A Theory of Buyer Behavior2

A Theory of Buyer Behavior2 - Howard, Sheth: A Theory...

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Unformatted text preview: Howard, Sheth: A Theory ofBuycr Behavior John A. Howard, Jagdish N. Sheth A THEORY OF BUYER BEHAVIOR The usual purpose of a theory is to explain em ical phenomena. The en“ irical phenomenon which we want to explain is the buyingr behavior .nclivicluals over a period of time. More specifically. our theory is an apt to explain the brand choice behavior ofthe bu} er. We a: time that d choice is not random but systematic, and the task we have under- en in developing this theory is to formulate a structure that enables u: to view it as a system. To elaborate on our assumption: First. we assume that buying be— hax ior is rational in the sense that it is within the buyer’s “bounded ration- ally" [March and Simon. 1958): that is, his behavior is rationai within the li “its of his cognitive and learning capacities and within the constraint of ed information. Second. we are attempting to build a positive theory not a normative theory. Third,_if brand choice behavior is assumed to stemetic, then it can be observed in certain standard ways. Later on, we describe a series of meaSures of the buyer's buying behavior generally labeled nurchase behavior, attitude toward a brand. comprehension of the brand. attention to impinging stimuli. and intention. to buy a brand. Fourth. if behavior is systematic. it is caused by some ntwa stimulus— :er in the buyer or in the h H is event or stimulus environment. l he input to the system, and purchase behavior is the output. \‘v not we ‘1: describe then, is what goes on between the input and the output. A Summary of the Theory . iuch buying behavior is more or less repetitive. and the buyer estab- 1 “es purchase cycles for various products which determine how often he buv. For some products, such as durable appliances. this cycle is gthy and purchase is infrequent. For many other products. such as food a .- personal-care items, the purchase cycle is short and purChaSE- is {re q‘sent. Confronted by repetitive brand—choice decisions, the consumer an: lifies his task by storing relevant information and establishing a tine'in his decision process. Therefore our theory must id iitify the elements of his decision process. observe the che . that occur in them over time as a result of their repetitive nature. and or: how a combination of decision elements affects search processes and the incorporation of infor- ion from the buyer‘s commercial and social environment. The elements of a buyer’s brand-choice decision are 11} a s '-' tires. i2) several alternative courses of action. and J5) decision mediators ' which the motives are matched with the alternatives. Motives are spe- c to a product class. and reflect the underl‘ The mg g needs of the bu; .19 potential of zed l‘ere u'ili he. treated ' N. Shelli. lt‘ie « specially prepared for this bail; The theur} uter detail in a forthcomzng book by John 3. Howard and . 467 .-___.u..._m.;._ .mu‘ “.mwgwam “n.4, “48.- ,_ 468 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior There are three important notions involved in the definition ofalter— natives as brands. First, the several brands which become alternatives to the buyer need not belong to the same product class as defined by the in~ dustry. For example, a person may see Sanka coffee, Ovaltine, and Tetley’s tea as three alternatives to satisfy his motives related to beverage consump- tion. He also may see only two alternatives, such as coffee and beer, both belonging to physically dissimilar product classes. Second, the brands which are alternatives of the buyer's choice decision are generally small in number, collectively called his "evoked set.” The evoked set is only a fraction of the brands he is aware of, and a still smaller fraction of the total number of brands actually on the market. Third, any two consumers may have quite different alternatives in their evoked sets. ' Decision mediators are the set of rules that the buyer employs to match his motives and his means of satisfying those motives. They serve the function of ordering and structuring the buyer’s motives, and then ordering and structuring the various brands based on their potential to satisfy these ordered motives. Decision mediators develop by the buyer’s process of learning about the buying situation, They are therefore influ- enced by information from the buyer’s environment, and even more im- portantly by the actual experience of purchasing and consuming the brand. When the buyer is just beginning to purchase a product class, he lacks experience; he does not have a set of decision mediators for that product class. To develop them, be actively seeks information from his com- merciai and social environments. The information he actively seeks, or accidentaily receives, is subjected to perceptual processes, which not only limit his intake of information (magnitude of information is affected) but modify it to suit his frame of reference (quality of information is affected). These modifications are significant in that they distort the'neat "mar- keting-stimulus consumer-response” relation. Along with his active search for information, the buyer may to some extent generalize from similar past experience. Such generalization may be due to the physical similarity of a new product class to an old product class. For example, during initial purchases ofwhisky, a buyer may gener- alize from his experiences in buying gin. Generalization can also occur when two product classes are physically dissimilar, but have a common meaning deriving from a company brand name. For example, abuyer might generalize from his experience in buying a refrigerator or range to his first purchase of a dishwasher, Whatever the source, the buyer develops sufficient decision mediators to enable him to choose a brand which seems to have the best potential for satisfying his motives. If the brand proves satisfactory, the potential of that brand to satisfy his motives for subsequent purchases is increased, and the probability of his buying that brand again is likewise increased. With repeated satisfactory purchases of one or more brands, the buyer is likely to manifest a routine decision process in which the sequential steps in buying are so well structured that an event which triggers the process may also complete it. Routine purchasing implies that decision mediators are well established, and that the buyer has strong brand preferences. The phase of repetitive decision making in which the buyer reduces 456 Part V’: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior product class, the larger is the evoked set (Howard and Moore. 1963). Tln‘h? pressure is a current exogenous variable and therefore specific to a decision situation. When a buyer feels pre d for time, because of any of several environmental influences. he must .locate his time among alternative uses. in this process a reallocation unfavorable to purchasing activity can occur: Time pressure will create inhibition; as mentioned earlier, t will also unfavorably affect the search for information. _ Financial status refers to the constraint 3 buyer may feel because he lacks financial resources. This can affect his purchase behavior by creating a barrier (inhibitor: to purchasing the most preferred brand. For example, a buyer may want to purchase an expensive foreign car, but lacking sulfi- cient financial resource, he will settle for a low-priced American model. Personality traits are such variables as selfvconfidence, self-esteem, authoritarianism, and anxiety, which have been researched to identify individual differences. These individual differences are "topic free” and therefore supposedly exert their effect across product classes. We believe their effect is felt on (1) nonspecific motives and :21 the evoked set. For example, the more anxious a person, the greater his motivational arousal; dominant personalities are more likely (by a small margin! to buy a Ford instead of a Chevrolet; the more authoritarian a person, the narrower the category width of his evoked set. _ Social and organizational setting involves the group, a higher level of social organization than the individual It includes informal social organization, such as family and reference groups, which is relevant for consumer behavior; and formal organization, which constitutes much of the environment for industrial purchasing, Organizational variables are those of small group interaction, such as power, status. and authority. We be- lieve that the underlying processes of interg‘roup conflict in both indus- trial and consumer buying behavior are in principle very similar, and that the differences are largely due to the formal nature of industrial activity. Organization, both formal and social, is d crucial variable because - it. influences most of the learning constructs. Social class involves a still higher level of social organization, the social aggregate. Several indices are available to classify people socially. Perhaps the most common index is Warner's classification (see Ch 5, this book). Social class mediates the relation between input and output by in- fluencing (1) specific motives. (2) decision mediators. 