The Implications For Consumer Behaviour Of Low Budget Airlines
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- DEFINITION OF TOPIC AREA
Low budget Airlines, as the name implies, are basically an economy set of airlines. Their operations are directed towards the masses. Facts have shown that the marketing, the operations and the company-consumer relationships of these airlines express a consciousness of certain determinants which define and explain the customers’ choice of airlines, their response and reactions to adverts from these airlines as well as their acceptance of special offers, such as cut in air fares and promises of in and out-door amenities.
(For this writing, “consumer’ and “customer” will be used interchangeably, since they are synonyms in the context).
These defining and explaining determinants can be illuminated with two fundamental consumer behaviour theories: The attitude formation and change theory, and the personality theory. Both theories will be analysed in the context of customer’s interaction and relationship with Low Budget Airlines.
- ANALYSIS OF CONTEXT
As suggested above, the exploration will be done in the context of company-customer modus operandi of Low Budget Airlines. This approach will bring to light the relevance of the two customer behaviour theories.
From reports, certain features can be observed to be characteristic of LBAs: Honesty, consistent affordability, lack of delays, and devotion (which sometimes manifests in unexpected surprises in the form of special, free-of-charge offers and amenities) (Low-cost airlines’ secret: They don’t over promise, 2006). Consequently, LBAs can be said to be “composed” in the main of this four features, which will be examined in brief outline.
2.1. Honesty: LBAs are known never to over-promise. They do not give expectations of any more amenities or luxury than the customer can completely expect to enjoy from their services.
2.2. Consistent Affordability: The term “low” is central in its meaning to the principles and practices of LBAs. They therefore see to it that they give as bare a set of services as their customers (economy consumers) can quite conveniently afford. “Southwest doesn’t assign seats, doesn’t serve meals and has no first-class section.” (Low-cost airlines’ secret: They don’t over promise, 2006). “On JetBlue, you can’t get a first-class seat that converts into a comfortable lie-flat bed, or a flight to many dozens of global destinations.” (ibid). “AirTran has only a modest frequent-flier program and can’t take you to Seattle, St. Louis or Phoenix, let alone Nashville, Little Rock or Birmingham, Ala.”(ibid). LBAs are consistent in the practice.
2.3. Lack of Delays: Keeping to schedule is one of the strengths of LBAs. Customers have, thus, learned to trust them to keep to time-tables.
2.4. Devotion: LBAs demonstrate their devotion to seeing that customers have a good run for their money—at times more than a good run with their provision of special free-of-charge offers.
These four features, as was earlier observed, have developed over time on the bases on certain theoretical determinants, which will now be analysed.
- ANALYSIS OF JOURNAL ARTICLES
- USING THEORY TO SOLVE PROBLEMS
4.1. ATTITUDE FORMATION AND CHANGE THEORY: This theory can be used to illuminate the bond between the LBAs and its consumers (its users).
Attitude is a “learned predisposition to behave in a consistently favourable or unfavourable manner with respect to a given object”. The key words here are “learned” and “given object”. The given object is technically termed “the attitude objects”, that is, the thing or person in regard of which or whom a predisposition is “learned”. What is learned, however, depends in part on the learning one, in this case, LBA customers, and, in, part, on the attitude objects, that is, LBA.
For this predispositional learning, a model called the “tricomponent attitude model” (2MKT51) is given. The application of the tricomponent model to LBA-consumer relationship will offer explanation as to the shades of preferences for LBAs which can be observed. This model is composed of three components: the cognitive, affective and the conative components ( ibid). The cognitive components are predispositions which are acquired through direct experience of and external information about the attitude object. For LBAs, because what customers see and experience often agrees with the various advertisements about them, direct experience often agrees with and confirms external information. This confirmation favourably predisposes customers towards LBAs. This positive predisposition of the cognitive component informs the affective component.
The affective component is the “consumer’s emotions or feelings about a particular product or brand.” (ibid). In the case of the LBA-customer relationship, the consumers’ emotions and feelings are predictably those of pleasure, joy and fulfilment.
The last component, the conative component, is “the likelihood or tendency that an individual will undertake a specific action or behave in a particular way with regard to the attitude object”(ibid) .The constantly expanding circle of patrons has been attributed not only to the success of advertisement but also to the fact that those customers, who confirm the learned information of the attitude object through personal experience, recommended the patronage of the LBA s to others. Thus the conative tendency in part explains the growths and fame of LBA in recent times.
4.2. THEORIES OF PERSONALITY
Personality is defined as the “Inner psychological characteristics – attributes, traits, factors, mannerisms – that determine and reflect how an individual responds to environment” (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2000:94-95).
