The Coca-Cola Consumer Behavior and Demographics

Introduction

Assael (34) asserts that the motivation behind every decision to buy a commodity is an in grown phenomenon that plays a major role in the choices one makes about buying a commodity. This phenomenon aims at fulfilling one’s desire and satisfaction. Once the desire has been achieved, one is in apposition to make repeat purchases so a s to fulfill his or her needs.

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He advocates that consumer motivation is closely related to Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” He also points out that there are varying motivational levels which are affected by how important a purchase is to a consumer. As the purchase becomes more important so does the level of motivation. He says ‘influences include familiarity with the purchase, status factors and overall expense and value.’ When fulfillment from purchase is low, for instance with groceries, so are the motivational levels, and this often entails little decision – making behavior. The opposite is true when a complex, risky process like purchase of a new home or car is involved. The motivation in such cases to achieve the “right” outcome is high (Assael 64).

One may engage himself in ascertaining the truth behind every action before deciding on any one product. He might choose to purchase a commodity with regard to his or her wants and needs at that particular time (Assael 109).

Motivational Influences

The scales of motivation are varied and as such different people tend to choose different commodities as per their motivation scales. Involvement of a third party greatly influences the final decision an individual makes about a product or service.

Accessing Motivation

The scale of motivation of consumers is a major factor that most corporations research about in order to determine factors behind every decision about a product or service. This facilitates design of policies aimed at increasing the level of motivation so as to increase the sales. Marketers employ various approaches in determining the scales of motivation. Examples include focus groups and semi-structured interviews.

According to Cardone (98) there are two kinds of motivation, positive and negative. Both of these forms of motivation result in consumers choosing a particular brand based on their desires and scales of motivation.

Positive motivation

Positive motivation refers to the kind of motivation that gives a pleasurable experience, of excitement, enthusiasm and feeling alive. It makes one feel energized. In the case, consumers view Coca-Cola as the ‘Real Thing’ and had also associated the drink with the symbolism of having fun, being in touch with friends and generally having a good time.

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Negative motivation

Negative motivation is a form of motivation that stems from the fear of being left out. This form of motivation has a greater appeal especially among the youth. It forces those affected to choose a brand even though they may not be motivated enough to like the brand. Peer pressure and the feeling of isolation have led to many turning to Coca Cola as the brand is perceived to be superior.

People buy Coca –Cola for fear of being shunned by friends and peer group for not ‘fitting in’ or not conforming to group norms.

The theories of motivation explaining why consumers buy Coca-Cola drinks

Theory I – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

A Theory of Human Motivation
A Theory of Human Motivation.

According to this theory of Abraham Maslow (194) motivational needs in a consumer vary and carry different levels of significance. The most common needs which are physiological form the bottom of the pyramid. These refer to basic survival needs like requirements for food, shelter and safety. In the ascent of the pyramid, security needs are next, followed by social needs (need for relationships and love), then esteem needs (recognition and status) and finally self-actualization (fulfillment of oneself).

People tend to buy coca cola to satisfy the 3rd level of this pyramid (Social needs). In the Coca- Cola adverts, the drink is promoted as ‘a brand connected to fun, friends and a good time.’ And the consumers want to identify with this as they seek relationships and love. The brand provides a form of bonding between two different groups of people or between two individuals who want to share a moment. The consumers identify each other with the brands they consume. The brand signifies unison in terms of choice and motivation.

Theory II – Expectancy Theory of Motivation

Expectancy theory was proposed by Victor Vroom of Yale School of Management in 1964. Unlike Maslow and other authors, Vroom stresses and focuses on outcomes, and not on needs. The theory states that the intensity of a tendency to perform in a particular manner is dependent on the intensity of an expectation that the performance will be followed by a definite outcome and on the appeal of the outcome to the individual. This theory focuses on valence, expectancy and instrumentality.

The Expectancy theory states that ‘employee’s motivation is an outcome of how much an individual wants a reward (Valence), the assessment that the likelihood that the effort will lead to expected performance (Expectancy) and the belief that the performance will lead to reward (Instrumentality). One has a hope that by obtaining or buying the product, one would receive a certain form of reward. In the case of Coca Cola this reward comes from the satisfaction of consuming the drink.

People therefore tend to buy Coca-Cola with the expecting to quench their thirst (expectancy) and the reward being accepted in social groups (instrumentality) while having a sense of value and sense worth (valence).

