Research Proposal

The impact of emotional confidence on purchase behavior

A general overview of the area of study

The issue of purchase behavior is one of the most crucial areas of study in the field of marketing. Purchase behavior is influenced by many factors, one of them being emotional confidence. Although many studies have been done on this subject, many questions remain unanswered. One of them is the impact of emotional confidence on purchase behavior among consumers in the market.

Purchase behavior refers to the process through which consumers engage in the tasks of searching for, identifying, selecting, purchasing, using, and disposing of goods and services to satisfy their wants and needs. In consumer purchase behavior, focus is on how individuals go about the task of allocating their available resources such as effort, time, and money in the goal of consuming various products and services. This behavior entails issues such as what people buy, reasons for buying it, the timing of purchase decisions, and where the purchase is made. The purchase behavior of consumers is also manifested through the information they acquire and how they use it. For this reason, it is important for marketers to communicate with customers and to receive feedback from them. This communication plays a critical role in influencing consumer behavior.  

 As an academic area of study, purchase behavior addresses issues relating to how individuals, groups, and organizations undertake the task of selecting, using, and disposing of products, user experiences, services, or ideas with the aim of satisfying their needs. This field of study also focuses on how these processes impact on the consumer as well as society.

Emotional confidence is the ability by an individual to exhibit a particular emotional disposition consistently for an extended duration. In marketing context, emotional confidence is considered a crucial concept in efforts to explain why different consumers behave differently when confronted with the same marketing messages for an extended period. Those who easily give in to persuasive messages to buy products they do not need and/or cannot afford are said to lack emotional confidence. In contrast, some people confidently adopt a focused, rational approach regardless of the level of emotional outburst triggered by an advert to buy only the items that they need and can afford.

One of the difficulties that one can anticipate during this study is about the abstract nature of the theme of emotional confidence. The aim of this paper is to confront this theme head-on and investigate the meaning of emotional confidence in business context and the various ways in which it impacts on purchase behavior among consumers.

There are many ways in which my marketing career will greatly contribute to my ability to undertake a project in this field. For instance, I will be able to build my arguments around universal principles of marketing as well as marketing theory. Moreover, my marketing career places me in a position where I appreciate the need to establish a formidable link between theory and practice in my analysis of empirical evidence. I also appreciate the fact that knowledge of core marketing concepts is crucial in my ability to critique various positions made regarding emotional confidence and its influence on behavior among customers. Moreover, my grounding in this career will enable me identify the most crucial findings as far as the study and practice of marketing is concerned.

A contextual summary of research in this area

A number of theories have been developed in the analysis of emotional confidence and its effects on purchase behavior. For instance, an attempt has been made to establish the relationship between personality and consumer behavior using the psychoanalytic theory of personality (Kassarjian, 1971). In this context, emotional confidence the assumption is that an association with the personality of the individual exists (Kassarjian, 1971). A consumer’s emotional confidence is viewed as a component of his personality. The main problem with the personality-based approach is that scholars do not agree on the meaning of personality except to link it to the notion of consistency in responses to the stimuli surrounding the person (Kassarjian, 1971).

In the case of Swinyard & Smith (1983), focus is on the concept of attitude-behavior consistency in the analysis of direct and indirect consumer experience. According to Swinyard & Smith (1983), consistency in consumer behavior tends to change depending on the level of consistency in which advertising messages are presented. For example, according to Swinyard & Smith (1983), product advertising inspires more emotional confidence among consumers than product trials. On this basis, Swinyard & Smith (1983) argue that one can predict product demand and sales. Nevertheless, Swinyard & Smith (1983) point out that attitude-behavior consistency may be significantly reduced whenever attitudes form the basis of advertising. In terms of theoretical framework, Swinyard & Smith (1983) present their arguments in the context of the so-called new communications model.

Westbrook (1991) introduces a new perspective by arguing that consumption emotion occurs during the post-purchase period. According to Westbrook (1991), identifying patterns of emotional response on the part of consumers is critical in determining their level of emotional confidence. Westbrook’s (1991) study identifies three affective dimensions; namely pleasant surprise, hostility, and interest. The argument raised in this study is that the affective-response space is a critical factor in determining consumers’ emotional confidence.

In many studies, different terms are used in discussions on emotional confidence. For example, Bearden & Hardesty (2001) uses the term “consumer self-confidence”. In this study, the aim was to measure multiple dimensions of this type of self-confidence. Using scale-development procedures, Bearden & Hardesty (2001) came up with a correlated model made up of six factors, namely, information acquisition, persuasion knowledge, social outcomes, consideration-set formation, personal outcomes, and market interfaces.

Emotional confidence is also considered one of the antecedents of  subjective knowledge about products. Purchase behavior takes shape as consumers start using this subjective knowledge as a basis for making decisions. In marketing literature, the impact of emotional confidence is also greatly informed by the notion of self-esteem borrowed largely from psychology. Most of the literature that adopts this approach relates to consumer and marketing research. In this research, the issue of emotional confidence and its effects on purchase behavior is explored largely from two perspectives. The first one entails the use of field survey tests whereby self-confidence is regarded as one of the main determinants of marketing-oriented knowledge attributes and individual characteristics. The second perspective involves the use of laboratory experiments in which interpersonal and advertising influences are explored.

