools of reinforcement is considered to be customer satisfaction. By offering customers the best possible product and the most value for money, marketers are trying to achieve high satisfaction (Peter and Nord, 2001, 85-86). Moreover, there are several non-product reinforcements such as services provided by employees, personal connections or outstanding environments at the point of purchase. Nevertheless, rewards may not only refer to non-product reinforcements but also to several reinforcement instruments such as discounts, samples or loyalty programmes (Wright, 2006, 225).

However, the frequency of using these instruments needs to be considered carefully, as it is understood that timing has an important impact on consumer learning. According to the relevant literature, there are three types of reinforcement schedules. If a positive reinforcement is carried out after every desired behaviour, it is called continuous reinforcement. For example, this would be a free after-dinner drink always served to customers in a certain restaurant. When using this strategy, companies should consider that reinforcements could become expected and lose their novelty. Another option, called fixed ratio schedule, is to arrange positive reinforcements every nth time after the behaviour is formed. For instance, through loyalty cards in coffee shops, customers can obtain every 10th coffee for free. Besides, it is also possible to implement reinforcements on a random basis which is referred to as variable ratio schedule.

Apart from choosing a suitable schedule, a company needs to coordinate the timing of the instruments. With regard to this, there are two major techniques: distributed learning and massed learning. Distributed learning is considered as a long-term strategy and the distribution of the learning schedule is carried out over an extended period of time. In contrast, massed learning advertises all at once which provokes more initial learning and is understood as a short-term strategy (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2010, 222-224; Szmigin, Piacentini, 2015, 129-131).

Another operant conditioning concept that is said to have a great impact on consumer behaviour is shaping. In this case, the reinforcement is implemented before the desired consumer behaviour occurs. For example, loss leaders or other special offers are used to reward customers for coming into a store.Entering the store increases the probability that customer will react in the desired way, such as making a full-priced item purchase. Therefore, marketers apply a preliminary reinforcement (Hawkins et al., 2010, 378).

2.1.3 Limitations

It can be said that the operant conditioning theory contributes to the understanding of consumer behaviour. It helps to explain how individuals become conditioned and how they may form their purchasing habits in some cases. However, there are some factors that this theory does not take into consideration. For some consumers, rewards or opportunity costs might not be as important and therefore excluded from their decision-making process. Those consumers often make more rational purchase decisions or simply act out of emotional pressure (Lantos, 2011, 494). Furthermore, people might also be influenced by external factors such as the behaviour of friends or family whom they are trying to imitate (Burke et al., 2010, 14431). This is rather linked to observational learning than to operant conditioning. Therefore, critics of the model argue that learning is not only reward based (Albarracin and Wyer, 2000, 5). Moreover, it is considered difficult to change consumer behaviour if a brand is not included in the evoked set. If someone does already have a negative attitude towards a company, they may not respond to the stimuli at all (Hoyer et al., 2013, 189).

2.2 Defining Attitude-Toward-the-Ad Model

The Attitude-Toward-the-Ad model (Aad), illustrated in Figure 2 below, describes consumers' reaction to an advertisement as the result of four components.

Figure 2: Attitude-Toward-the-Ad Model

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

It is proposed that consumers form various feelings and judgments as a result of exposure to an advertisement. These judgments and feelings, in turn, affect consumers' attitude towards the advert and beliefs about the brand. Consequently, these four components form the attitude towards the brand, further influencing purchase intentions. (Dalgic and Unal, 2018, 135-136). According to Haley and Baldinger (2000), advertisements have been proved to be the strongest factor influencing persuasion and sales.

2.2.1 Antecedent

According to MacKenzie et al. (1986), Aad can be influenced by several factors. On the basis of the Elaboration Likelihood model (Appendix C), it is stated that the involvement of consumers strongly depends on how superficial or critical an advertising message is considered. If high involvement and high motivation of information processing exist among customers, they tend to take the central route which means that the recipient takes a critical look at the given information. In case of low involvement and motivation, information is processed superficially and less critically via the peripheral route. Depending on the route, different influencing factors on the Aad emerge which are processed either on the cognitive or affective level of perception (Appendix D).

