Consumer Learning to be wary of

There's only so much we can do in influencing Jaden, as he grows up. I mean in trying to instill what we believe is polite behaviour. For example, we try and prevent any kind of whining, telling him there are things he can have and things he can't. And then out of the blue, once a while, he comes home and tries tantrums to get something he wants. At first we would be surprised at his changed tantrum strategy. Because it is out of the ordinary for him. Then we realise, he's picked the behaviour from elsewhere. Watching some other kid use the tactic on his parents. And so he learns from observing such behavior (learned termed, vicarious learning) and then tries it home.

Our task now gets harder in trying to undo what's been instilled 'from the outside'.

Consumers too get material to learn from, about brands, from two sources. One's the firm's marketing efforts and the other's the socio-cultural environment. What remains within the firm's control is its own marketing efforts, which it uses to build right perceptions and attitudes towards its brands. But then, out of the blue comes along reference groups that reek the socio-cultural environment, exhibiting behaviour that is lapped up by the consumer. Leading to consumers learning something drastically different (hopefully not) about the brand from what the firm tried to cultivate. Such learning that may run at cross-purposes from the firm's efforts can be devastating to a brand. It now becomes important for the brand to undo such 'externalised learning' to reinforce what its being saying all along with its own marketing efforts. Else, the brand may even have to take the road of no-return.

Its for this reason that PR and Publicity becomes critical for any brand. Note, advertising can only do that much. For brands to cement learning in the minds of consumers, they have to use neutral sources in the socio-cultural environment to 'seal' the message.

As for us, we can only hope Jaden picks up what's polite behaviour through vicarious learning. For we will only be able to 'undo' till a certain time, a certain age. But again, we are comforted by the fact that a healthy, inclusive, tolerant and faith-filled environment at home should be the best defence to influences from the 'outside'.


Companies should keep track of major public opinion/views/gossip and try to address them.

Ex: ICICI credit cards have the reputation of hidden charges, recovery agents (glorified term for goons)!

Similarly, Airtel (postpaid) has the reputation of false bills.

Examples abound.

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