One of the reasons for adopting the self-esteem approach is that high-esteem persons are widely regarded as being more confident in their individual judgments. Consequently, it becomes more difficult for them to be influenced by the opinions of others. Another reason is that high-esteem persons are more likely to be living with the belief that other people regard them positively. Therefore, unlike low-esteem persons, they are not preoccupied with the fear of rejection. In simple terms, therefore, self-esteem is viewed as a reflection of consumer self-confidence. On this basis, marketing theorists seek to establish a pattern of effects on purchase behavior.

Another approach is the comparative view involving emotional versus rational decision-making. In this approach, one of the main challenges faced by marketing researchers is that emotion is not a well-defined concept. This is the case in both psychology and in marketing. In general terms, it is defined as a process of interaction between physiology and cognition, whereby the body influences the mind and vice versa. Bodily changes occur on the physiological realm while disturbance or excitement characterized by a strong feeling occurs in the mental realm in the process of expressing emotions.

Emotions seem to belong to the category of natural phenomena governed by certain biological mechanisms beyond human control. On the contrary, rational thinking is widely regarded as a voluntary undertaking, which can be learned and controlled by the individual. Internationally, advertising strategists have for decades been expressing the view that emotional appeals reach a wider audience than “thinking” appeals. This is largely because of the assumption that certain emotions, for example love and happiness, are universally shared.

De Mooij (2011) observes that a number of studies have been done on  the role of emotions in cross-cultural advertising. In many of these studies, efforts have been made to measure differences in the persuasiveness of various emotional appeals in collectivist and individualist cultures (De Mooij, 2011). In the experimental approach, alternative or mock advertisements are presented, each with a different emotional appeal (De Mooij, 2011). Each of them is hypothesized to have more appeal to persons belonging to one culture than to those belonging to the other. For example, a comparison may be made between other-focused emotions and ego-based emotions. In such studies, the logical approach is used to ensure that other variables remain constant with the aim being to succeed in isolating the effects of different appeals. Such studies are of utmost relevance in marketing research because it is virtually impossible for a culture-free context to exist.

The main weakness of the cross-cultural approach to the study of emotions in consumer research is that it does not dwell much on the issue of emotional confidence (Boyatzis, 1999). No efforts are made to highlight differences in consumer confidence among different cultures. Moreover, the concept of emotional confidence is not properly elaborated on. In most cases, researchers focus on the subject of emotional intelligence, which appears radically different from that of emotional confidence (Boyatzis, 1999).

From this literature, it is evident that various factors relating to emotional confidence have an influence on the way consumer behavior shapes up. Most of these factors are context-related. They include information acquisition, cultural considerations,  persuasion strategies of advertisers, personal and social outcomes, and market interfaces. Other crucial factors include level of motivation and personality of the buyer.

Regarding buyers’ personality, efforts have been made to establish categories. One of the most widely discussed categories is that of impulsive buyers. Almost everyone engages in impulse buying at one time or the other. Impulse buying takes place without much deliberation, mostly in response to a sudden, powerful urge to purchase a certain product immediately. Literature suggests that this element of consumer behavior is one of the main indicators of lack of emotional confidence.

Advertisers are constantly looking for “episodes of emotional weakness” that drive buyers towards engaging in impulse buying (Rook, 1995). This is perhaps the main reason why research on this area focuses mainly on the individuals’ characteristics that predispose them to become impulsive buyers. One would expect the theme of emotional confidence to feature prominently in this research. Unfortunately, it does not. According to Weinberg & Gottwald (1982), impulse buying typically involves purchases with low cognitive control, high emotional activation, and a reactive behavior.

One of the most common ways in which the resources required for self-control are depleted is when advertisers glorify impulse buying (Rook, 1995). By doing this, consumers are duped into making inaccurate normative judgments regarding the appropriateness of impulsive buying. This approach works well particularly for individuals  with low self-esteem, low emotional confidence, or those who fear social rejection.

Advertisers have in many cases been in the forefront in promoting stereotypes that deplete resources for self-control. For example, when an advert promotes racial stereotypes indicating that black people always face the risk of rejection with the aim of selling a skin-bleaching lotion, it may create the impression that every black person must buy this lotion or else he or she will face social rejection. This understanding of the advert may influence many black people to buy the lotion.

In brief, the main findings in this field of research suggest that consumers with little or no emotional confidence yield to the temptation to buy even those things that they do not really need. A lot of emphasis is on impulsive buying. The aim of this paper is to “scratch the surface” by making preliminary contributions to research on emotional confidence and its impact on purchase behavior. In this regard, focus is mainly on the tendency by consumers to engage in impulse buying. Some of the variables that are of relevance in this study include personality characteristics, mood states, and situation factors such depletion of and proximity to all the resources required for self-control.

