The Path Not Taken

By Melanie Barbarula

Is marketing just a ploy? Is there a common consumer decision making pathway that can be determined to establish when the right time is to deliver the right message?

My answer to these questions is posed as another question: Is there a right message? I do not believe there is a right or wrong answer to this question, but rather there are many factors to be considered.

Don E. Schultz indicates in his research article, “5 Myths of Consumer Behavior”, that there are widely held beliefs about consumer behavior that are, in fact, myths. He argues that: marketing concepts are irrelevant; there are no “markets”; there are no generalized pathways that customers follow; only big data – large samples collected over time – can help marketers truly understand consumer behavior in present era; and, last but not least, that marketing’s future decision-making will be networked, interactive, and occur in real-time. (Shultz, 2015) I agree with his notion that previous marketing models are becoming irrelevant and that generalizations should only be used as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.

Marketers no longer control the system and old models, such as the AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action) and the “Hierarchy of Effects” model, are becoming irrelevant. Linear processes have become antiquated as the customer does not follow a general set of consumer shopping behaviors. According to Marshall & Johnson (2015), the process is much more evolved then the previous model’s phases: cognitive, affective and behavioral. At the time these models were created (1960’s), the only retail channel was brick and mortar and options were limited at best. With the development of technology and internet purchasing, locations and options are now limitless. (Marshall & Johnson, 2015)

With the shift in retail channel sales there is, therefore, a change in the purchasing process. This is further explained by research from Prosper International’s syndicated study, which indicates that out of 16,228 adults (who made purchases in a 30 day period in 10 product categories) 45% made retail purchases from brick and mortar establishments and 55% made purchases in online and mobile channels. The study further proves that there is no real process or hierarchy of effects. In other words, there is no real rhyme or reason for consumers’ purchasing patterns; consumers are purchasing based on their individual needs and not on their so called “market” (i.e. women, 18-49, middle income, and two kids). Furthermore, it is assumed that there is a cognitive learning process (i.e. research is performed as part of the decision-making process in the second step: problem recognition, search for information, evaluation of alternatives, product choice decision, and post purchase decision). However, many decisions are made with little to no research, as indicated in Shultz’s research: 18.8% of apparel, 44.2% gift cards, 40% home décor, 38% beauty products, 34.4% home improvement are purchased without prior research. (Shultz, 2015)

Research depends on a customer’s involvement with his or her decision-making process, which comes in two types: high and low involvement. High involvement is indicated by the customer making an active and committed choice, forming an emotional connection with their decision based on their research, and finally making an informed purchase decision. On the other hand, low involvement is used for frequent purchases where a pattern is formed or a habit is established; there is no evaluation of salient product characteristics and choices are made based on shelf position or price. (Marshall & Johnson, 2015)

It is interesting to see the difference between low and high involvement in the decision-making process, and how this relates to short and long term marketing. A customer with low involvement may be attracted to short term marketing promotions, such as coupons, rebates, or discounts. These marketing promotions are used as tools in hopes that they will raise consumer involvement to further research the product and continue use. The alternative of long term involvement is a value proposition, where additional features are introduced to draw in new customers. As defined by Marshall & Johnson (2015), some of these features are: better reliability, more responsive service, as well as strong marketing campaigns that speak to customer issues or concerns that raise involvement with the products. (Marshall & Johnson, 2015)

It is important to understand consumer behavior in order to plan how to market products at the optimal time. Even though decision-making models offer insights into consumer decision-making, factors are ever-changing. It is difficult to see the path of marketing into the future, but it looks like we are headed toward networked, interactive, integrated marketing and communication plans that will adapt and change to the continuously changing customer. (Schultz, 2015)


Shultz, D. E. (2015) ‘Marketing Insights’, American Marketing Association, (September/October 2015 Issue), Available at: (Accessed: 14 November 2015).

Marshall & Johnson (2015), Marketing Management (2nd Edition). McGraw-Hill Global Education Holdings, LLC.


16 thoughts on “The Path Not Taken

  1. Zach Pelletier November 30, 2015 / 9:09 pm

    I think this post is very insightful and interesting to further think about. Many claim that you can purely use marketing models to determine what consumers are going to want and in turn, purchase. Others think on the opposite side of the spectrum and believe that you cannot predict what consumers are going to want in the future and therefore, models are irrelevant. Personally, I think that combining the two above mindsets are crucial when it comes to developing a successful marketing plan. It’s important to have some type of model to ensure organization and execution, however, models must be changed over time to fit the needs of the ever changing consumer.


  2. zhengyang zhu November 30, 2015 / 9:21 pm

    We always want to receive some good suggestion from the analysts. We want people to tell us how to be a good marketer, how to be a good decision maker. However, world, industry, market and consumers behavior is changing every day. We can not just rely on others’ Idea, We need to fit these change.
    Sometimes, we have to be decisive and creative to grab the opportunities. There are so many paths to choose when you get lost. No one can tell you what to do, only you know what you want!


  3. Tara Stuhr November 30, 2015 / 10:32 pm

    I found this article very interesting because we as growing marketers are going to have to look forward, but also study the generation behind us because this is who we will potentially be marketing to, as well as we might be marketing with this new generation. I agree with the comment above that the combination of structure. I think it is important to do research on who potentially might be our next largest target market, and once we establish this we can then create our marketing strategy model for our future implementation.


  4. Olivia Martin December 1, 2015 / 4:56 am

    I really enjoyed this article. I think it’s important to understand that marketing will never be entirely predictable and will be forever changing. Therefore, I don’t think we can rely soley on marketing models, but I agree that we need to understand this structure as well as combine them with other marketing tools.


