Understanding the Theory of Planned Behavior

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We always want to understand why people do things they do, and for marketers, it is very intriguing to know why someone bought one brand over the other. This helps them identify what they can do to make those customers buy their brands. Here comes The Theory of Planned Behavior, which states that three factors affect a person’s intention.

  1. Attitude- towards the product
  2. Subjective Norm- attitudes and behavior of people and society that are considered normal towards the product
  3. Perceived Control- the action that the person is likely to take

I can relate it to one of my friends; he was looking to buy an SUV. He was comparing two brands Honda and Mazda. There was an offer on Honda, and it cost four thousand dollars less, with most of the features the same as Mazda. He had a perception that Honda’s service is better as well as the resale value. He also knew that his father and brother like Honda more than Mazda. So, what we have here-

  1. Attitude towards having Honda has better service and resale value
  2. Subjective Norm that his family members prefer Honda
  3. Perceived Behavior Control (PBC) that he can purchase Honda with the money he has.

So here we can predict his perceived intention that my friend will buy Honda. Things could have been different if people around him liked Mazda, then he would have thought of buying Mazda, and if it mattered to him what his family thinks, he would almost certainly buy Mazda. So we see that all the three variables, Attitude, Subjective Norm, and Perceived Behavior Control, affect intention. Whichever has a higher value to the person affects their decision or intension towards buying.

Of all the three variables, it is easier to influence PBC through marketing promotions and communications; a marketer has to create ads that make people more confident about their purchase and feel that they control the decision-making process. Changing attitude and subjective norms can take time and often happens when a brand performs consistently over time.

The theory of Planned Behavior allows businesses to predict that a person will intend to behave in a certain way. It also provides an understanding of the factors that influence the decision. This marketing experiment might be old but also quite useful.

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