13) the evoked set, and (4) inhibitors The latter influence is important. particularly in the adoption of innovations. Culture provides a more comprehensive social framework than social class. It consists of patterns of behavior, symbols. ideas. and their attached values. Culture will influence motives, decision mediators, and inhibitors. Conclusions In the preceding pages we have summarized a theory of_buyer brand choice. lt is complex. but we strongly believe that complexity is essential to an adequate description of buying behavior. We hope that our theory will provide new insights into past empirical data, and guide future research by instilling coherence and unity into ’ ,_ 470 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior actions to the same stimulus Alternatively, two buyers may both urgently need a product, but they buy two different brands. This can be explained by another construct: "predisposition toward a brand.” Elements of the Theory Figure 1 represents our theory of buyer behavior. The central rectane gular box isolates the various internal variables and processes which, taken together, show the state of the buyer. The inputs to the rectangu- lar box are stimuli from the marketing and social environments. The out— puts are a variety of responses which the buyer is likely to manifest, based on the interaction between the stimuli and his internal state. Besides the inputs and outputs, there are a set of seven influences which affect the variables in the rectangular box.* These variables appear at the top of the diagram andare labeled "exogenous" variables. Their function is to provide a means of adjusting for the interpersonal differences discussed above. The variables within the rectangular box are hypothetical constructs, which serve the role of endogenous variables in the sense that changes in them are explained, but they are something less than endogenous variables in that they are not well defined and are not observable. Their values are inferred from relations among the output intervening variables. Several of the exogenous variables such as personality, social class, and culture have traditionally been treated as endogenous variabies. We believe that they affect more specific variables, and that, by conceiving their efi'ect via the hypothetical constructs, we can better understand their role, ' Our theory of buyer behavior has four major components: stimulus variables, response variables, hypothetical constructs, and exogenous variables We will elaborate on each of these components below, in terms of both their substance and their interrelationships. Stimulus Input Variables . At any point in time, the hypothetical constructs which reflect the buyer’s internal state are affected by numerous stimuli from his environ- - ment. This environment is classified as either commercial or social. The commercial environment consists of the marketing activities of various firms, by which they attempt to communicate to the buyer. From the buyer‘s point of View, these communications basically come via either the brand objects themselves or some linguistic or pictorial representation of brand attributes. If brand elements such as price, quality, service, dis? tinctiveness, or availability are communicated through brand objects ‘ difficult in a problem area that cuts across both economics and psychology, be cause each discipline has often defined its terms differently from the other. We find the courier mist's definitions of "exogenous," vs. "endogenous." and “theory” vs. "model" more useful than those cl" the psychologist. The psychologists distinction of hypothetical constructs and Intt‘l'vene ing variables, however, proudes a helpful breakdown of endogenous variables. Finally, for the sake of exposition, we have oftcn not clearly distinguished here between the theory and its empirical counterparts. Although this practice encourages certain ambiguities, and We lay our~ selves open to the charge of relfying our theory. we believe that it simplifies the exposition. 471 Howard. Sheik: A Timmy DfBLlj'EP Behavior 3.3.5) Maccamexm E 8:25.: «BEE xumficawu II I. I I 52.5 2:. :2. 39.53. ll :2... .c if Flllllkll “53522 3353 mczfii EBEmSZ soy—gm 4_F_ EnE:E_>:u 3.6 5.3533 332cm 39351 _l . 1 _ {4|} _ 222.: {Hi 9.: 51.5.6 of buyer behavior. Figure 1. A theory u.‘ ,__w_u_.flm_‘n_mm “WWWM " ' ' v 472 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior [significates}, the stimuli are defined and classified as Significance stimuli. If, on the other hand, brand attributes represented by linguistic or pictorial symbols are communicated via mass media, billboards, catalogs,'salesmen, etc, the stimuli from these commercial sources are classified as symbolic stimuli. We view the marketing mix as the optimum allocation of funds between the two major channels of communication to the buyerisignifi- native and symbolic. ' Each commercial input variable is hypothesized to be multivariate. The five major dimensions of abrandgprice, quality, distinctiveness, avail: ability, and service—probably summarize the various attributes. The same dimensions are present in both the significative and symbolic communi- cation that becomes the input stimuli for the buyer, However, certain dimensions may be more appropriately conveyed by significative rather than symbolic communication, and vice versa. For example, price is easily communicated by both channels; shape may best be communicated by two- dimensional pictures rather than verbal communication. Finally, size may not be easiiy communicated by any symbolic representation: the physical product (significatel may be necessary. I The third stimulus input variable is the information that the buyer’s social environment provides for a purchase decision. The most obvious exampie is word-of-mouth communication. The inputs to the buyer’s mental state from the three major categories of stimuli are processed and stored through their interaction with a series of hypothetical constructs. The buyer may react to these stimuli immedi- ately, or later. ' H ypoiheticol Constructs Our hypothetical' constructs and their interreiationships are the result of an integration of Hull’s (1943, 1952) learning theory, Osgood's (1957“) cognitive theory, and Berlyne's [1963) theory of exploratory beA havior, along with other ideas. : These constructs fall into two classes: (1) those having to do with perception, and (2) those having to do with learning. Perceptual constructs serve the function of information processing; learning constructs serve the function of concept formation. It is interesting that, after years of experi- ence in advertising, Reeves [1961) arrived at a very similar classification: his "penetration" is analogous to perceptual variables, and his "unique selling propositions" are analogous to learning variables. We will first describe learning constructs, 'since they are the major components of de- cision making: the perceptual constructs which serve the important role of obtaining and processing information are more complex, and wili be de- scribed later. Leorning Constructs, The learning constructs are labeled (1) motives —specific and nonspecific, t2] brand-potential of the. evoked set, (3) decision mediators, t4! predisposition toward brands, (5) inhibitors, and (6) saris- faction with the purchase of a brand. Motive is impetus to action. The buyer is motivated by expectation or anticipation, based on learning from the outcome of past purchase of a brand in his evoked set. Motives or goals may be thought of as constituting 1 \ ." use-n!