Monday, September 24, 2007

Expects revisited

Chapter 3 of my next book, Consommation et luxe (Consumption and luxury), is devoted to the study of expects (this a contraction of expectancies or expectations, a catchy term I have coined to best translate the French notion of «attentes». Here is an excerpt.

The theory of the needs, still used today as the basis of marketing by the vast majority of theorists of this discipline, must be replaced by a theory of expects, which better renders the complexity of purchase behaviour. (See B. Duguay, Consommation et image de soi, Montréal Liber, 2005. Also see R. Rochefort, La société des consommateurs, Paris, Odile Jacob, 1995.) Here is a graphical representation of this concept, which I refer to as the «Ring of expects» (PDF format). To better understanding the notion of expect, let us consider the purchase of a car. One may buy a specific model for various reasons: its low fuel consumption (makes functional expect), its reputation (symbolic expect), the image one wishes to project (aspirational expect), the driving pleasure (sensory expect), its reasonable price (financial expect), the dealer’s or salesman’s warm welcome (relational expect), the use of recycled materials in its construction (societal expect), the unique look of this model (aesthetic expect), the detailed and user-friendly information supplied by the manufacturer (informational expect), the speed of delivery (temporal expect). The final choice will undoubtedly take into account several factors, perhaps even all, each being weighted on a scale unique to each buyer.

An expect must be seen as a requirement the consumer wants to satisfy. It clarifies the hazy notion of need without translating immediately and obligatorily into a desire. If one’s most important expects with regards to a product are satisfied, this person may develop a desire for this good or service, desire which may later materialize in a want followed by a purchase. Contrary to needs, which marketing claim to be inborn and thus firmly anchored in the human being, expects are determined by countless elements; in the very first place, advertising and all other commercial communication actions, but also values of the society to which an individual belongs, his personal evolution, the product of technological development, largely broadcasted by all information channels … in short all stimuli to which a person is exposed. It is essential to understand that to each consumer expect corresponds an element, in the broadest sense, of the product; thus, to answer the functional expect of a durable garment, the product will have to call for a material which will ensure this durability, while communications will have to take part in building an image of durability.

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