The hottest topic on everyone’s tongues these days is the upcoming election. In following the campaign, I started thinking about how a presidential election is very much like the consumer buying process in marketing.
The buying process consists of 5 typical stages that customers go through in making a purchase decision. On several levels, choosing a presidential candidate is the highest weighted purchase decision a person can make.
The stages of the buying process include:
1. Needs Recognition & Problem Awareness
2. Information Search
3. Evaluation of Alternatives
5. Post Purchase Evaluation
Needs recognition and problem awareness are the main factors that influence the presidential candidates’ overall campaigns. All parties thoroughly research what the public’s wants, needs and demands are from a leader; and then the candidates take a stance on those issues and target their campaigns toward those individuals.
In the second stage of information search, information is either gathered through public, personal or commercial sources. During presidential campaigning, you see a plethora of commercial advertising but the bigger influences in these decisions come from personal and public opinions. The mass media coverage and the debates between the candidates are all examples of public forums that influence behavior and decisions. But it almost always falls down to personal opinions, beliefs and values that affect your ultimate vote.
The third stage of evaluating alternatives comes into major play when the election is down to its two final candidates [as it is now]. In this stage, the degree of value each candidate brings to the public will overcome other influences. Value-added traits include major changes in policies and laws and issues that directly affect each individual’s well-being. This stage often results in people attaching a weighted functionality to every specific trait of each candidate and then summing up which candidate has more points in their favor as a whole. This strategy helps quantify a difficult and ambiguous decision.
The fourth stage is the purchase which in this case would be the vote. After the thorough research and evaluation takes place, people either pick a side or decide not to vote at all. Not voting can be a result of lack of clear and concise communication between the campaigns and the public.
The buying process does not end at the purchase. Post purchase evaluation always capstones the satisfaction the consumer received from the purchase. In more than 60% of major purchase decisions, consumers experience post-purchase dissonance which is commonly known as “buyer’s remorse.” This results from a cognitive feud where the value of the purchase does not exceed the weight of its importance. This happens when the performance of the product or service did not meet expectations as originally thought.
In the presidential election, a lot of people feel cognitive dissonance after the President’s first term is complete. In fact, this is THE stage that most Americans are currently in right now. After President Obama’s first term, people are now reevaluating the alternatives and searching for more information because of their view of poor performance on Obama’s part.
This final stage is crucial in the consumer buying process as it defines marketing and consumer behavior at its core: will this purchase decision result in repeat and loyal business? People who were unsatisfied with Obama’s performance are now experiencing exactly this – Should we reelect a candidate who, even though is superior to his alternative, disappointed us in the first place?
From a consumer perspective, what would you decide?