“ Hon (rrd, Shetlr A Theory ufBuycr Behavior a means-end chain, and hence as being general or Specific, depending upon their position in the chain. The specific motives—lower level motives in the means-end chain— are very closely anchored to the attributes ofa product class; in this way they become purchase criteria. Examples of specific motives are those for buying a dietary product—low calories. nutrition. taste, and value. Simi- larly, the specific motives in buying an air conditioner might be durability, quietness. cooling power, and design. Very often, several specific motives are nothing more than indicators of some underlying, more general motive; that is. some motive that is higher in [he means-end chain. In the foregoing; example. the specific motives of nutrition and low calories might be indicators of the common motive of good health. Motives also serve the important function of raising the buyer‘s general motivational state, thereby rousing him to pay attention to envi- ronmental stimuli. Probable examples of nonspecific motives are anxiety and fear, the personality variables of authoritarianism, exhibitionism, and aggressiveness, and the social motives of power, status, and prestige. Although they are nonspecific, they are not innate but learned, mostly as a result of acculturation. The nonspecific motives also possess a hierarchy Within themselves. For example, anxiety is considered to be the source of another motive, that ofthe need for money (Brown, 1961). Brand polem‘iai of the evoked set is a second learning construct. A buyer who is familiar with a product class has an evoked set of alternatives to satisfy his motives. The elements of his evoked set are some ofthe brands that make up the product class. This concept is important because the brands in a buyer’s evoked set constitute competition for the seller-i A brand is, of course. a class concept, like many other objects or things. The buyer attaches a uora' to this Concept~a label or brand name The brand name conveys certain meanings. including its potential to satisfy his motives. In an advanced economy with relatively careful quality controls, the buyer is generally assured that any one brand object is like anotheri If quality controls are not adequate, the buyer will probably not summarize the potentialiof a brand in one word or labei, but instead divide it into subclasses. Various brands in the buyer‘s evoked set will generally satisfy his goal structure differently One brand may possess such strong potential that it is an ideal brand for the buyer. Another brand may satisfy his motives barely enough to be part of his evoked set. Through a learning process, the buyer obtains and stores knowledge of each brand's potential, and then ranks them in order of their potential to satisfy his wants. The evoked set, in short, is a set of alternatives to be evaluated. Predisposition represents the buyer's preference ranking of them. Decision mediators. a third learning construct, are the buyer’s menial rules for matching alternatives with motives and ranking them in terms of their want-satisfying capacity As mental rules, they exhibit reasoning, wherein the cognitive elements related to alternatives and motives are structured. In addition. decision mediators also contain a set of criteria by which the buyer denotatively discriminates between the brandshe views 473 _r‘.s....«_-..s..._.-.w..-.aa.sa- c .._,__¢u.m.,,.w...s__u..:c_al_i:_._h_.._balon_~_aaam‘m%-.n._.mm 4?4 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior as being in a product class, and those brands that are not. The words he uses to describe these criteria are the words he thinks with and finds easy to remember. These criteria are important to the manufacturer, because if he knows them he can deliberately build into his product and its promotion those characteristice which will differentiate his brand from competing brands. Decision mediators thus represent enduring cognitive rules estab- lished by the process of learning, and their function is to establish mean- ingful and congruent relations among brands, so that the buyer can mani- fest goal-directed behavior. In view of the fact that decision mediators are learned, principles of learning become crucial in understanding their development and change over time. There are two broad sources of learning: (1) actual experience, and (2‘: information. Actual experience can be with either the same buying situa- tion in the past, or with a similar buying situation. The latter is generally labeled “generalization.” Similarly, information as a source of learning can come from either the buyer’s commercial or his social environment. Later, we will elaborate on each of these sources of learning. Predisposition, a fourth construct, is the summary effect of the pre- vious three constructs. It refers to the buyer’s preference toward brands in his evoked set. It is, in fact, an aggregate index expressed in attitudes, which in turn can be measured by attitude scales. It might be visualized as the “place” where brands in the evoked set are compared with the medi- ator’s choice criteria, to yield a judgment on the relative contribution of the brands to the buyer’s motives. This judgment includes not only an estimate of the value of the brand, but also an estimate of the confidence with which the buyer holds that position. This uncertainty aspect of pre- disposition can-be called "brand ambiguity," in that the more confidently he holds it, the less ambiguous the connotative meaning of the brand is to him and the more likely he is to buy it (G. S. Day, 1967). Inhibitors, the fifth learning construct, are forces in the environment which create important disruptive influences on the actual purchase of a brand, even when the buyer has reasoned out that that brand will best satisfy his motives. In other words, when the buyer is motivated to buy the product class and is predisposed to buy a particular brand, he may not buy it because certain environmental forces inhibit the purchase act and prevent him from satisfying his preferences. We postulate at least four types ofinhibitors. They are (1) a high price for the brand, (2) lack of availability of the brand, (3) time pressure on the buyer, and (4} the buyer’s financial status. The first two are part of the environmental stimuli, and therefore they are part ofthe input system. The last two come from the two exogenous variables of the same name. Tempo- rary barriers to the purchase of a brand may also be created by social con- straints emanating from other exogenous variables. An essential feature of all inhibitors is that they are not internalized by the buyer, because their occurrence is random and strictly situational. However. for a given buyer, some inhibitors may persist systematically over time If they persist long enough, the buyer is likely to incorporate them as part of his decision mediators. thus permitting them to affect the i-Arv—,7wm.v-.