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Theory III – Cognitive Theory of Motivation

This theory states that ‘behavior is an active result of the analysis and processing of available information, rather than an innate and mechanical set of rules that the mind uses to respond to situations. The theory takes it that behavior is due to a process of thought instead of a preprogrammed set of mental instructions. Cognition is any process of thought, whereas motivation is the resultant activation of behavior.

Cognitive motivation gives an explanation as to why people and animals take the actions they take. This theory is need-based and it assumes that people and animals are motivated to act based on their needs for food, reproduction, water, or anything else they may need.

Different forms of cognitive motivation are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation highlights tasks that are rewarding in and of them, for instance solving a puzzle and the resultant pleasure thereof, playing a sport etc. In such cases the motivating factors for embarking on such actions are internal as opposed to internal. Extrinsic motivation on the other hand involves taking part in a task because of external influence. Examples include the daily activities one engages in so as to achieve the most basic of needs such as clothes and food.

Cognition involves weighing the pros and cons of any task, whether it is done for internal, external reasons, or a combination of both. The author goes on to add Need-based motivation theories would state that a person chooses the job that best allows him to provide for his needs, which usually involves making money to obtain food, shelter, and to provide for children. As a stress to this ideology, the author stats that Cognitive motivation theories give insights as to why people opt for jobs that they like more even when they are likely to get less pay for the same. This in essence is an intrinsic motivation factor that pushes individuals to do things just for the joy of it, even if that results in a sacrificing their needs to a certain extent.

Cognitive motivation is hinged on two basic things. These revolve around the amount of knowledge that can be accessed and any form of prior familiarity about the commodity one has. This means an individual will view a situation depending on what sensory input there and will often look to his past and in an attempt to relate past experience to the present situation.

From this case, people tend to buy the Coca-Cola drink as a result of extrinsic motivation, whereby there is the need to satisfy thirst, and the need to be accepted in certain social classes.

What do consumers buy when they purchase a product?

Functional benefit: The Coca Cola consumers are buying a direct functional benefit which is the good taste of the drink as well as the quenching of thirst.

The indirect functional benefit is the packaging; this is seen in the design of the Coca- Cola bottle which is contoured shaped, as well as promotions that term Coca- Cola drink the ‘Real Thing’.

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Consumers also buy a psychological benefit which denotes the experience buyers get by being identified with a leading brand which is differentiated from others. The consumer is also able to boost their self-esteem and positive attitude towards life as they are accepted in social groups and society as a whole.

Why Coca-Cola had a higher share of the cola drinks market than Pepsi

According to Armstrong and Kotler (207), many factors influence the buying behavior of consumers and their resultant choice of products or brands. These are highlighted below:

Loyalty to the product

The Coca Cola brand has been in the market for a longer period than Pepsi Cola and as such has developed a market niche is loyal to its products. This loyalty is particularly exhibited in the Southern parts of the USA in the region where Coca-Cola originated and where the company still had its headquarters. These people have probably been consuming coke since their youth and would opt for coke anytime instead of Pepsi cola.

The need to belong to a social group

According to Kotler and Armstrong (20), small groups and family influence the consumer’s choice of products. As mentioned above, the people who strongly opposed any change of formula of the Coca cola were from the Southern parts of the USA in the region that was home to the Coca-Cola Company. They believe in Coca cola and consumption of Pepsi would mean a disconnection from the accepted norms of the groups in the region.

Endorsers’ influence

These refers to reference groups in the society which include family, peer group and other important people whose opinion counts. The family members include the father mother or brothers who in most case are actively involved in the buying decisions of anything around the home. The choice of Coca- Cola over Pepsi would therefore count heavily. Peer group also translates to acceptance or rejection by not conforming to the expected behaviors depicted by other peers, which in this case is the purchase of coke in preference to Pepsi.

Brand personality influence

According to Assael (110), the decision of a consumer to buy a particular product, rests on the experiences the consumer has when it comes to that particular brand. Basing on this, companies embark on massive promotional activities so as to entrench their brands in the consumer’s experiences. He compares the choice of brands to friends’ people chooses basing on personality traits. He points out that some human traits are closely associated with brands. These five dimensions of brand personality are sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness. He states that Consumers consider earnest brands as being humble. The final dimension is the 5th Dimension – ruggedness which is views as outdoor and tough.

The choice of consumers of Coca – Cola over Pepsi can be attributed to the brand personality of sincerity, which is captured in the catch “The Real Thing’ not to mention that it has been in the market for decades and also due the sophistication associated with drinking it.