MacKenzie et al. (1986) listed two cognitive perception constructs which influence the Aad while taking the central route. One crucial factor is the credibility of an advertising activity. Credibility is defined as how truthful the advertising message is transmitted towards the recipient. Another influencing factor constitutes the advertisement perception. It is assumed that the perception of the advertisement depends on the reaction profile. With regard to this, six factors are considered relevant: degree of humour of the advertisement, penetrating power, sensuality, uniqueness, personal interest, also referred to as the relevance for the recipients, as well as the aversion against the advertisement.

The literature suggests that whenever a consumer takes the peripheral route, there are three affective constructs which influence the attitude finding process. First of all, the general attitude toward an advertiser is taken into consideration. This represents the general perception of the advertiser on the basis of past experiences and existing information about the promoted product. Furthermore, the general attitude toward advertising is considered having a significant impact. Due to increasing advertisement and constant media exposure, consumers tend to be more cautious. Additionally, the mood of a recipient at the time of information intake is seen as another modifying variable (MacKenzie et al., 1986, 130-133, Muehling and McCann, 1993, 28; Raluca and Loan, 2010, 730).

However, it needs to be considered that consumers may not only take one or the other route but rather a way in-between. Thus, in some cases, all aspects should be evaluated (Kitchen et al., 2014, 2041).

2.2.2 Limitations

Advertisements can have a significant impact on the decision-making process, but they might also act more as a first incentive. Therefore, the most important limitation lies in the fact that advertisement is just one out of several components which can have an effect on the purchase intention. Moreover, it needs to be mentioned external factors and past experiences are not taken into account. Consumers who already had a negative past experience with a brand, will possibly not be influenced by a commercial to such a degree that they will change their negative attitude. In many cases, the past experiences have a higher impact on consumer behaviour than the advertisement (Sethna and Blythe, 2016, 319-320).

3 Analysis of the Behavioural Concepts on the basis of Cadbury's Social Media Posts

3.1 Application of Operant Conditioning

For the launch of the Cadbury Daim and Oreo chocolate in 2013, Cadbury launched a new campaign with the slogan: burst with joy (Appendix E). The new types of chocolate constituted the stimuli in the advertisement to which consumers could respond. As a specific reward, the company claimed that after eating the chocolate consumers would 'burst with joy'. In this case, Cadbury attempted to positively reinforce their customers through satisfaction.

First of all, it can be said that the comments from Facebook suggest that the stimuli reached many consumers and encouraged them to buy the chocolate. This gave Cadbury the opportunity to convince and positively reinforce those consumers. Nevertheless, there were also a few consumers who already had an existing negative attitude towards the brand. For example, some had criticised the palm oil within the Oreo biscuits as well as the combination of the new chocolate varieties. Those consumers probably did not respond to the stimuli, in terms of consumption (Appendix F).

Due to the different tastes of consumers, there were also various opinions about the new chocolate varieties. Some were highly satisfied whereas others did not like them at all. Those who felt satisfied after consuming the product most likely repeated their purchase, given the addictive nature of the chocolate in their opinion. They had been conditioned to believe that this product satisfies their needs. However, some satisfied customers also mentioned that they had problems finding the chocolate varieties in stores which suggests poor distribution. There was also no response to this post from Cadbury which consequently might have turned a satisfied customer into a dissatisfied customer. In this case, it is likely that the operant conditioning failed. Additionally, Cadbury could not condition those whose taste was not met (Appendix G).

In addition to non-product reinforcement, Cadbury also tried to condition their customers with benefits. For example, in summer 2018, the company promoted its products with the help of promotional packs. Every customer who purchased a promotional pack of Cadbury's Giant Buttons (stimulus) received a free ticket (reward) to over 20 attractions or theme parks in the United Kingdom (Appendix H).


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Changing Consumer Behaviour. Analysis of Behavioural Concepts based on the Example of Cadbury Dairy Milk
University of Lincoln
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consumer behaviour, operant conditioning, attitude-towards-the-ad model, behavioral concepts
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Anonymous, 2019, Changing Consumer Behaviour. Analysis of Behavioural Concepts based on the Example of Cadbury Dairy Milk, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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