-mWo—mem_x . Howard, Shcth: A Theory ofBu) er Behavior mental structure ofhis alternatives and motives. An example of such inter- nalization might be the consequences oftlie constant time pressure a honse- wife faces because she has taken a job. Continuation of the time pressure may alter her evoked set as well as her motive structure. Convenience and time saving become important motives, and her evoked set may come to include time-saving brands, such as instant coffee. Similarly, a brand may be withdrawn by a company because of its stage in the product life cycle. The permanent unavailability of that brand will be learned and internal— ized by buyers, and they Wlll remore that brand from their evoked sets. Saris,'hr:ion. the last of the learning construct-s. refers to the degree of congruence between the actual consequences oi" purchase and consump- tion of a brand. and what was expected from it by the buyer at the time of purchase. if the actual outcomes are judged by the buyer to be better than or equal to the expected. the buyer will feel satisfied; that is, actual consequences 2 expected consequences. If. on the other hand, the actual outcomes are judged to be less than what he expected. the buyer will feel dissatisfied; that is, actual consequences < expected consequences. Satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a brand can be with any one of its different attributes. If the brand proves to be more satisfactory than the buyer expected. the attractiveness of the brand will be enhanced. If it proves iess satisfactory than he expected, its attractiveness will diminish. Satisfaction. therefore: affects the ranking of brands in the evoked set for the next buying decision. We also think that, it‘a brand purchase proves completely unsatisfac- tory. the buyer will remote the brand from his evoked Set. In other words. be “ill not consider it for future purchases. Ifthe brand has proved extremely satisfactory. the buyer will retain only the purchased brand in his evoked set; other brands “ill have close to zero probability of consideration. In short, extreme outcomes are likely to affect the number of brands in the evoked set. and reasonable discrepancies between actual and expected out- comes will affect the ranking of the brands in the evoked set. Relations Among Learning Constructs. Several important notions underlie the concept of predisposition toward a brand and its related van"- ables. The simplest way to describe them is to state that we may classify a deCision process as either ‘textensive problem solving,” "iimited problem solving," 'or "routine response behavior." depending on the strength of predisposition toward brands. in the early phases of buying, the buyer does not yet have wellrdeveloped decision mediators; specifically, his product- class concept is not well formed and his predisposition is low. As he acquires information and 'gains experience in buying and consuming a brand. his decision mediators become firm and his predisposition toward that brand is generally high. In extensive problem solving, predisposition toward a brand is low. None of the brands are sufficiently discriminated on the basis of their decision-mediator criteria for the buyer to show preference for any one brand. At this stage of decision making, brand ambiguity is high, and the 476 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior buyer actively seeks information from his environment. The more extensive the search for information, the greater is latency of response—the time interval between initiation of a decision and its completion. Similarly. deliberation or reasoning is high, since the buyer lacks a well-defined product-class concept—the denotative aspect of his decision mediators. He is also likely to consider many brands as part of his evoked set, and stimuli coming from the commercial environment are less likely to trigger an immediate purchase reaction. When predisposition toward brands is moderate, the buyer's decision process is one of limited problem solving. Brand ambiguity still exists. since he is not abie to discriminate and compare brands to develop a prefer once for one brand over others. He is likely to seek information, but not to the extent he does for extensive problem solving. More importantly, he seeks information to compare and discriminate various brands more on a relative basis than to compare them absolutely. He thinks and deliberates, since his predispositions are only tentatively defined. His evoked set con- sists of a small number of brands, and he has about the same degree or" preference for each of them. In routine response behavior, the buyer has accumulated sufficient experience and information to eliminate brand ambiguity, and he has a high level of predisposition toward one or two brands in his evoked set. He isunlikely to actively seek information from the environment, since such information is not needed. Also, insofar as he does admit information, it will tend to be that which supports his current choice. Very often, this congruent information will act as a "triggering cue" to motivate him to manifest purchase behavior. Much impulse purchase behavior is really the outcome of a strong predisposition and a facilitating commercial stimulus, such as a store dis- play. The buyer's evoked set consists of a few brands, toward which he is highly predisposed. However, he will have greater preference toward one or two brands in his evoked set than toward the others. As mentioned earlier, predisposition is an aggregate index of how well a brand conforms to the choice criteria contained in a decision mediator. Thus, any changes in these criteria as a result of learning from experi ence or information imply some change in predisposition. The greater the learning, the stronger is predisposition toward brands in the evoked set. The exact nature of learning will be described later, when we discuss the dynamics of buying behavior. However, there are two other issues which need some attention here. First. although our focus is on brand choice behavior, the buyer also simplifies the total sequence of behavior necessary to make a purchasei is going to the store, looking at products, paying at the counter, etcrby reducing the number of steps and ordering them in a definite sequence. The greater is his predisposition, the more will be his simplification of total buy- ing behavior, and therefore the more routine will be his purchase behavior Second, if the purchase cycle is very long, as is the case for automo- biles and other durable appliances, the buyer may develop firm decision mediators and yet manifest exploratory behavior to a marked degree at each purchase decision, because (1) market conditions invariably change Howard, Sheik: A Theory ofBuy-er Behavior and the buyer may find past experience insufficient" and L2! his decision mediators have become fuzzy, through lack of use and the resultant for: getting. Perceptuai Constructs. Another set of constructs serves the function of procuring and processing information relevant to a purchase decision As mentioned earlier. information can come from any one of the three Eilmulus inputs—significative commercial stimuli‘ symbolic commercial stimuli, and social stimuli. Here we will describe only the constructs; their use by the buyer will be explained when we discuss the dynamics of buying behavior. The perceptual constructs in Figure l are tli sensitivity to information. “2i perceptual bios. and L3) search for information A perceptual phenomenon implies either ignoring a physical event which could be a stimulus, seeing it attentively. or sometimes imagining what is not present in reality. All perceptual phenomena create some change in the quantity or quality of objective information. Sensitivity to information refers to the opening and closing of sensory receptors which control the intake of information. The manifestation of this phenomenon is generaily called "perceptual vigilance" (paying atten- tion) or "perceptual defense” (ignoring informationt Sensitivity to informa- tion therefore serves primarily as a gatekeeper for information entering the buyer‘s nervous system, thus controlling the quantity of information input. Sensitivity to information is a function of two variables, according to Berlyne 11963]. One is the degree of stimulus ambiguity. If a stimulus to which the buyer is exposed is very familiar or too simple, its ambiguity is low and the buyer will not pay attention—unless he is predisposed to such information from past learning. Furthermore, if stimulus ambiguity con-_ rinues to be low, the buyer feels a sense of monotony and actively seeks other information—he can be said to complicate his environment. If the stimulus is so complex and ambiguous that the buyer finds it hard to com» prehend, he will ignore it by resorting to perceptual defense. Only if the stimulus is moderately ambiguous will the buyer be motivated to pay at- tention and freely absorb objective information about the brand under con- sideration. In response to a single communication, the buyer at first may find the information complex and ambiguous and tend to ignore it. As the in- formation continues to enter his nervous system, he may find it really to be at the medium- level of ambiguity, and pay attention. As the process of communication progresses and he pays continuing attention, he may find the information too simple and look for more complex information. The second variable which governs sensitivity to information is the buyer‘s predisposition toward the brand which is the subject of that in- formation. The buyer learns to attach connotative meanings to abrand and to the symbols which stand for the brand. Thus. both the source of com- munication and the content of communication, as well as the brand itself, can come [0 have meaning for him. For example. he may have learned in the past to assoctate {ow credibility with commercial sources and high credibility with social sources. Similarly, he may attach connotations of quality to certain attributes of the brand‘ such as package. color, flavor. 