Milked Dry!

A key asset for any marketing executive is the ability to positively utilise consumer behaviour. Conversely, Coles and Woolworths recently experienced an episode of negative consumer behaviour as consumers from across Australia have taken to Facebook over the past few days outraged at the shortage of branded milk at their local shops.

Consumer behaviour

You may be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company giving the go-ahead for the purchase of a new enterprise-wide operating system, an MBA student looking for the best text book deal online or a 13 year-old saving your pocket money for the latest pair of Air Jordan sneakers, each of us is a consumer and exhibit ‘consumer behaviour’.


Customers first

As consumers, the how, when and why we go about consuming goods and services has been studied by marketers since the post WWII era.

The prevailing marketing philosophies of the time largely relied upon selling the maximum number of units to customers. This was in conflict to a focus on meeting customer needs and wants – the core of a new philosophy that was emerging at the time referred to by Kotler P (2002, p. 12) as ‘marketing concept’ .

In short, ‘marketing concept’ espouses that organisations should seek a deeper understanding of their target customer’s needs and wants prior to building products and marketing plans to solve the identified wants and needs.

It’s true, consumers really are predictable

While many facets of consumer behaviour might appear to be random and unpredictable, the science of consumer behaviour demonstrates many patterns are explainable – if not predictable.

An example of predictable consumer behaviour is the three phases of the purchase process as described in Diagram 1 from Iacobucci (2013 p.13).

The 3 Purchase Phases

Diagram 1

Iacobucci (2013 p.13) also explains that ‘all purchases, B2C or B2B, go through the three stages, but the time spent in any stage depends in part on what is being bought.’

Solomon, M, Russell-Bennet R and Previte, J (2013 pg. 4) go further to state ‘A marketer must understand customer needs at each stage because the level of value created at any of these stages influences the consumer’s opinions, feelings and actions towards a brand or product.’

Creating value for consumers where they are operating with little or no active involvement in the purchase process (as might be typically expected when purchasing a litre of milk at the supermarket), can be a great challenge for marketers. This purchase behaviour with little consumer involvements is described as habitual buying behaviour.

Finding effective marketing tactics to disrupt buying behaviour with little or no involvement is where the science comes in…….

Don’t cry over spilt milk!

109452071_spilt milk.jpg
Source: Getty Images [Retrieved 30 July 2016]

The negative reaction by consumers to the alleged preferential stocking of store-branded milk by supermarkets, gives insights into how it is possible to pull levers in the low involvement purchase process and get the attention of consumers.

The reaction can be explained by an examination of how attitudes influence the level of consumer involvement.

Iacobucci (2013 p. 21) explains ‘attitudes are conceptualized as a mix of beliefs and importance weights’.

Consumer attitude and decision making is clearly illustrated by this selection of social media comments:

Note: Social media accounts are publicly accessible via Motherwell, S 2016 article: ‘Dairy milk wars: Woolworths, Coles face social media backlash for ‘favouring’ home brands’

Those who hit the socials to vent their anger are clearly demonstrating a belief the supermarkets were deliberately manipulating the availability of certain milk brands, as well as concern (importance weighting) for the livelihoods of the dairy farmers.

And to think, all this commentary in a purchase category (milk) where consumers are typically expected to spend very little time thinking – let alone caring.

The motivation for this increased level of purchase involvement is directly correlated back to consumer beliefs and importance weightings relating to media reports that milk price cuts are hurting dairy farmers.

In summary, this event demonstrates – particularly for marketers of products and brands in the low involvement purchase process – that by linking a product and/or brand to an issue where consumers possess sufficient levels of belief and care, marketers can induce their target consumer to become more involved and hopefully ultimately prefer their products and brands over that of the competition.

Author: Shannon Anderson  ID:94406163


Crow, L 2016, ‘Not impressed Coles’, Leann Crow, Facebook, 23 May, retrieved 29 July 2016, <>

Dodd, C 2016, ‘I must say I am absolutely disgusted’, Chelsea Dodd, Facebook, 23 May, retrieved 29 July 2016, <>

Habitual Buying Behaviour 2012, YouTube, B2Bwhiteboard, 9 February, retrieved 29 July 2016, <>.

Iacobucci D, 2013, MM4, Marketing Management, Student Edition, South-Western, Cengage Learning, Mason, Ohio.

Kotler, P 2002, Marketing Management, Millenium Edition, Custom Edition for University of Phoenix, Pearson Custom Publishing, retrieved 28 July 2016, <>

Milk price cuts hurting dairy farmers 2016,, retrieved 30 July 2016, < >

Motherwell, S 2016, Dairy milk wars: Woolworths, Coles face social media backlash for ‘favouring’ home brands, News Corp Australia, retrieved 27 July 2016, <>

poa_and_pod, 2016, ‘Proud of my community’, Instagram, May 2016, retrieved 29 July 2016, <>

Solomon, R, Russell-Benett, R, Previte, J 2013, Consumer Behaviour:  Buying, having, being, 3rd Edition, Person Education Group Pty Ltd, Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia.



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