NEW YORK -- A new study of consumer behavior has found that promotion is a crucial trigger in trials of branded packaged goods. The consumers, who were surveyed in shopping malls using a video touch-screen system, named promotion -- in the form of sampling, coupons and sale prices -- as the largest reason for initially trying a brand. The study was sponsored by the Promotion Marketing Association of America.
Promotion also plays a significant part in bringing consumers back for repeat purchases, the study found, second only to their level of satisfaction with the product.
PMAA released some the study's findings here earlier this month, and will issue a complete report of the research at its Update Conference next week in Chicago.
In the study, shoppers in nine geographically dispersed malls were exposed to eight major brands in each of three categories: ready-to-eat cereal, bar soap and salty snacks.
The consumers answered questions about which brands were their favorites, why they make repeat purchases and other factors determining their shopping behavior for the products under review. For each category, the survey netted about 250 to 300 respondents.
Forty-nine percent of them said the primary reason they continue to purchase their favorite brand is that it "works better" or the "family likes it better." In addition, 28% said promotions prompted their return to a brand.
Three fourths of consumers rated the brands they buy most often as "very much or slightly better" than other brands. However, 70% gave the same rating to brands they buy only occasionally, which PMAA said indicates "there is a substantial set of brands viewed as being about the same, and the purchase decision may be governed by factors other than the brand itself."
This flexible attitude towards brands leaves open an opportunity for advertising and promotion to influence those buying decisions. Steven Kingsbury, chairman of PMAA's research committee, said, "Advertising influences a consumer's willingness to take advantage of promotions in the first place, and creates a perceived advantage for the brand when promotions are equivalent among brands and the products are seen as equal."
Consumers also identified the brands they had not purchased in several months or had never purchased. Overall, the most often stated reason for not purchasing certain brands more frequently was that the brands they were buying frequently already met their needs. Lack of promotion was typically the next most significant reason for passing over a given brand.