477 A. m _..u,.e..crwmi‘déhwammfiws-w ham—b - 4'78 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior and taste. These connotations are part of his predisposition toward the brand. Predisposition thus acts as a feedback in Figure l, governing sensi- tivity to information, and, in turn. the intake of further information: This feedback is his degree of interest. The more pertinent to the brand is the inforn'it-itionr the more likely the buyer is to open up his receptors and pay attention to it. Similarly. the more pertinent the source, the greater the attention the buyer is likely to give the communication. Perceptual bias is the second perceptual construct. The buyer not only selectively attends to information, but he may actually distort it, once it enters his nervous system. In other words, the quality of information can be altered by the buyer. He may distort the cognitive elements contained in information to make them congruent with his own frame of reference, as determined by the amount of information he has already stored. Theories of cognitive consistency have been developed (Fcldman, 1966; Fishbein, 1967) to explain how this congruency is established and what its consequences are, in terms of the distortion of information that might be expected. Most qualitative change in information occurs as a result of feedback from var- ious decision components, such as motives, the evoked set, and decision mediators. These relations are too complex, however, to describe in this summary. The perceptual phenomena described above are likely to be less operative if information is received from the buyer’s social environment. This is so because (1) the source of social information (such as a friend: is likely to be favorably regarded by the buyer, and (2) the information it- self is modified by the social environment (the friend) so that it conforms to the needs of the buyer; therefore, distorted reception and further modifi- cation is less likely. Search for information is the third perceptual construct. During the total buying phase, which extends over time and involves several repeat purchases of a product class, there are times when the buyer actively seeks information. It is very important to distinguish times when he passiveiy receives information from occasions when he actively seeks it. We believe that perceptual bias is less operative in the latter instance, and that a commercial communication at that stage has, therefore. a high probability of influencing the buyer. Active seeking of information occurs when the buyer senses ambi- guity of brand meaning in his evoked set. As we saw earlier, this happens in the extensive problem-solving and limited problem-solving phases of the decision process. Ambiguity of brand meaning ex1sts because the buyer is not certain of the purchase outcome of each brand. In other words. he has not yet learned enough about alternatives to establish an expectancy of brand potential that will satisfy his motives. This type ofbrand ambiguity is generally confined to initial buying of that brand. However, ambiguity may exist despite knowledge of relative brand potential. This ambiguity rests in the buyer’s inability to discriminate between alternatives. The buyer may be unable to discriminate because his motives are not well structured: he does not know how to order them. -M. 7. sear-“7.? , Howard, Shcth: A Theory ofBuycr Behavior He may then seek information to resolve conflict among goals—a resolution implied in his learning of the appropriate product-class aspect of decision mediators, as discussed earlier. There is yet another stage of buying behavior in which the buyer is likely to seek information. It is when the buyer has established a routine decision process. but he is so familiar and satiated with repeat buying that he feels bored Then all the existing alternatives in his evoked set. includ- ng the more preferred brand. become unacceptable to him. He seeks change or variety in that buying situation. In order to obtain this change, he actively searches for information on other alternatives lbrandsl that he never considered before. At this stage. he is particularly receptive to any information about new brands This explains large advertising budgets in a highly stable industry, a phenomenon which has long bellied both the critics and defenders of advertising. New products on the market and buyer forgetfulness are not plausible explanations. Response Variables The complexity of buyer behavior extends beyond our hypothetical constructs. Just as there is a variety of inputs, there is also a variety of buyer responses, which become relevant for difierent areas of marketing strategy. The wide variety of Consumer responses can be easily appreciated in the diversity of measures used to evaluate advertising effectiveness. We have attempted to classify and order this diversity of buyer responses in terms of output variables. Most of our output variables are directly re- lated to some. but not other constructs. Each output variable serves differ- ent purposes, both in marketing practice and in fundamental research. Attention, Attention is related to sensitivity to information. It is a buyer response that indicates the magnitude of his information intake. Attention is measured continuously during the time interval that the buyer is receiving information. There are several psycho-physiological methods of quantifying the degree of attention a buyer pa_'s to a message. Aware- ness is not an appropriate measure, because it is a stock concept, not a flow concept. Comprehension. Comprehension refers to the store of knowledge about a brand that the buyer possesses at any pomt in time. This knowledge can vary from simple awareness of a single brand's existence. to a complete description of the attributes of a brand. It reflects the denotative meaning of the brand. In that sense it is strictly cognitive, and not included in the motivational aspects of behavior. Simply stated, it is a description of the common denotative elements of the brand in words with which the buyer communicates, thinks. and remembers. Some of the standard measures of advertising effectiveness such as awareness, aided or unaided recall, and recognition may capture different aspects of the buyer‘s knowledge of a brand. Altitude Toward a Brand. Attitude toward a brand is the buyer's eval- uation of the brand‘s potential to satisfy his motives. It therefore includes the connotative aspects of the brand concept; it contains those aspects of the brand which are relevant to the buyer‘s goals. Attitude is directly re- 479 480 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior lated to predisposition. consisting of both the evaluation oi‘a brand in terms of the decisionvmediator criteria of choice, and the confidence with which that evaluation is held. Intention to Buy, Intention to buy is the buyer’s forecast of which brand be will buy. It includes not only the buyer’s predisposition toward a brand, but also a forecast of inhibitors. Intention to buy has been used ex— tensively in predicting the purchases of durable goods, with some recent refinements in terms of the buyer‘s confidence in his own forecast; however, these studies are in terms of broadly