Understanding Consumer Decision Making: The Means-End Approach to Marketing and Advertising Strategy

By Thomas J. Reynolds; Jerry C. Olson | Go to book overview

Foreword
John A. Howard
George E. Warren
Columbia University

Many, perhaps most of the ideas introduced in academic marketing since the 1950s or so have originated in other disciplines, especially economics, psychology, and sociology. One interesting aspect of the means-end approach is that it is largely home-grown in that most of its development has occurred within the marketing discipline. I was one of the first to discuss how a means-end perspective to consumers could be useful in marketing. The means-end approach was a theme I included in several books, including my 1963, Marketing: Executive and Buyer Behavior, my 1969 collaboration with Jagdish Sheth, The Theory of Buyer Behavior, and more recently my textbook, Consumer Behavior in Marketing Strategy (1989), and the revised second edition of Buyer Behavior in Marketing Strategy (1994).

In the mid-1970s, Tom Reynolds and Jon Gutman became interested in means-end ideas. They were intrigued with the idea that people think at different levels of abstraction, and therefore, consumers do not always think about products in terms of physical attributes. This focus on product attributes was common in the ubiquitous research on multi-attribute attitude models in vogue at the time. In contrast, the means-end approach suggested that consumers think about and make purchase choices at more abstract levels such as the consequences (benefits or risks) that the product provides. In some cases, consumers might even consider the personal values the product could help them achieve.

Reynolds and Gutman developed their ideas about means-end chains in an impressive stream of publications. In their vision, a means-end

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