There is also the packaging, of the contour –shaped Coca cola bottle, emotional white, red and you colors which give consumers preference of it over Pepsi.

Demographic influence (same group influence)

The influence of demographic factors- age, sex, education level, occupation, income level etc is seen in this region. This socioeconomic characteristic of the population where the test taste as done greatly influenced the results. This is due to the fact that the taste test was conducted near the origins of the coca cola company which had developed brand loyalty over the years as these consumers saw the company and by extension its products as their own.

Lifestyle associated in buying the product

Coca Cola is associated with fun, being around friends and enjoying life, so the consumers prefer it to Pepsi. This comes out clearly in their campaigns and promotions

Advertising

Coca cola is advertised as’ the real thing’, and much fun and celebration often accompanies its advertisements, whereas the Pepsi adverts incorporated prominent personalities, coca adverts seemed more believable and attracted more consumers

What impact did age have on the behavior of consumers purchasing coca- cola?

Veterans (Years 1922-1943, Age 89-68): Dedication and sacrifice, hard work, respect for Authority, Adherence to rules, and duty before pleasure. Brand awareness is just starting during these years.

These are minimal users of coca cola which is viewed as a luxury drink.

Baby Boomers (Years 1944-1964, Age 67-47): optimism, team orientation, personal growth, personal gratification, health and wellness, involvement. 1) Coke gets loyalty from this generation. 2) Anyone drinking Coke was considered teen and Young. 3) Drinking Cola was a hippy fashion during these times.

Baby Boomers

These consumers view themselves as being 15 years younger than they really are. While spending most of their income on health products, they have an active lifestyle, buy leisure based products and services for instance travel and sporting goods. This in essence means that these are loyal and heavy consumers of coke. In their need to look young they tend to identify with the coca cola drink

Generation X

This generation was influenced by the sweet taste of Pepsi. This means this generation preferred the new Coke classic which was both preferred by Coca Cola and Pepsi cola drinkers. However the facing out of the newly launched (1985) Coke classic means they reverted to the Pepsi Cola drink and formed a minimal share market of Coca Cola

Generation Y

(Years 1985-2000, Age 26-11): Optimism, civic duty, confidence, sociability, morality, and street smarts, diversity.

Drinking Cola is just to quench thirst, merely functional. There are no associations that go with drinking cola, less on psychological.

What impact might this have had on the marketing activities of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola?

Veteran

There are minimal users of drinks and minimal marketing activity is directed at them by Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola?

Baby Boomers

Marketing activity to baby boomers is mainly in word-of-mouth or viral marketing by passing product or service information on to friends. Thus the drink companies could advertise there products using prominent personalities- as they have done with Bill Cosby. This is a man who is in his 40’s and therefore a product endorser who is associated eth the age of baby boomers.

The launch of Diet Coke by using a product endorser like Bill Cosby was to portray that the product served both as a health drink while maintaining the required high –class association and youthful feeling associated with the Coca- Cola drink.

Generation X

Marketing to these target consumers should involve use of print media, television, direct mail and internet. These are heavy consumers and advertising should be heavily targeted at them mainly via technology. Pepsi chose to use Michael Jackson who was seen as Choice of new generation” (younger generation X,). The Pepsi Challenge was also launched as such got massive sales and it was also at a time when the Classic Coke was facing downward sales. At this juncture they maximized sales while ‘poking fun’ using adverts at their main competitor.

Generation Y

They have high spending traits and to market to them the companies should use friends, who are trusted by the group. They should also use emotional advertising that ties with a good cause. For instance buy coke save a needy child etc. There is also need to advertise using mobiles. At present, both Pepsi and Cola advertisings are more towards functional benefits of the products.

Critically evaluate the factors that contributed to the failure to the new coke

According to Perry (192), certain factors affect consumer behavior. In the case these factors were not well considered and such lead to the collapse of the new product.

Cultural factors

Consumer behavior is deeply influenced by cultural factors, such as buyer’s culture, subculture and social class.

Culture

The culture by the Southerners in the USA where the coca cola brand was formed who strongly were loyal to the old brand and could not accept a changed formula. The issue of sub-cultures also arises. These are cultures within cultures. This refers to the individuals who had formed a habit of maybe consuming Coca-cola after every meal and a slight change in the formula changed the taste and they stopped consuming. This led to the collapse if many groups or families reacted in the same way. The new coke may have failed to satisfy the needs of certain social classes in the market and as such, it was rejected.