defined product classes (duster, 1964). We may characterize intention to buy as a response short of actual purchase behavior. Purchase Behavior. Purchase behavior is the overt manifestation of the buyer’s predisposition, in conjunction with any inhibitors that may be present. It differs from attitude to the extent that inhibitors are taken into consideration: and it differs from intention to the extent that it is actual behavior, which the buyer only forecasted in his Intention What becomes a part of a company‘s sales, or what the consumer records in a diary as a panel member, is only the terminal act in the se: quence of shopping and buying. Very often, it is useful to observe the com- plete movement of the buyer from his home to the store and his purchase in the store, Yoell (1965), for example, presents several case histories Show ing that time»and-motion study of consumer purchase behavior has useful marketing implications. We think that, at times, it may be helpful to go so far as to incorporate the act of consumption into the definition of purchase behavior. We have, for example, used a technique for investigating decision making in which the buyer verbally describes the sequential pattern of his purchase and consumption behavior in a given buyingr situation. Out of this description, we have obtained a “flow chart" of sequential decision making which re- veals the number and structure of the decision rules the buyer employs Several characteristics of purchase behavior become useful if we ob- serve the buyer in a repetitive buying situation. These include the inci- dence of buying a brand, the quantity bought, and the purchase cycle. Several stochastic models of brand loyalty, for example, have been devel~ oped (Sheth. 1967; this book]. Similarly, we could take the magnitude purchased and compare light buyers with heavy buyers to determine if heavy buyers are more loyal buyers. The Inrerrei'ationshz‘ps of Response Variables. In Figure 1 the fire response variables are ordered to create a hierarchy, similar to the varie:y of hierarchies used in practice, such as AIDA (attention. interest, de e. and action); to the Lavidgc and Steiner (1961) hierarchy of advertasmg effectiveness; as well as to the different mental states a person is alleged by anthropologists and sociologists to pass through when he adopts an in- novation (Rogers, 1962”), There are, however, some important differences which we believe will clarify certain conceptual and methodological issues- raised by Palda {1966) and others. First, a response variable calied "attention" has been added. which is crucial because it indicates whether or not a communication is received by the buyer. Second, several different aspects of the cognitive realm of Howard, Sherh: A Theory ofBuyer Behavior ' behavior, such as awareness, recall. and recognition, are lumped into one category called "comprehension," to suggest that they are all varying in- dicators of the buyer's storage of information about a brand. In this way we obtain leverage for understanding buyer innovation. Third. attitude is defined to include its affective and conative aspects. since any attempt to establish causal relations between attitude and behavior must take into account the motivational aspects of attitude. Furthermore, the perceptual and the preference maps of the buyer With respect to brands are separated into “comprehension” and “attitude,” respectively. Fourth, another vari‘ able, "intention to buy.” is added, because properly defined and measured intentions for several product classes in both durable and semidurable goods have proved useful. To the extent that intention incorporates a buy- er’s forecast of his inhibitors. it might form a basis for marketing strategy designed to remove the inhibitors before actual purchase behavior is mani- fasted. Finally, and most important, we have incorporated several feedback effects .which were described when the hypothetical constructs were dis- cussed. We will now show the relations as direct connections among re- sponse variables—although these “outside” relations are merely the reflection of relations among the hypothetical constructs. For example, purchase behavior via satisfaction involves consequences that affect do: cision mediators and brand potential in the evoked set; any change in mediators and brand potential constitutes a change. in predisposition. Attitude is related to predisposition, and therefore it can change in the period from pre-purchase to post-purchase. By incorporating this feedback, we are opening the way to resolving the question of whether attitude causes purchase behavmr, or purchase behavior causes attitude. Over a period. of time the relation is interdependent, each affecting the other. Similarly, we have a feedback from “attitude” to “comprehension” and “attention,” the rationale for which was given when perceptual constructs were de- scribed. The Dynamics of Buying Behavior We will now explain the changes in hypothetical constructs which occur as a result of learning. Learning constructs are, of course, directly involved in the change that we label "learning." Since some learning con- structs indirectly govern perceptual constructs by way of feedback, there is also an indirect effect on the learning constructs themselves. As mentioned earlier, decision mediators, which structure motives and the evoked set. can be learned from two broad sources, {1) past experience, and (2) infor- mation. Past experience can be further classified as deriving from buyinga specified product or buying a similar product. Similarly, information can come from the buyer’s commercial environment or his social environ» ment; if the source is commercial, the information may he significative or symbolic. We will look at development and change in learning constructs as due to (1) generalization from similar buying situations, (2) repeat buying of the same product class. and (3) information. 481 via. (X‘ [0 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior Generalization from Similar Purchase Situations Some decision mediators are often similar across product classes be- cause many motives are common to a wide variety of purchasing activi— ties. For example, a buyer may satisfy his health motive by buying many difierent product cl s. Similarly. he may buy many product classes at the same place; this very often leads to spatial or contiguous generaliza- tion. The capacity to generalize allows the buyer to exercise great flexi- bility in adapting his purchase behavior to the myriad of varying market conditions he faces. Generalization refers to the transfer of responses from past situations to new situations which are similar. based on the relevance of stimuli. it saves the buyer time and efiort other-Wise spent in seeking information to resolve the uncertainty inevitable in a new situation. Generalization can occur at any one of the several levels of purchase activity, but we are pri-. mariiy interested in the generalization of those decision mediators which involve only bmnolchoice behavior, in contrast to choice of store or choice 'of time and day for shopping. Two kinds of brand generalization should be distinguished: First, there is stimulus generalization, in which the buyer—who has associated a brand purchase with a decision mediator [product classl—associates with the same decision mediator a new brand similar to the old one. For example, suppose a buyer has a decision mediator which calls for the pur- chase of doubleredged shaving blades. His purchase response may then he transferred to a new brand of sroinless steel doublesedged blades via the same decision mediator. He may further refine his decision mediator to associate his purchase behavior with only one brand of new stainless steel blades, rather than with all. Stimulus generalization can occur, not only when two brands are physically similar. but also when two brands are physically dissimilar but possess the same meaning. This is called semantic generalization. It is likely to occur when a radically new product is introduced by a company with which the buyer has had satisfactory past experience. The buyer can gener- alize via the company image. This is especially true of