Consumer Involvement Theory

Consumer involvement Theory - CIT - is one way to understand the psychology and behavior of your target audience. There are others, including consumer research, but none quite so quick, simple and insightful.

Here's how CIT works:

Involvement refers to how much time, thought, energy and other resources people devote to the purchase process.

The Emotional / Rational scale is a measure of reason vs. impulse, desire vs. logic, passion vs. prudence. That sort of psycho stuff.

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There are four general categories. And we can plot examples on a grid.

- High involvement / emotional

- High involvement / rational

- Low involvement / emotional

- Low involvement / rational

High involvement / rational
In this category you find expensive business purchases: anything relating to the technological infrastructure, the office location and lease, as well as the company health insurance plan.

On the consumer side, high involvement / rational purchases tend to be linked to high cost. This category can include financial services and products, the purchase of a home or car, as well as major appliances and electronics.

That said, high involvement consumer purchases can vary significantly on the rational / emotional scale from individual to individual. For Ms. Smith, a car is strictly a way to get to work, and her selection is based on fuel economy and reliability. For Mr. Wilson, a car is an important expression of his status and ego.

Your task is to determine how the majority of your target market relates to the purchase of the particular product or service.

For both B2C and BtoB markets, advertising for Hi/R purchases tend to be copy driven, with clear explanations of features and benefits.

High involvement / emotional
Business purchases that fall into this category might include such things as office design, advertising, and perhaps the hiring of certain employees.

For individuals, high involvement / emotional purchases can include jewelry, weddings, and holiday travel plans. In some societies the selection of a husband or wife will fall into group. As can the purchase of a home or car. Again, depends on the culture, person, and how much purchasing power she has.

Advertising in this category tends to focus on visual and emotional appeals. Give people visual details, with music.

Low involvement / rational
These are the things we buy out of habit, without much thought. This category includes most of the things you put into your basket at the drug store or market. The places you eat lunch, say the local McDonald's. And office supplies.

Here the typical role for advertising is to get people to sample or switch. To break the automatic habit of spending their money with the competitor. So consider consider coupons and other incentives. As well as ways to differentiate or re-position the product.

Over the counter medicines tend to fall into this category. But pain relievers, cough medicines and the like, especially those for children, can be more emotionally driven. In that case, see the LI/E below.

Low involvement / emotional
The gratification we get from these products is emotional or sensual. But fleeting; it doesn't last a long time. So we don't spend a lot of time thinking about the purchase. Movies, candy, an entertaining magazine, or a birthday card. Perhaps selecting a restaurant for a special occasion.

The advertising challenge here tends to be the flash promise of pleasure, of gratification, the promise of a benefit. Strong positioning can help, especially in a crowded product category.

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