  5. Matthew E. Dulac December 2, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    I found this article to be very interesting because the field of marketing can be seen as unpredictable. The job of marketers is to find a sense of predictability in an unpredictable field. How consumers react to campaigns and advertising is challenging to predict. Various marketing models can be used to understand and predict results but depending on the product or service, these tools and models may be unsuccessful. Finding the right combination of tools and models will provide success but this takes trial and error.


  6. Patrick Coskren December 2, 2015 / 11:55 pm

    At first glance I was astonished this article was published. I could not help asking myself how anyone could rationalize the thought that “marketing is a ploy” or “marketers no longer control the system”. Although it may be true that marketing is not a perfect science I strongly believe it today a necessity in todays day in age more than ever. We are a part of a culture that relies on esthetically pleasing stimuli and recognition on brands. We as a culture like being told what to buy and what is “in”. It make come from all different sources but marketing is all around us driving our purchases.


  7. James Wegman December 3, 2015 / 5:47 am

    Marketers are a controversial bunch, aren’t they? We are thought of as people who are reading people’s minds with our technology and ads and selling cheap products, lying, and are going to take over the world. Marketers are important, as said, to recognize needs and wants for people to help better their lives. Products they can actually use, not Rube Goldberg (brilliant guy nonetheless) like devices that no one will use or other things to overindulge in. We use the research to help people make these products.


  8. Chris Coveney December 3, 2015 / 11:16 pm

    As we have seen marketers in the world can be extreamly savvy and limitless in what they come up with when aproaching potential customers. As seen in this essay post marekting ploys are what drag people in to buying their products. Just like we do, they use research to help find the right ways to imploy what they have to give to their consumers.


  9. Kimberly Martin December 5, 2015 / 2:36 pm

    I thought this article was very interesting. I think that as technology progresses advertising will be totally different. I feel that with technology impulse buys may be stronger as there would be fewer steps to making your purchase. The Groupon app for example it takes 3 clicks to purchase an item and hardly any thought. 1. Open the desired product. 2. Click buy now. 3. Click confirm. It stores all of your information making you not think twice. Also Amazon with their one-click order option makes it so easy to purchase something. I feel it makes it so easy and effortless to purchase an item online that the purchaser does not think about researching it. I think there is probably more low involvement than high involvement a majority of the time when it comes to purchases. I know for me a coupon would get me to that step to say ok I am going to purchase this item now.


  10. Kedar Gandbhir December 5, 2015 / 3:28 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article. I have always thought of marketing as a ploy until recently. Sure in some situations it may very well be but it can go either way. As Kim stated, the increase in technology advancement has and will continue to have a huge impact on the world of marketing. The youtube select your ad feature is one of these marketing tactics that shows the evolution of Marketing.


  11. Jane Paradise December 6, 2015 / 4:05 am

    I would also agree with Kim’s statement that there is more low involvement than high involvement a majority of time when it comes to purchasing. All these apps are designed to get the customer to purchase the product quickly before even having time to think it over. That thinking time is important in the mind of the consumer, and these apps are all designed to reduce that time, if not diminish it completely.


  12. Michelle McNall December 6, 2015 / 5:13 am

    As much as I agree there is a science behind strategic marketing, I do feel that successful marketing is more of an art than a science. Marketing is often about trial and error and I think that this notion coincides perfectly with the main idea of Melanie’s article: is there a “right” message? Similar to the field of psychology, I think we can all agree that there are many “gray areas” in the marketing field as well. There are no real right answers and there are very few totally wrong answers. Of course, any marketing strategy must be carefully crafted to take into consideration the target market/audience, the message to be conveyed, cultural or regional barriers etc. but there is really no “right” marketing strategy since not all marketing is created equal and not one strategy fits all. Some of the best marketing comes from those who take risks and “push the envelope” so-to-speak and the objectives of some of these strategies/campaigns differ greatly from one another. Therefore, I do not believe a “right” message exists. In my opinion, the success of a message (despite what the actual message is) depends on how well its received by the target audience. Great article and excellent presentation, Melanie!


    • Melanie Barbarula December 7, 2015 / 12:21 am

      Thank you Michelle!! I found this article thought provoking and I am glad to see that it indeed sparked interest among our classmates. I think it is important to acknowledge that marketing is changing along with technological advances and that what once was may no longer be.


  13. Melissa Miller December 7, 2015 / 2:54 pm

    I found this article to be very interesting, as I work in Marketing. It has become increasingly harder to track a consumer’s buying pattern with the rise of online buying. With access to the internet it gives the consumer to research and learn about products that they might not necessarily taken interest in a brick and mortar location. With adds to the unpredictable buying pattern of consumers.


  14. Andrew Lak December 8, 2015 / 9:04 pm

    This article really made me think twice about the affect marketing has on consumers in today’s world. I believed that with the right marketing strategy selling any product was a possibility. But after reading this article I am now questioning my thinking, could the rapid growth in technology industry and the online world skew all prior research and knowledge of marketing. I think we are in a new era that had yet to be fully understood and marketing has to evolve to make an impact. I believe marketing is constantly changing and developing based on current consumer behavior. Great article I really enjoyed it! Thank you


  15. Craig Wyszomirski December 15, 2015 / 5:36 pm

    I agree fully with this article. I don’t believe there is such thing as the right message. I think it is better said as the right timed or right target because many people have different views of what is right and what is wrong. As you said the most important part is finding what fits and that could be any combination of marketing and it could even be what people think is “wrong” versus what is “right.”


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