durable appliances, where a brand name is common to difi‘erent products. Second, there is response generalization, in which the buyer general- izes an old response to a new response, given the some stimulus. It can occur when the buyer. after reading an ad for brand A. goes to the store to buy it, but finds brand B. which is similar to brand A. and switches. In the same fashion, a buyer may “move up" the quality ladder for a particular makeof automobile. Finally, he might buy larger packages of the same brand product. Just as we find semantic stimulus generalization, we also find seman- tic response generalization. For example, a buyer who is motivated to pur- chase lowvcalorie food may generalize his response from skim milk to diet cola, Repeat Purchase Experiences Another source of change in learning constructs is the repeated pur- chase of the same product class over a period of time. In Figure 1 the pun Howard, Shcfh: A Theory ofBuycr Behavior 483 chase of a brand invoives two types of feedback, one affecting decision mediators and the other affecting brand potential of the evoked set. First, the experience of buying, with all its cognitive aspects of memory, reason- ing, etc, has a learning eficct on decision mediators. This occurs irrespec— tive of which specific brand the buyer chooses in any one purchase decision, because decision mediators, like motives, are product-specific and not limited to any one brand. Hence, every purchase has an incremental effect in more firmly establishing decision mediators. This is easy to visualize if we remember that buying behavior is a series of mental and motor steps; the actual choice is only its terminal act. Purchase of a brand creates certain satisfactions for the buyer which he compares with his evaluation of the brand's potential, If the buyer is satisfied, the potentiai of the brand is enhanced. increasing the probability of repeat purchase. If he is dissatisfied, the potential of the brand is dimin- ished, and the probability of repeat purchase is reduced. Hence the second feedback, from purchase behavior to satisfaction, changes the attractive ness of the brand purchased. ifthere are no inhibitory forces influencingthe buyer, he will continue to buy a brand which proves satisfactory. In the initial stages of decision making, he may show some tendency to oscillate between brands in order to formulate his decision mediators. In other words, he may learn by trial- andverror at first, then settle on a brand, and thereafter buy it with such regularity as to suggest that he is brand ioyal. However, unless a product involves high purchase risk, there is a time limit on this brand loyalty: he may become bored with his preferred brand and look for something new. Information As a Source ofLearning The third major means by which learning constructs are changed is information received from {1) the buyer’s commercial environment, con- sisting of advertising, promotion, salesmanship, and retail shelf display; and (2) his social environment, consisting of his family, friends, reference groups, and social class. We will first describe the influence of information as if perceptual constructs were absent. In other words, we wili aSsnme that the buyer receives information with perfect fidelity, as it exists in the environment. Also, we will discuss separately information received from commercial and social environments, The Commercial Environment. A company communicates its offerings to buyers either by the physiCal brand itself (significates), or by symbols (pictorial or linguistic) which represent the brand, Significative and sym- bolic communication are the two major means of interaction between seilers and buyers. Figure 1 shows the influence of information on motives, decision mediators, the evoked set, and inhibitors. We believe that the influence of commercial information on motives (spec1fic and nonspecific) is limited. The main effect is primarily to intensify whatever motives the buyer has, rather than to create new ones. For example, a physical display of the brand may intensify his motives above the threshold level, which, combined with strong predisposition, can result in impulse (unplanned) purchase. A ~»—-——-—-——-m-—.-s-r,———_—,-Wu._. .,n¢q.¢..c._.,,_,,..,.., . . 484 Part V: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior similar reaction is possible when an ad creates'suflicient intensity of motive to provide an impetus for the buyer to go to the store. A second way to influence moth es is to shmv the perceived instm meniafitv of the brand. and thereby make it a part of the buyer’s defined set of aitematives. ' 7 Finally, to a very limited extent, marketing stimuli may change the content of motives, This, we believe, is rare. The general conception among both marketing men and laymen is that marketing stimuli do change the buyer's motives. However, on a closer examination it would appear that what is changed is the intensity of those motives already provided by the buyer’s social environment. Many dormant or latent motives may become stimulated. The secret of success very often lies in identifying the change in motives created by social change and intensifying them‘ as seems to be the case in the advertising projection of youthfuln'ess for many buying situations. Marketing stimuli are important in determining and changing the buyer's evoked set. Commercial information tells him of the existence of brands (awarenessi, their identifying characteristics (comprehension plus brand nameJ‘ and their relevance to the satisfaction of his needs (decision mediator-J. Marketing stimuli are also important in creating and changing the buyer’s decision mediators. They become important sources for creating (learning) decision mediators when the buyer has no prior experience to rel).r upon. In other words, when he is in the extensive-problem-solving (EPSJ Stage, it is marketing and social stimuli which are his important sources of learning, Similarly. when the buyer actively seeks information because ali existing alternatives are unacceptable to him, marketing stirri- uli become important in changing his decision mediators. Finally, marketing stimuli can unwittingly create inhibitors. For. example, a company's efl'orts to emphasize a price-quality association may resnlt in a high-price inhibition in the mind of the buyer. Similarly, in emphasizing the details of usage and consumption of a product. marketing Communication might perhaps create inhibition related to time pressure. The Social Environment. The social environment of the huyer~ family, friends, and reference groups—is another major source of informa- tion influencing his buying behavior. Most sociai input is likely to be symbolic (linguistic), although at times a friend may show the physical product to the buyer. Information from the social environment also afihcts the four learning constructs: motives. decision mediators, the evoked set, and inhibitors, However, the effect on these constructs is different than that of the oom- mercial environment. First. information about brands is considerably modified by the social environment before it reaches the buyer. Most of the modifications are iikely to be in adding connotative meanings to brands and their attributes, and in the effects ofsnch perceptual variables as sensi- tivity to information and perceptual bias. Second, the buyer's social environment will probably strongly in- ' fluence the content of his motives. and his ordering of them to establish a goal structure. Several research studies have concentrated on such in- fluences (Bourne. 