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Understanding Consumer Attitude
The functional theory of attitudes was initially developed by psychologist Daniel Katz to explain how attitudes facilitate social behavior. According to this pragmatic approach, attitudes exist because they serve some function for the person. That is, they are determined by a person's motives. Consumers who expect that they will need to deal with similar information at a future time will be more likely to start forming attitudes in anticipation.

Two people can each have an attitude toward some object for very different reasons. It follows that an advertiser must know why an attitude is held before attempting to change it. The following are attitude functions as identified by Katz.

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UTILITARIAN FUNCTION Utilitarian function is related to the basic principles of reward and punishment. We develop some attitudes toward products simply on the basis of whether these products provide pleasure or pain. If a person likes the taste of a cheeseburger, that person will develop a positive attitude toward cheeseburgers. Ads that stress straightforward product benefits (e.g., you should drink Diet Coke "just for the taste of it") appeal to the utilitarian function.

VALUE-EXPRESSIVE FUNCTION Attitudes that perform a value-expressive function express the consumer's central values or self-concept. A person forms a product attitude not because of objective product benefits, but rather because of what using the product says about him or her as a person (e.g., "What sort of man reads Playboy?"). Value-expressive attitudes are highly relevant to life-style analyses, where consumers cultivate a cluster of activities, interests, and opinions to express a particular social identity.

EGO-DEFENSIVE FUNCTION Attitudes that are formed to protect the person, either from external threats or internal feelings of insecurity, perform an ego-defensive function. An early marketing study indicated that housewives in the 1950s resisted the use of instant coffee because it threatened their conception of themselves as capable honiemakers. Products that promise to help a man project a "macho" image (e.g., Marlboro cigarettes) may be appealing to his insecurities about his masculinity. Many deodorant campaigns stress the dire, embarrassing consequences of being caught with underarm odor in public.

KNOWLEDGE FUNCTION Some attitudes are formed as the result of a need for order, structure, or meaning. This need is often present when a person is in an ambiguous situation or is confronted with a new product (e.g., "Bayer wants you to know about pain relievers").

An attitude can serve more than one function, but in many cases a particular one will be dominant. Identifying the dominant function served can be helpful to marketers, who can structure ad copy to emphasize it over another. Ads relevant to the function engaged by a product prompt more favorable thoughts about what is being marketed and result in a heightened preference for both the product and the ad.

For example, a recent study determined that for most people coffee serves more of a utilitarian function than a value-expressive function. As a consequence, subjects responded more positively to copy for a (fictitious) coffee that read: "The delicious, hearty flavor and aroma of Sterling Blend coffee comes from a blend of the freshest coffee beans" (utilitarian appeal) than to: "The coffee you drink says something about the type of person you are. It can reveal your rare, discriminating taste" (value-expressive function).

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Source of Reference:
Michael Solomon, Consumer Behavior, Prentice Hall. You can obtain this excellent book here