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Attention and Comprehension

In this chapter we discussed the behavioral process of exposure, by which consumers come into contact with marketing information. We also discussed the interrelated cognitive processes of attention, by which consumers select some of this marketing information for further processing, and comprehension, by which consumers interpret the meaning of this information.

Exposure to marketing information can occur by accident or as a result of an intentional search for information. Once exposure has occurred, the interpretation processes of attention and comprehension begin. For unfamiliar marketing information, these processes are likely to require some conscious thought. However, as consumers become more experienced in interpreting marketing stimuli, attention and comprehension processes require less cognitive capacity and conscious control and become more automatic. Attention varies from preconscious, automatic levels to focal levels where the comprehension begins. Comprehension varies in the depth of meanings produced (from concrete product attributes to abstract consequences and values) and in elaboration (few or many interrelated meanings). Both factors influence the memorability of the meanings created.

Attention and comprehension are strongly influenced by two internal factors: the knowledge structures activated in the exposure situation and the level of consumers’ involvement. These respective factors influence consumers’ ability and motivation to interpret the information.

In sum, designing and implementing successful marketing strategies—whether price, product, promotion, or distribution strategies—require that marketers consider three issues associated with these three processes:

  1. How can I maximize and/or maintain exposure of the target segment of consumers to my marketing information?
  2. How can I capture and maintain the attention of the target consumers?
  3. How can I influence the target consumers to comprehend my marketing information at the appropriate level of depth and elaboration?

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