Decision making and coping of functionally illiterate consumers and some implications for marketing management

Madhubalan Viswanathan, José Antonio Rosa, James Edwin Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A study of the decision making and coping of functionally illiterate consumers reveals cognitive predilections, decision heuristics and trade-offs, and coping behaviors that distinguish them from literate consumers. English-as-a-second-language and poor, literate consumers are used as comparison groups. The strong predilection for concrete reasoning and overreliance on pictographic information of functionally illiterate consumers suggest that companies should reconsider how they highlight the added benefits of new products or the differentiating aspects of existing product offerings across channels such as advertising, in-store displays, and positioning. Concrete reasoning also has strong implications for the execution and presentation of price promotions through coupons and in-store discounts, because many consumers are unable to process the information and thus avoid discounted products. Finally, the elaborate coping mechanisms identified and the loyalty that functionally illiterate consumers display toward companies that are sensitive to their literacy and numeracy deficiencies reveal a potential for loyalty programs aimed at this population that do not involve price discounts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-31
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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