Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Linking Customers and Products by Means-End Chain Analysis

Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Linking Customers and Products by Means-End Chain Analysis

Article excerpt

When making purchasing decisions, customers evaluate products from the perspective of the benefits they provide and values that they hold. Means-end theory implies that the efficiency of marketing strategies and promotional activities are based on the solidness and consistency of linkages between product attributes, benefits and values. To analyze these linkages with customers of Slovenian furniture products, a laddering methodology was applied. The results show that nine dominant chains exist which link the most important attributes with the desired benefits and values. The findings of the laddering analysis were also used as a basis for an assessment of Slovene furniture company advertisements. This assessment shows that furniture advertisements in the Slovene market are still mainly product focused and they fail to emphasize the desired benefits and/or values.

1. INTRODUCTION

In marketing, the importance of thinking about products in terms of their consequences, not just attributes, is often emphasized (Peter & Olson, 1999). Instead of treating products as a bunch of physical attributes, they must be considered, developed and promoted in terms of the consequences or benefits they provide to customers. Marketers must, therefore, develop and offer product characteristics in a way that will correspond to the benefits sought.

From the customer's point of view, the preferred benefits determine the importance of a particular product attribute. This gives rise to the question: "What goal is behind a particular benefit?" Besides practical and functional benefits, customers specifically expect certain psychological benefits as well; leading to another question: "Are there any final goals that are superordinate to all others?" Values are often suggested as such broad motivational goals in the customer decision-making process, hence, their associations with product attributes and benefits can enable us to better understand customer product knowledge and purchasing motives. Such an approach, termed means-end chains, can be used for different purposes like improved segmentation (Botschen et al., 1999), or development of advertising strategy (Peter & Olson, 1999, Reynolds & Craddock, 1998).

The purpose of this paper is to apply a means-end approach to the Slovene furniture market with an aim to provide suggestions for improvements in segmentation and advertising strategies. The Slovene furniture market is now fully open to foreign competition, yet Slovene furniture producers lack marketing expertise due to the legacy of the former (socialist) economic system. Due to their stable and unthreatened positions in the relatively uncompetitive Yugoslav market in past decades, they did not put much emphasis on marketing efficiency and effectiveness. However, today, they are facing some important challenges. In the global economy, they encounter strong competition from countries that are mainly competing with low prices due to their low cost workforce. On the other hand, they are facing increasing competition from strong international producers and retailers in the furniture sector such as IKEA, which are not competing solely on the price attribute. Additionally, they are encountering rapid and significant changes in customer preferences resulting from new lifestyle patterns. Slovene furniture producers, therefore, need better insight into product-customer linkages for the development of their competitive strategies.

2. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

The means-end theory is based on the notion that customers buy products because of their benefits and meaning, not because of their attributes. Product attributes, therefore, serve as a means to some ends. However, a particular customer may prefer particular product attributes for different reasons, as a particular attribute can provide different benefits to different customers. Additionally, a particular benefit is important because it helps customers to achieve other important benefits and goals which differ among customers. …

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