Therefore, theories of personality, being, by implication, theories that explore the wheels within the wheels, must logically find great relevance with LBAs in their relationship with consumers, since it highlights their responses to their environment in an clarifying manner. It can be used to addresses, among others, the following questions:
- What makes the LBA offers of low prices attractive to consumers?
- What in the human constitution makes customers impressed with the fact that LBAs always fulfils their advertisement promises?
- If LBAs should today deviate from their characteristic honesty, consistent affordability, devotion and lack of delays, how would the consumers respond? Would it be positive, negative, short-tem or long-term?
- Why have LBAs embraced the idea of low prices and low budgets, and what have the responses to the low-price offers got to do with this idea? Do they partially or fully satisfy the goals of this idea? If the satisfaction is partial, what could make it complete and consummate?
These four questions will be addressed in the context of the personality theory. The Freudian personality will be used.
The Freudian theory of personality postulates that at the base of every human motivation and every human personality lie unconscious needs and drives (2MKS511). (Contrary to some schools of thought, the unconsciousness of the drives, being something existent, does not preclude intellectual exploration and analysis). Freud divided the human personality into three: into the id, the super-ego and the ego.
The “Id” is said to be the “pit of primitive and impulsive drives [which strives for] immediate satisfaction without concern.” (ibid). The “Superego” is composed of “internalised, learned, societal ethics and social standards.”(ibid). The “ego”, on the other hand, is the “individual’s conscious control, the internal monitor which balances the id and superego.” The “interrelationships form personality structure” (ibid).
Now to the application of these definitions to the four questions:
Question 1: The ego is the conscious part of the human personality. In the context of this question, the idea of self-image becomes relevant. Self-image is “the image that an individual has of himself or herself as a certain kind of person, with certain characteristic traits, habits, possessions, relationships, and behaviour.”(ibid). We are concerned here with the “ideal” and “social” self-images. “Ideal self-image” is “how individuals would like to perceive themselves,” While “social self-image” is “How consumers feel others see them.” (ibid).
It s readily conceivable that no customer will voluntarily patronise a low budget airline where he or she has no guarantee of securing or maintaining his or her self-image. In other words, in booking for flights, buying tickets and boarding the planes, every customer feels a sense of self-pride, the pride of having satisfied a personal urge towards appearing in a definite manner to his or her perception. This is an urge of the id. Whether the customer joyfully patronises the airlines is immaterial here. The pressure of a self-defined necessity constitutes the push of the id in the joyful or sad circumstance in question. Therefore, it is immaterial whether it is practically necessary or not, whether the necessity is one of vanity, peer-group pressure, sensuousness, or otherwise. The id, unconcerned about the practical necessities, urges the customer to patronise an LBA. The super-ego is rational or socially aware, so it takes up this urge and brings it into realistic materialisation (fulfils the necessary, laid-down procedures of patronising or boarding a plane). At the centre of the urges and their materialisation stands the ego.
Therefore, the low-prices of LBAs attract customers because it satisfies their personalities, the triad of id, superego and ego, which in the circumstances of the customer in question, define and seek for fulfilment.
QUESTION 2: The answer to the second question lies in the answer to the first. The urge of the id as rationalised by the superego is that feature in the human constitution that draws consumers to the honesty of LBAs’ advertisements because such honesty holds the prospects of satisfying the urges of the id.
QUESTION 3: The possibility of answering such predictive questions (as the third one above) lies in the ability to define the id, that is, in the familiarity with the ids of the generality of patronises. To become familiar with their ids, an openness of interaction as well as a close and friendly relationship between airline personnel and patrons surveys is necessary. And not less necessary is frequent surveys and opinion canvass.
QUESTION 4: The answer to the last question simply put is: the personalities of LBA operators get satisfaction from low-price transactions. The idea of low-prices is inherent in the personalities of the authentic LBA operators, as a refinement of the urges of the “id” by the ego and the superego. The open-handed responses of consumers to the id-derived idea afford gratification to the personalities who embrace the idea, and urge the idea to further development. The fact that the ideas undergo transformation and refinement shows that the goals of this idea have thus far only been partially satisfied. Thus the scope of the idea, the urge of the personalities in this regard, is apparently infinite, so that consummating the satisfaction of the goal and of the personalities, will be a goal never really to be achieved, except the operators set limits for themselves.
The foregoing analysis points to one fundamental necessity for LBAs, namely: the need to recognise and delineate the ids of patronises, thus to be aware of the scope of their wishes and what lies outside of the gratification of their wishes. Wit this knowledge, consumer satisfaction and untiring co-operation are guaranteed.
