Consumer Learning and Memory

According to Kotler’s Definition, learning involves changes in an individual’s behavior arising out of the experience. Most of the human behavior is learned over time, out of the experience.

Following are the features of consumer learning

  • Consumer learning is a process. A process which continually changes and acquires new knowledge.
  • This knowledge can be obtained from reading, discussing, observing, thinking, etc.
  • Newly acquired knowledge or personal experience, both serve as feedback.

Elements of Consumer Learning

Motivation is the driving force of all important things to be learnt. Motives allow individuals to increase their readiness to respond to learning. It also helps in activating the energy to do so. Thus the degree of involvement usually determines the motivation to search information about a product.

For example, showing advertisements for summer products just before summer season or for winter clothes before winters.

Motives encourage learning and cues stimulate the direction to these motives. 

Cues are not strong as motives, but their influence in which the consumer responds to these motives.

For example, in a market, the styling, packaging, the store display, prices all serve as cues to help consumers to decide on a particular product, but this can happen only if the consumer has the motive to buy. Thus, marketers need to be careful while providing cues, especially to consumers who have expectations driven by motives.

Response signifies how a consumer reacts to the motives or even cues. The response can be shown or hidden, but in either of the cases learning takes place. Often marketers may not succeed in stimulating a purchase but the learning takes place over a period of time and then they may succeed in forming a particular image of the brand or product in the consumer’s mind.

Reinforcement is very important as it increases the probability of a particular response in the future driven by motives and cues.

Consumer Behavioral Learning Theories

There are various theories which are developed to explain the learning theories. The below are the major theories related to consumer behavior.

Classical Conditioning theory refers to learning through repetition. This is referred to as a spontaneous response to particular situation achieved by repetitive exposure. It is such a kind of a behavioral theory which says, when a stimulus is connected to or paired with another stimulus, it serves to produce the same response even when used alone.

For example, if you usually listen news at 9 pm and have dinner too at 9 pm while watching the news then eventually the sound of news at 9pm may make you hungry even though you are not actually hungry or even if the dinner is not ready.

Instrumental Theory is developed by B F SKINNER, an American psychologist, he was the first to develop this model of learning. Instrumental theory suggests that human beings learn by trial and error method and then find out a particular stimulus that can yield best results. Then, this is subsequently formed as a habit

This theory is very important and applies to many common situations in the context of consumer behavior. It suggests that consumers learn by means of trial-and-error method in which some purchase behaviors result in a more favorable outcome.



Memory is the process of storing and retrieving knowledge.

  • Encoding is what happens when information is interpreted and placed in memory.
  • Storage is the retaining of information in memory.
  • Retrieval is what you do when you locate a stored memory.

Memory Systems

There are three distinct memory systems:


The briefest memories are formed from sensory stimuli. If the individual finds the sensory experience significant enough to warrant further investigation, it may pass into short-term memory.


We process selected bits of information and store it for a limited time. We store this information by combining small pieces into larger ones in a process called chunking.


This is the permanent storage of information, which can be recalled at will. This occurs when we consider the meaning of a stimulus and relate it to other information already in memory.

Marketers attempt to engage our existing memories and experiences in order to get their brand message into our long-term memory. They also make use of repetition and redundancy in advertising in order to present us with many opportunities to commit them to long-term memory.

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