Key research questions

The following are the research questions for this research proposal:

  1. Which components of emotional confidence influence purchase behavior?
  2. In which ways does emotional confidence impact on purchase behavior?
  3. In which ways is impulsive buying a reflection of the power of emotional confidence as one of the antecedents of consumer behavior?
  4. What is the relationship between personality and consumer confidence in the context of purchase behavior?
  5. Which theoretical framework best explains the tendency by advertisers to take advantage of consumers’ lack of confidence to sell products?
  6. What is the relationship between self-esteem and consumer confidence in the context of purchase behavior
  7. To what extent are cross-cultural factors important in the understanding of consumer confidence?

In terms of methodology, this research paper will adopt a qualitative approach. This approach has numerous advantages. One of them is that it provides a platform for rigorous analysis of different variables that ought to be focused on for quality improvement to be achieved. In the context of this research paper, the goal of improving the way consumers, sellers, and advertisers behave is critical. Moreover,  the choice of this research methodology is in line with current practices in the world of academia. In today’s world of academia, a qualitative approach is called for whenever the research questions require an in-depth understanding of events, processes, and relationships in the context of socio-cultural situations. In the present paper, the issues of emotional confidence and purchase behavior are embedded in the socio-cultural contexts in which they occur, hence the choice of the qualitative approach.

In this approach, the objective is not to generate numerical data refuting or supporting clearly outlined hypotheses. Rather, researchers focus on producing factual descriptions on the basis of knowledge of social groups and individuals within natural settings. Qualitative research is suitable for researchers who want to obtain insights into phenomena about which they have little knowledge. In the context of this research paper, one fact that has emerged is that the theme of emotional confidence in relation to purchase behavior has not been widely explored. Through the qualitative approach, I am confident of succeeding in providing in-depth description of knowledge, procedures, and beliefs relating to the topic under study. 

Towards meeting the procedural requirements of the qualitative approach, this paper will make maximum use of the university library. The university library is a source of numerous academic materials that are excellent sources of primary and secondary data. One of the potential problems is the tendency by the university staff to impose restrictions on access to certain crucial sources of data. I intend to overcome this problem by liaising with the head of department, who I am confident will assist me with the process of seeking clearance from the chief librarian to be able to have unlimited access to all available scholarly sources in the library.

A prediction of the expected outcomes of your research

I expect that this research will shed more light on emotional confidence as an antecedent of purchase behavior. I also expect that that the issue of impulsive buying will emerge as one of the ways in which purchase behavior is manifested among individuals. Ultimately, I look forward to deriving findings that will promote a sense of responsibility among advertisers. The expectation in this regard is that marketers and advertisers will refrain from presenting adverts that exploit consumers weaknesses such as low esteem, fear of rejection, and fear of racial and gender stereotypes.

Theoretically, I intend to make an original contribution by demonstrating my reasons for accepting the six-factor correlated model proposed by Bearden & Hardesty (2001). The six factors highlighted in this model include information acquisition, persuasion knowledge, social outcomes, consideration-set formation, personal outcomes, and market interfaces. I hope to disapprove the tendency by advertisers and marketers to promote unethical values that encourage impulsive buying. I also want to prove that dishonesty among advertisers is not a sustainable practice since it ultimately leads to inappropriate purchase behavior.

I also look forward to highlighting not only the importance of the emotional confidence debate but also how it relates to personality, self-esteem, and general self-confidence, and cross-cultural factors influencing purchase behavior, subjective decision-making, and the ability to resist the temptation to purchase things that one does not need. The paper will also fill the research gaps existing in literature on emotional confidence and its impact on purchase behavior. This gap is evident in the fact that very few researchers have attempted to establish a direct relationship between these two variables. This contribution will be useful in extending the understanding of topics such as self-esteem, personality, impulsiveness, and self-confidence, all of which relate to both marketing and psychology.

References

Bearden, W. & Hardesty, D. (2001). Consumer Self‐Confidence: Refinements in Conceptualization and Measurement. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 121-134.

Boyatzis, R. (1999). Clustering competence in emotional intelligence: Insights from the Emotional Competence Inventory (ECI). Blackwell Publishing, New York.

De Mooij, M. (2011). Consumer Behavior and Culture: Consequences for Global Marketing and Advertising (2nd Edition). Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks.

Kassarjian, H. (1971).  Personality and Consumer Behavior: A Review. Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 409-418.

Rook, D. (1995). Normative Influences on Impulsive Buying Behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 305-313.

Smith, R. & Swinyard, W. (1983). Attitude-Behavior Consistency: The Impact of Product Trial Versus Advertising. Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 20, No. 5, pp. 257-267.

Weinberg, P. & Gottwald, W. (1982). Impulsive consumer buying as a result of emotions. Journal of Business Research, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 43–57.

Westbrook, R. (1991). The Dimensionality of Consumption Emotion Patterns and Consumer Satisfaction. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 84-91.

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