Social factors

Social factors also influence the purchasing behavior of consumers. Social factors are: the reference groups, family, the role and status. Reference groups influence formation of attitudes and they protesters though only comprising 10% of the market share eventually influenced the rejection of the new coke.

Personal factors

Personal factors may also affect consumer behavior. These factors forming personal buying behavior include lifestyle, economic status, occupation, age, personality and self esteem. These factors were greatly influential in the failure of the new product as the southerners protested and got the attention of many who did not want to be compromised.

Psychological Factors

These factors also contributed to the collapse of the new product as perceptions and attitudes towards the ‘new coke’ were negative and most consumers did not want to be associated with it.

What research into consumer behavior could Coca-Cola have conducted to reduce the risks of their new product failing?

Cola – Cola should have conducted a research on perceptions of consumers to sweeter version of the coca cola drink.

Strengths and limitations of research proposed

The strengths would a save on time and money lost as seen in the failed launch of new coke which saw it loose millions of dollars first in producing the product and then in advertising and promotions as it sought to get back a lost market share. In addition, other strengths can be said to be the information got from the research would benefit many companies, especially those making beverages and cold drinks like Coca- Cola and who are hoping to engage in market diversification. As such the research would benefit society as a whole

There is also personal benefit to the researcher who becomes an expert in certain fields like writing, collecting data, public speaking and so on.

Furthermore, other merits entail the ability the research to enable the management and company as a whole to get a new perspective on issues surrounding their markets. This research would probably point to a totally unexpected need in the market which the company could address.

Then the idea of having contributed knowledge that would help generations to come would be greatly fulfilling.

Limitations

Time

There is the possibility of research taking more time than the company is willing to risk. Some corporations view research as a waste of time and to such corporation’s research is seen as a time consuming endeavor rather than a way to improve the corporation.

Finances

Research is an expensive project, depending on the regions to be covered, the sampling and so on. In addition, research drains a company’s resources especially in those cases where the fruits of the research are gained in the long term rather than in the short term.

Human resource

This would call for training of personnel to be involved in the study, to conduct interviews, collect and collate data and write reports

There is also the risk of having data that is reliable and valid to give a true picture of the research findings. If the interviewees or respondent are dishonest, the results may not be helpful. The sample size also may not be representative enough of the consumers of Coca-Cola who are spread all over the world. Human resource poses a major concern to the company especially with modernization of the manufacturing process which relies more on the use of machines to carry out duties once carried out by human beings.

The buying behavior of cola consumers after the re-launch of Coke Classic

Pricing Factors

It is possible that price cuts were affected to influence more consumer buying. The price of coke classic was slightly lower than its predecessor and this might have played a big role in the observed increased sales of Coke Classic after the re-launch.

Promotion

Intense advertising and promotion was done to get consumers to purchase the re-launched product and as such all coca cola products benefited. This led to increased awareness of the existence of the product to general population. In addition, promotion the world over revitalized the brand to its consumers and many more new customers.

Brand Personality

When Coke was re- launched, the brand personality was rated much better that is it was seen as sincere once more, not having changing tastes, as such all products associated with it benefited from this. Coca cola is a well known brand the world over and this was pivotal in propelling the re-launched coke. This resulted in increased sales and as such facilitated increase in revenues.

Differentiation

The product developed a differentiation from the ‘old’ coke as opposed to replacing it, so people were willing to try it out. The curiosity of testing the new coke played a role in promoting the sales observed. Since it was marketed as a new product there was an interest in the new product especially among new consumers.

Psychological factors

People developed a positive attitude towards the new product and wanted to be associated with it

Social factors

As the society, including the consumers who had early opposed the new coke embraced the re launch, consumers in general wanted to identify with the newly re launched product and all other products associated with it.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Gary and Kotler, Philip. Principles of marketing. New York: Pearson/Prentice hall, 2008.

Assael, Henry. Consumer behavior and marketing action. New York: Pws, 1992.

Cardone, Laura. Transform your business in 6 extraordinary steps. New York: Profits with Purpose, 2006.

Maslow, Harold. “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Psychological Review 50.4 (1943): 370-396.

Perry, Bob. CIMA learning system enterprise operations. Sudbury: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2009.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, January 29). The Coca-Cola Consumer Behavior and Demographics. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-coca-cola-consumer-behavior-and-demographics/

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Coca-Cola Consumer Behavior and Demographics'. 29 January.

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