- A REFLECTIVE STATEMENT
5.1. ANALYSIS OF MY CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR EXPERIENCE: One often wonders why tastes for new brands of products range so widely as to include the clearly unreasonable, the uncanny and the weird. This, I have observed with television products. While some consumers are so much of fashion fads that every new brand in the market just had to find its way into their houses, others resist every “temptation” and persuasion to buy such new brands. For instance, I have seen people so conservative that they refuse to make use of remote-control Television sets, preferring to live in the pre-1970s!
When asked about the reason for their choices, the fashion fads might cite reasons of social respectability, social self-image and ideal self-image; or might simply say, “I have an irresistible partiality for new things.” The conservatist, on the other hand, might say such new arrivals are “indigenously different” to the outdated brand he so much cherishes, so that, because he takes pride in his nation or soil, he cannot bring himself to part with tokens of his national identity.
In the light of the theoretical applications done in the preceding section, it is clear that attitudes, that is, the “learned predispositions” of the two people vary significantly, just as do their personalities.
Using the tricomponent attitude model to elucidate their preferences, one finds that the cognative components of both are hardly discerning or practical; they are significantly subjective, since neither of them is from the very first interested in any practical evaluation of the new TV brands. Intellectual analysis and judgement does not belong to their cognative component of their attitudes. Consequently, the affective components are understandably so weird and unreasonable from time to time. Only those similarly inclined can appreciate their notions and whimsies, the feelings and emotions which their subjective cognations engendered. The conative component, too, is predictable, so that both consumers can always be predicted in how they will react to new brands; they can always be predicted in the behavioural tendencies regarding every new TV brand.
As for their personalities, one finds that the id of the fashion-fad is the maniacal and compelling type, his superego was of an unusual culture, upbringing and socialisation, while his ego is ,in respect of TV brands, very little analytical. For the conservatist, the id is circumscribed and parochial, the superego is of a disciplinarian, dogmatic or fanatic culture, upbringing and socialisation, while the ego is very little analytical.
It should, however, be noted that the id, the superego and the ego being components of personalities, are strictly peculiarities of their bearers. Thus, the culture, upbringing and socialisations of the super-egos are unique to their bearers and consist of distortions, modifications and refinements of the observable culture, which are peculiar to the personalities. It is, therefore, possible that the people exampled above grew up in the same environment and had similar upbringings and socialisations.
This observation is related and comparable to the LBA-consumer analysis given above in one fundamental respect: The explanations for consumer behaviour experiences often lie in the application of relevant consumer behaviour theories to the case at hand. With such an application, the apparent strangeness in the observation becomes clarified, through the dissection and analysis which the theories afford.
5.2. IMPLICATIONS FOR MANAGERS
Managers have responsibilities not only towards customers but also towards those whose works he or she superintends, that is, the subordinates Therefore, the implications of consumer behaviour theories for the manager are dual: the manager-consumer relations and the subordinate-consumer relations. Often the relations between the managers and the consumers are indirect. The direct contacts are often made with the subordinates. Therefore, the manager must see to it that the prescriptions implied by the consumer behaviour theories for the personnel-consumer relations are observed.
From the attitude formation and change theory and the theory of personalities, the following implied prescriptions can be deduced for the direct relations between personnel and consumer (the prescriptions are for the manager who will do well to ensure that his or her subordinates observe them):
- Let every consumer have his say, however unreasonable the introductions of such a say might be and however abrasive the manner of presentation. Such a consumer might be a representation of a class of consumers whose patronage is vital to the reputation and success of the Low Budget Airline in question. The uninhibited expression of self reflects the personality, i.e. the id, the superego and the ego whose interactions, as has been demonstrated earlier in this report, determine everything about the consumers (i.e. the LBA –consumer relation as well as the representation or recommendation of the airline in question to other potential consumers).
- Occasional consumer opinion canvass and survey is necessary for the growth of any airline. Possibly after every flight, a questionnaire could be circulated to allow customers anonymous expressions of their minds, expressions of the attitudes. In the free expression of their minds, their cognition, affection and conation are revealed, and with such revelations, their inclinations and tendencies for future patronage are demonstrated. Shortcomings in the operations and in the services of the airline in question are thus exposed, so that way forward can be sought.
Consumer Behaviour 2MKT511 Consumer Behaviour, Consumer Attitude Formation and Change
2MKS511 Understanding Consumer Personality and Consumer Behaviour.
USATODAY.COM –Low-Cost airlines’ secret: They don’t overpromise, (USA.com partners, 2006[online] Available: http://www.usatoday.com/money/biztravel/2005-04-05-rankings-usat_x.htm?csp=34 [accessed: 10th May 2006].