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

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

17
A Motivational Perspective on Means-End Chains
Joel B. Cohen
University of Florida
Luk Warlop
Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

ABSTRACT

The objective of this chapter is to assess the value of the means-end chains approach as a way of thinking about the behavior of consumers. What are we buying into when we adopt this approach, and what does it buy us?

It is unreasonable to expect any one approach or model to be the unqualified or ultimate solution to understanding why consumers do what they do and how they think about purchase alternatives. Model proponents who stress the all-encompassing nature of their approach, or model adopters in search of a magic wand, seriously understate the complexity of the substantive issues and minimize the significance of the inevitable tradeoffs that are reflected in any model. Behavior — consumer or otherwise — and the thinking, decision making, and circumstances that shape it require a diversity of approaches to produce valuable and useful insights.

This is a prelude to the judgment that means-end chains have been a bit over-sold. Its proponents have not lacked for enthusiasm in describing how the approach helps us to understand the motivational antecedents of customers' behavior as well as their organization of product knowledge and brand meanings. Still even if some of the claims and hopes do not survive careful scrutiny, failing to recognize that we can profitably settle for something less than a panacea would be equally unwise.

We begin by examining the implications of the means-end chain approach for the study of consumer motivation and by providing some perspectives

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