Building resistance to attitude change toward a health product
Attitude has been directly linked to being a highly reliable predictor of behavior (Cacioppo & Petty, 1986). In the modern high pace marketing environment, consumers are constantly bombarded with messages, aiming to shift their attitude to favoring that of the message source. Attitudes toward brands and offerings are simply not held as strongly as cultural beliefs (Bither, Dolich, & Nell, 1971). As people are determined to maintain what they perceive as a correct attitude, they become especially vulnerable to attacks on these attitudes. To counter such attacks, marketers are left to utilize tools which can aid in developing a resistance to attitude change for their customers.
Although there are several attitude resistance techniques, attitude inoculation theory most effectively serves the purpose of withstanding attacks from conflicting attitudes (Bither et al., 1971). Inoculation treatment methods are comparable to that of medical vaccination, where a patient is exposed to a small, weakened dose of a pathogen. In this case, the pathogen is simply an opposing attitude. After exposure to these weakened opposing attitudes, when the subjects encounter real attacks on their belief, they will be far more resistant. This is because they can predict how the attack on their belief will be compiled and what arguments may be used (McGuire & Papageorgis, 1961). The inoculation treatment leaves subjects prepared to fight for maintaining their belief.
In this research, the perimeter of attitude maintenance is identified as ‘loyalty’. The effects of inoculation treatment are investigated, with attention given to the moderators of gender, age, frequency of consumption and level of education. Furthermore, the target variable components of cognitive, emotional and behavioral intent are examined with the application of multiple regression analysis. The findings presented in this study show that the strength of the messages used in inoculation treatments are of high importance, where although strong counter-arguments have an initially strong impact, their effect quickly deteriorates. However, weak counter-arguments, although initially not as effective, are shown to be more influential over a longer period of time. This research validates the successes of inoculation treatment and its effectiveness over longer periods of time. Furthermore, the long term process of such inoculation treatments may lead to allowing an attitude, although weak, enough time to become implicit for the subject, not only explicit. Once an attitude becomes implicit, it is a highly reliable indicator of behavior. In a marketing context, this leads to a higher likelihood of compliance behaviour.