Subjective knowledge affects consumer searching & selections

January 07, 2005

Most of us know very little about health; yet we think we do. This marks the difference between objective knowledge--that which we know--and subjective knowledge--those beliefs about what we think we know. This is the reason why a healthy-minded shopper might pass over the frozen food isle for the fresh veggies or sugary cereals for the granola and bran.

An article in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research seeks to explain how subjective knowledge takes over decision-making in the marketplace and even effects where in the store one shops as much affecting the brands that she or he chooses to buy. "For example, if consumers believe they are knowledgeable about health, this should increase the likelihood they will locate themselves proximate to stimuli associated with that knowledge--such as healthy places in the store," write the authors of the study, Christine Moorman, of Duke University, and her colleagues.

The findings presented in the article represent three studies that sought to test the premise that consumers would flock to the areas of stores that were consistent with their subjective values. Indeed, this is what the authors found. The implications of this work are immensely interesting considering the prolific role of branding when it comes to marketing.

The authors conclude that rather than brand, consumers are more interested with the region of the store that best fits what they're looking to buy. "Our findings also support prior policy recommendations that product category choice may be more important to quality outcomes than brand choice."
From: Subjective Knowledge, Search Locations, and Consumer Choice. CHRISTINE MOORMAN, KRISTIN DIEHL, DAVID BRINBERG, BLAIR KIDWELL.

University of Chicago Press Journals

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