Sit in on: Consumer Behavior

As part of our monthly series of remarkable Bradley courses, we share the details of a marketing class that explores how culture shapes consumer behavior.

Jim Muncy illustration

You’re taking: Consumer Behavior, a course that applies behavioral science to the understanding of consumer decision-making.

Your professor is: Jim Muncy, professor of marketing.

You’ll learn: Culture shapes what we buy. “We crawl into the consumer’s mind. We look at their information processing: how they’re persuaded, their attitudes and their personalities,” Muncy said. “It’s psychological, sociological, cultural — anything that relates to human behavior and what makes people buy what they buy.”

You’ll discover: The best product doesn’t always win. What makes a consumer open their wallets is more complicated. Muncy emphasizes to students that you can have the most effective product in the world, but if you don’t connect with customers on an emotional, immediate and cultural level, your product will not resonate.

“I’m trying to reorient my students’ thinking toward marketing; it is more than just telling the consumer, ‘This is my product’ without considering the plethora of factors that affect their behavior,” Muncy said. “You don’t know how much a culture’s (affecting) you on a daily basis, but almost everything that you buy is at least some way culturally determined. Social class and demographics also influence purchase decisions, so you have to consider them.”

A big takeaway is: Persuasion skills are essential if you want people to buy your products.Jack Martinez ‘19 said the techniques he learned to influence buyers ranged from understanding human memory to what motivates consumers.

“Internal and external factors sculpt the way consumers perceive brands or products based on their attitudes, knowledge, values, reference groups and social class,” he said. “Consumers make decisions based on how they evaluate information, the emotions that brands or products stimulate, the need for expedience, and how an individual can express himself or herself through meanings associated to a brand.”

When you leave the class, you’ll understand: How Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion — authority, liking, reciprocity, consistency, consensus or social proof, and scarcity — can be leveraged to motivate consumers.

“When you buy that box of Cheerios, all you’re thinking is, ‘I like Cheerios’ when you put them in the cart,” Muncy said. “However, it goes a lot deeper than that and if you’re going to have a career in marketing, you need to understand that need them to go beyond saying, ‘Yes, I like how my Cheerios taste.’ We explore how to get consumers to do what we want in this course.”

What your classmates are saying: Martinez said this quote from Dale Carnegie’s iconic book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” exemplifies the value of the Consumer Behavior course: “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”