1957, this hook; Bush and London, 1960, Gwen, 1960; Howard. Shelli." .4 Theo?) ofBuVrchchurior Laird, 1950; Katz and anarsfeld, 1955). Third, the buyer’s social environment may also affect his evoked set. This is particularly true when he lacks experience. Furthermore, if the product class is important to the buyer, and he is not technically corn- petent or he is uncertain in evaluating the consequences of the brand for his needs, he may rely more on the social than on the marketing environ- ment for information. This is well documented by several studies using the perceived risk hypothesis lBauer, 1950 and this book, 1961; Bauer and “'orizel, 1965: Cox, 1962; S. M. Cunningham, 1986; Arndt, 1967“). Informoften-Processing Efll’cls As we have said. distortion of stimuli by the perceptual constructs isensitivity to information, perceptual bias. and Search for information sis likely to be much greater for marketinv stimuli than for sacial stim- uli. This is so essentially because the buyer attaches greater credibility— competence and trust—to social sources, and because of the ease of two- way communication in social situations. Similarly, the buyer may more actively seek information from his social environment, particularly evalu— ative information. Thus, the foregoing discussion of the commercial and social environments must be qualified by the perceptual eliects inevitable in any information processing. Exogenous Variables As mentioned earlier, there are several influences operating on the buyer's decisions which we treat as exogenous: that is, we do not explain their formation and change. Many ofthese influences come from the buyer’s social environment, and we wish to separate those effects of his environ- ment which have occurred in the past and are not related to a specific de- cision. from those which are current and do directly affect the decisions that occur while the buyer is being observed. The inputs that occur during the observation period provide information to the buyer to help his current decision making. Past influences are already embedded in the values of the perceptual and learning constructs. These exogenous variables are particularly appropriate as marketnsegmenting variables. because they are causally linked to purchase. Strictly speaking, there is no need for exogenous variables, since in the social sciences these forces are traditionally left to ceteris paribus. We Will bring them out explicitly, however, for the sake of research design, so that a researcher may control or take into account the individual difi‘er- ences among buyers that are due to past influence. Incorporating the elfects of these exogenous variables reduces the unexplained variance, or error in estimation which it is particularly essential to control under field con- ditions. Figure 1 presents a set of exogenous variables which we believe provide the control essential to obtaining sat: "actory predictive relations between the inputs and outputs of the system. Imporfmtce ofpurchase refers to differential degrees of ego-involve- ment in or commitment to different product classes. It is therefore an entity which must be carefully examined in inter-product studies. Impor- tance of purchase wiil influence the size of the evoked set and the magni- tude of the search for information. For example, the more important the 456 Part V’: Comprehensive Models of Consumer Behavior product class, the larger is the evoked set (Howard and Moore. 1963). Tln‘h? pressure is a current exogenous variable and therefore specific to a decision situation. When a buyer feels pre d for time, because of any of several environmental influences. he must .locate his time among alternative uses. in this process a reallocation unfavorable to purchasing activity can occur: Time pressure will create inhibition; as mentioned earlier, t will also unfavorably affect the search for information. _ Financial status refers to the constraint 3 buyer may feel because he lacks financial resources. This can affect his purchase behavior by creating a barrier (inhibitor: to purchasing the most preferred brand. For example, a buyer may want to purchase an expensive foreign car, but lacking sulfi- cient financial resource, he will settle for a low-priced American model. Personality traits are such variables as selfvconfidence, self-esteem, authoritarianism, and anxiety, which have been researched to identify individual differences. These individual differences are "topic free” and therefore supposedly exert their effect across product classes. We believe their effect is felt on (1) nonspecific motives and :21 the evoked set. For example, the more anxious a person, the greater his motivational arousal; dominant personalities are more likely (by a small margin! to buy a Ford instead of a Chevrolet; the more authoritarian a person, the narrower the category width of his evoked set. _ Social and organizational setting involves the group, a higher level of social organization than the individual It includes informal social organization, such as family and reference groups, which is relevant for consumer behavior; and formal organization, which constitutes much of the environment for industrial purchasing, Organizational variables are those of small group interaction, such as power, status. and authority. We be- lieve that the underlying processes of interg‘roup conflict in both indus- trial and consumer buying behavior are in principle very similar, and that the differences are largely due to the formal nature of industrial activity. Organization, both formal and social, is d crucial variable because - it. influences most of the learning constructs. Social class involves a still higher level of social organization, the social aggregate. Several indices are available to classify people socially. Perhaps the most common index is Warner's classification (see Ch 5, this book). Social class mediates the relation between input and output by in- fluencing (1) specific motives. (2) decision mediators. 13) the evoked set, and (4) inhibitors The latter influence is important. particularly in the adoption of innovations. Culture provides a more comprehensive social framework than social class. It consists of patterns of behavior, symbols. ideas. and their attached values. Culture will influence motives, decision mediators, and inhibitors. Conclusions In the preceding pages we have summarized a theory of_buyer brand choice. lt is complex. but we strongly believe that complexity is essential to an adequate description of buying behavior. We hope that our theory will provide new insights into past empirical data, and guide future research by instilling coherence and unity into Nicosia: Consumer Behavior and Computer Stipulation current research. which now tends to be atomistic and unrelated. Modeis can be constructed of the relations between the output intervening vari- ables, and a splendid beginning along these lines has been carried out by Day (1967). Also, as the hypothetical constructs are explored, elements of the constructs will be broken out and better defined, so that these ele- ments can be invested with the operational status of intervening variables. McClelland’s work with achievement, for example, has shown how this transformation can occur with motive In this way our theory suggests specific programs of research. We are vigorously pursuing a large research program aimed at test- ing the validity of this theory. The research was designed in terms of the variables specified by the theory, and our preliminary results lead us to believe that it was fruitful to use the theory in this way. Because it speci- fies a number of relationships, it has clearly been useful in interpreting preliminary findings. Above all, it is a great aid in communication among the researchers and with the companies involved. Finally. a number of new ideas are set forth in the theory, but we would like to call attention to three in particular. The concept of evoked set provides a means of reducing the noise in many analyses of buying behavior. The product class concept offers a new dimension for incorpo- rating many of the complexities of innovation, and especially for integrat» ing systematically the idea of innovation into a framework of psychological constructs. Anthropologists and sociologists have been generally content to deal with peripheral variables and to omit the psychological constructs which link the peripheral variables to behavior. The habit-perception cycle in which perception and habit respond inversely offers hope for explaining, to a great extent, the phenomenon which has long bafiled both critics and defenders of adVertising: large advertising expenditures in a stable market, where, on the surface. it would seem that buyers are already sated with information. 431 ...
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