Consumer Views on Marketing up Slightly

Consumer views on marketing up slightlyHow do U.S. consumers feel about marketing? Slightly better than neutral, according to the Index of Consumer Sentiment toward Marketing. Over nearly three decades of tracking consumers’ perceptions of product quality, price fairness, usefulness of advertising, and retail service, University of Notre Dame Prof. John Gaski and colleagues have seen scores tip into positive territory. (Excerpt below from “Consumer Insights: Findings from Behavioral Research”)

Based on longitudinal national poll results, the Notre Dame–Socratic Technologies Index of Consumer Sentiment toward Marketing (ICSM) score, the general attitude of American consumers regarding marketing practice has improved over the decades. It has risen from –14.9 in 1983 to +4.24 in 2010 (on a scale of–200 to +200). The cited raw scores translate into an improvement in index numbers from 100 to 105.62. This trend, which is significant, is mainly due to secular increases in the product- and price-oriented components of the sentiment measure.

Evidence Base

33,365 panel responses to a validated 24-item scale instrument, from (nearly) annual data collection over the 1983–2010 period (hiatus in 2007–08), representing the U.S. consumer household market. Data collection conducted via the Synovate (formerly Market Facts) Consumer Mail Panel through 2006, by Socratic Technologies since 2009.

Managerial Implications

Public sentiment toward the institution of marketing in the U.S. is improving, long term, and appears to be relatively neutral, not hostile. More specifically:

  • Product and price, among the basic marketing mix elements, appear to contribute more to general consumer sentiment (the ICSM) than distribution/retailing and advertising do. However, concerning the absolute level of component sentiment scores, distribution/retail and product are now viewed more favorably than advertising and price, perhaps not surprisingly. (In earlier years of the study, sentiment toward product actually had been more negative than that toward advertising.)
  • Demographics are found to have very little relation to general consumer attitude toward marketing, but some macroeconomic variables do relate. The inflation and national saving rates both seem to depress consumer sentiment toward marketing, apparently by reducing consumption utility. The ICSM also relates inversely to the U.S. crime rate as a dependent variable!


Gaski, John F., and Michael J. Etzel (1986), “The Index of Consumer Sentiment Toward Marketing.” Journal of Marketing 50 (3), 71–81.

Gaski, John F., and Michael J. Etzel (2005), “National Aggregate Consumer Sentiment toward Marketing: A Thirty-Year Retrospective and Analysis.” Journal of Consumer Research 31 (2), 859–67.

Gaski, John F. (2008), “The Index of Consumer Sentiment toward Marketing: Validation, Updated Results, and Demographic Analysis.” Journal of Consumer Policy 31 (2), 195-216.

Consumer Insights: Findings from Behavioral Research
Joseph W. Alba, ed. (2011)

Related links

What Happens When You Trust Consumers? (2013) [Article]

Michael Norton on "Trust Through Transparency" (2013) [Video]

How Social Goodwill Sways Consumer Beliefs (2011) [Article]



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