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Classical Conditioning Examples – what can customers learn from you?

One has learned something if, as a result of an experience or more information being made known to them, their behaviour changes. Learning is a process of behavioural changes that occur over time relative to an external stimulus condition.

The definition of Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning is: “Unconditioned stimulus leads to unconditional response”. What it means in practice is that certain kinds of acts lead us to conduct another act as a rule e.g. smoking cigarettes may tempt the smoker to drink a cup of coffee. In marketing, classical conditioning is often used with sounds to accompany advertisements. Consumers, by hearing the sound, are reminded of the message they saw in the advertisement. Additionally, liking the sound extends to liking the product subject to advertisement. The repetition of sound (unconditioned stimulus) is key in order for classical conditioning to be effective. The number of repetitions required depends on the strength of stimulus and the motivation of the individual. Classical conditioning is involuntary. Individuals are not required to actively participate in learning.

Generalisation – stimulus that is close to an existing/known one evokes the same/similar response.

Cognitive learning – is learning through conscious analyses of purchase. The emphasis is on what is learned, not how it is learned. Cognitive learning consists of:

Cognitive effort – Cognitive structure – Analysis – Elaboration – Memory

Memory – is the mechanism by which learned information is stored.

Sensory memory – (Attention) – Short Term Memory – (Elaboration) – Long Term Memory

Operant Conditioning by B. F. Skinner – takes place when the learner conducts trial and error behaviour to obtain reward and avoid punishment. The learner has a choice of outcome of their behaviour and the process of trial and error involves cognitive dimension (thinking). In marketing, Operant Conditioning is an idea that is highly relevant to industries that rely on repeat purchase, particularity for FMCG (fast moving consumer goods). If the first time a purchase is made has had a positive effect on a consumer then they are positively reinforced. For example: if a consumer buys an ice cream and is satisfied with its taste and quality (reward), the same consumer is likely to buy the same ice cream in the future in order avoid disappointment from buying an ice cream of unsatisfactory quality (punishment). The main difference between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning is that the former is based on voluntary behaviour, and the latter is based on reflex.

Knowledge – the more one knows about the product the lower the perceived risk is.

  • Consumer knowledge consists of:
  • Self Knowledge
  • Knowledge of brands
  • Consumption Knowledge
  • Persuasion Knowledge
  • Maciejovsky, B., 2012. Learning, Consumer Behaviour. Imperial College London, unpublished.

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About Michael

An experienced marketing manager with proven success in starting up businesses and Imperial College London graduate. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need help with the topic described on this page.

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