Consumer Behavior Professor Brian Wansink aem 344

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Professor Wansink

Version: 8-22-06

Consumer Behavior

Professor Brian Wansink

AEM 344

Fall 2006

Office Hours: MW 5:15-6:45

or by appointment

Phone: 254-6302

Office: Warren 109

Email: (TA)

The first objective of this course is to develop a useful, conceptual understanding of the problems and strategies associated with the psychology behind consumer behavior. The second objective is to help provide frameworks that will enable you to responsibly, systematically, and creatively address these issues. As a result, the focus of this course will be as much on planning and implementation as on conceptual analysis. Because of this, the more theoretical readings from the packet are supplemented with handouts dealing with more practical issues. During the semester, our class sessions will primarily entail demonstrations, lecture-discussions, and in-class exercises.

Required Reading

1) Journal articles and cases in the course folder on the web or handed out in class

2) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini, (5th edition).

3) Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, Paco Underhill

4) Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Brian Wansink (Oct 17th)

Course Requirements and Evaluations
By this point in your education, it should be evident that what you get out of a course is largely determined by what you put into it. If you put forth your best effort, it should be a rewarding experience. There are four course requirements. Further detail will be provided in class.
1. Class Contribution Adequate preparation and full participation is assumed. In addition, I view prompt attendance as a signal of how involved you wish to be in the discussion. If you are unprepared for a class, or if you think you might miss a class or be late for one, please let me know prior to that class. Occasionally, we will conduct exercises in class which will count for that day’s participation. If you have let me know about your absence ahead of time, you will have the opportunity to make that day up with a short write-up about that day’s readings. Class contribution is 25% of your grade can be the difference between an A and a C.
2. Assignments. Hard copies (not e-mails) of the six assignments and exams will be due at the beginning of the assigned class. This is the way top business school programs operate: assignments not turned in at the beginning of the class period will not be accepted. If you cannot make it to class, send your assignment with a friend. Immediately after the end of a class with an assignment, these assignments are given to graders and then returned to you at the next class session.
3. Take-Home Exam A take-home exam will be handed out. This exam will be will be a mixture of short essay and mini-case analyses and will focus on building theories of how consumers behavior in different situations. The students who will do the best on this exam are those who know the consumer behavior principles that are operating in a given situation and are creative in thinking how they, as a manager, would respond to the scenarios presented.
4. Integrative Final Project This integrative assignment will involve pulling together the various elements of this course (most notably Laddering, Prototyping, and Behavioral Modeling) and directing them toward helping a person or segment of people to modify their behavior in a constructive manner. The Project will be fully described in class.
5. Extra Credit Workshop Studies. Up to five optional extra credit studies will be offered at different points in the course. These will each be 45 minutes long and will be held at different announced times throughout the week and are optional. A student receives 1 extra credit point per study. If a student still wants to receive extra credit but does not wish to be involved in the studies, he or she has the option of writing a two-page research paper (within a week of that study) which exhibits a commensurate level of understanding of that topic under examination.

Final grades are based on the designations and standards published in the student handbook. Grades are assigned according to how well you have satisfied the course requirements. Final grades are based on my perceptions of your performance on the four main requirements, according to the following weights:

1. Class contribution and involvement (25%)

  1. Assignments (35%)

Why We Buy 5%

Laddering Assignment 5%

Prototyping 5%

Packaging 5%

Persuasion 5%

Generating Insights 10%

3. Take-home Exam: (20%)

4. Integrative Assignment (20%)

[5. Extra Credit Workshop Studies 0-5%]

Course Organization and Class Sessions
For each class session there will be required readings in the class folder associated with the topic for the day and about assignments associated with that day. In addition, there will generally be a worksheet associated with each day. Printing the worksheet out before class will provide a useful means to track the discussion in each class.

Our schedule allows us the flexibility to integrate 2-3 relevant guest speakers in to the course (“Consumer Behavior Roundtables”). To accommodate these opportunities, the last sessions of the course are flexibly designed to be moved forward and the rest of the scheduled sessions shifted backward.

Course Outline

Part 1: Understanding Customers


Aug 28 An Overview of Consumer Behavior:
Aug 30 Assignment Due: Interview -- Why Consumers Buy

Book: Underhill – Chapters 1 and 2

Part 2: Meaningfully Segmenting Customers


Sept 4 Why Brands Die

Article: Why We Kick the Tires

Why Brands Die

Revitalizing Mature Brands

Sept 6 Assignment Due: Laddering Assignment

Article: Laddering

Sept 11 Segmentation and Positioning

Article: Segmentation

Laddering Mature Brands
Sept 13 Assignment Due: Prototyping Target Customers

Article: Prototyping Target Customers

Sept 18 Marketing Research that Pays (Session 1 of 2)

Article: Generating Consumer Insights

Complete: Inside Sources Worksheet
Sept 20. Marketing Research that Pays (Session 1 of 2)

Article: Convenience Panels

Sept 25. Demographics and Life-style Changes (Dr. Collin Payne)


Part 3: Predicting Consumer Behavior


Sept 27 Complex Decision Making

Book: Underhill – Chapters 3 & 4
Oct 2 Consumer Learning, Habit, and Brand Loyalty

Book: Underhill – Chapters 5 & 6
Oct 4 Low Involvement Decision Making

Article: Environmental Cues

Oct 9 Assignment Due: Issues in Packaging
Article: Packaging Bias
Oct 11 Consumer Perceptions

Article: Product Placement

Print “Perception” Worksheet

Part 4: Changing Attitudes


Oct 16 Assignment Due (Last names A-L): Liking, Reciprocity, and Scarcity

Book: Cialdini: Chapters 2, 5, and 7 (Dr. Lenny Vartanian)

Oct 18 Assignment Due: (Last names M-Z):: Authority, Commitment, and Social Proof

Book: Cialdini: Chapters 6, 3, and 4 (Dr. Lenny Vartanian)
Oct 23 No Class – Appearance on Good Morning America
Oct 25 Predicting Ad Effectiveness


Part 5: Consumer Food Behavior and You


Oct 30 Mindless Eating

Book: Wansink: Chapters 1-5
Nov 1 Taste Tests and Comfort Foods

Book: Wansink: Chapters 6-8

Article: Engineering Comfort Foods
Nov 6 Assignment Due: Generating Consumer Insights
Nov 8 Marketing During America’s Food Fight

Book: Wansink: Chapters 9-10

Article: Wellness Interview


Part 6: Influencing Post-purchase Behavior


Nov 13 The Power of Reference Groups and Family

Print “Power of Reference Groups” Worksheet

Nov 15 Assignment Due: Integrative Assignment
Nov 20 Diffusion and World-of-Mouth Marketing
Nov 22 No Class – Thanksgiving

Part 7: Envisioning Your Impact on Others


Nov 27 The Myths of Consumer Behavior
Nov 29. My Two Biggest Lessons

Take-home exam Due : At the beginning of class

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