Secrets of our shelf life

Consumer Behaviour
April 27, 2007

Consumer behaviour texts have long been dominated by US authors, with a few notable European versions offering a broader perspective of consumption in a non-US context. Consumer Behaviour , which acknowledges the input of European consumer research to the discipline, is a welcome addition to this more "rest-of-the-world" approach.

The first section is devoted to the individual, the second to group aspects of behaviour. The third part, "Integrated approaches to consumer behaviour", has some important and thought-provoking chapters on subjects that include "Consumer misbehaviour" and "Repeat, loyal and relational buying".

What is more important in a book such as this, which is designed to be used as a core text for undergraduate courses, is that the content engages the student and points the way to further study. This it does well and in an easily accessible style with good illustrations, examples and useful links to websites, although references to further reading are rather limited. The text does not offer deep analysis, which is disappointing given, for example, Gordon Foxall's expertise in behavioural psychology, but this should probably not be held against what is an excellent first-level text.

Consumer Behaviour starts with a strong chapter on "Consumer motives and values" that sets the scene for the remainder of the book. It not only examines theories of motivation and practical applications in marketing, it also addresses some of the issues regarding marketing's role in the creation of people's desire for more goods. This slightly critical approach runs throughout the text and is a refreshing way to present the theory and practice of consumer behaviour in a broader social context.

The next three chapters, on consumer response to marketing actions, include the usual topics of perception, learning, attitudes and involvement. These are all well developed theoretically with excellent examples clearly described. The chapter on "Consumer psychographics" is particularly well presented, and it contains an interesting exercise that could easily be translated to the classroom.

The book's final part is the most innovative. It includes four chapters:

"New product buying", "Repeat, loyal and relational buying", "Data-based consumer behaviour" and "Consumer misbehaviour". The well-designed and informative chapter on repeat buying draws on Andrew Ehrenberg's work with consumer panels, which explores the prediction of repeat brand purchasing.

This is a major theoretical advance that, although well documented in research journals, has in the past received relatively little attention in textbooks. I have reservations about the chapter on misbehaviour as I question its usefulness, especially when other issues such as ethical consumption and sustainability seem more relevant today.

Finally, despite its strengths the book would have benefited from presenting student cases studies; there are some exercises but these are relatively limited and a good textbook should have this supporting material.

Isabelle Szmigin is professor of marketing, Birmingham Business School, Birmingham University.

Consumer Behaviour

Author - Martin Evans, Ahmad Jamal and Gordon Foxall
Publisher - John Wiley
Pages - 400
Price - £36.99
ISBN - 9780470093528

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