Baylor's JaeHwan Kwon Helps Marketers Assess Brand Building Attitudes

April 18, 2017

JaeHwan Kwon, Assistant Professor of Marketing, has been very fascinated with attitude and how that translates to human behavior.

”Attitude is a single construct that can predict nearly everything," said Kwon. "So, if you know someone's attitude about something, you may be able to predict every single behavior of that person related to [a certain object]."

There has been a long-standing belief in psychology about attitude and attitude strength. Literature has shown that people form opinions about whether they like or dislike something, but that process results in varying strengths, which make up two groups: strong attitudes and weak attitudes.

Past research suggests that in order to form a strong opinion about something, people have to elaborate, by collecting information and then taking the time and effort to elaborately process that information. However, without thinking in an elaborative manner, opinions can still be formed. They are just simply weaker opinions.

His article, "Strength Without Elaboration: The Role of Implicit Self-Theories in Forming and Accessing Attitude," was published in the Journal of Consumer Research. In the article, Kwon challenged the notion that strong opinions are always products of effortful thinking processes and proposed people can form strong opinions without these effortful cognitive processes.

"I first got the [research] idea by observing my wife," said Kwon. When they would go shopping together, Kwon noticed his wife could "fall instantly in love" with an item on the rack and know that it was for her without trying it on. "Actually, I found it was not only the case for my wife," he added. "We can all generate many anecdotes of people easily forming strong opinions with no time or effort."

He decided to research further because his experience was opposite of all the literature he had read.

"After research and experiments... I found that those who believe that their personalities are fixed... can easily and quickly form strong opinions about nearly everything, whereas those who believe that their personalities are relatively malleable... can form strong opinions only when they elaborately process every amount of information given to them," said Kwon. "That is, my research suggested that lay beliefs about how fixed or malleable your personality is could affect how you form your opinions and how strongly you hold those opinions."

By identifying the lay beliefs of their target groups, marketers can gauge how much information they need and, in turn, can help give their target audiences the necessary information required for them to form a strong attitude about their brand.

Kwon joined Baylor in August 2015 because he felt it was a university that highly supported his research, and the Hankamer School of Business had a great group of researchers with whom he could collaborate. Next, he plans to build on this research in order to help marketers identify and customize the information they provide to their target consumers based on which group they fall in, so they can help their target customers have strong attitudes toward their brand, which will translate into increased sales.

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