Readership of a fiction novel depends on who reads it and how it is read. There exists communication relationship that has to be fulfilled in order to win a faithful relationship between the reader and the author of a literature. It is generally true for all situations that the consumption of another party to a predominant one has to be won. After the “battle” is won, loyalty will then to be nurtured in order to maintain it. Although loyalty may prop up naturally because of symbology, or by family bloodline, or by the sacred feminine, there is a tendency to deviate from this consumption when there is cause for argument between parties.
In the case of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, the loyalty of the readers has been well researched by many authors. There is still plenty to be understood about the human behavior of readers when it comes to loyalty and interpretation. There are intrinsic relationships between reader satisfaction and reader loyalty and is still one of the topics that need dissection and analysis. Most studies about this topic would tend to generalize and apply the conclusions on other situations when a working model has been conceived. The coverage of the application of interpretation patterns for interpretation via the reader’s acceptance of the idea the book presents can be very broad and also tends to be hard-to-manage especially if customs, traditions and culture are not within the premises.
The importance of a study dealing with perception as it affect reader interpretation such as studies on consumption patterns and loyalty lays in the difficulty of setting measures which once done could give us invaluable insight both on how a literature deals with marketing and how readers would respond to such a business such as Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Knowing the dynamics of satisfying readers and winning critics’ would definitely provide any author laughing his way to the bank.
II. Review of Related Literature
Consumer behavior affects this part as no reader may move freely in a market that is governed by economic and marketing theories (Bertola et al., 2006). The specification on consumer choice entails that the consumer behaves under the laws of supply and demand and that their actions constitute the fundamental principle of consumer choice.(Allenby, 2004)
Consumer behavior in the case of The Da Vinci Code has been studied in recent years in hope of decoding the rational mind’s interpretation capacities. The consumer would behave rationally according to studies, in such a way that they would choose the goods or services in terms of the benefit they would give and not just on the price of it. The assumption on this is that there is no oligopolistic or monopolistic producer that governs the market and that the consumer is located in a perfectly competitive market.(Taylor-Gooby, N. D.)
This is somehow connected to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, placing the image factor of people in the third level: the need for social connections.(Drinnien, 1987) The hierarchy reflects that after satisfying the physiological and security needs, the need for social interaction should also be satisfied. However, this particular need can be accomplished by the person by interacting with other people; therefore achieving connections.
In the case of The Da Vinci Code, recent studies have been conducted to analyze the people’s view of the subject of the book. It has been found out that the book’s readers had considered the book relevant in form, function, and meaning (Drummond, 2006). Purchasing of books recently has seen a decline in the advent of other forms of obtaining knowledge. Through The Da Vinci Code, book sales have been on the rebound, prompting market analysts to predict that the more books will be preferred in the future. The image projected by the Brown bestselling book pose a reader’s mind into thinking that the subject will matter as interests and curiosity plays a significant role in sales.
III. Reading Factors of The Da Vinci Code
The theory on readership and interpretation of The Da Vinci Code is that there is a strong relationship between reader satisfaction and reader loyalty. Reader satisfaction may only be one factor for winning and nurturing reader loyalty, but it could be the strongest factor. Although there are other factors that influence reader-customer loyalty, like society or religion, reader-customer satisfaction in the case of the Dan Brown bestselling novel seem to dominate these other factors because the reader’s behavior and attitude is subject to change once his satisfaction is brought to the fullest. The science of reader-customer satisfaction most of the time influences the memory banks of a reader in the sense that the satisfaction brought about leaves an imprint inside.
Influence of Family and Friends
According from essay 58, another reason is the influence of the people around them who already are talking about the book and recommending her to read it as well. This may influence another person to also read the book because of the stories that these people tell or so (Hawkins et al., 2007). Reading The Da Vinci Code in a way has become a fad in the past couple of years creating a total of 25 million copies sold even before the film. The influence of other people played a large role since this also satisfies a need of a person, as would be explained later. One does not want the feeling of being left out that’s why the person does everything so as to be in the fad of the times. Lastly, the average reader is motivated because of the use of the popular religion as the basis in the book which ironically happens to be a reason why the writer of essay 100 did not read the book. Dan Brown involved the application of the common knowledge in distribution strategies that further affected consumer behavior. With the use of these theories, the author was able to acquire the necessary topics in which they could exploit the consumers’ decision-making criteria. Without which, Brown and Random House, the book’s publisher, would not be able to determine the consumers’ preferences. The reader-consumers’ tastes greatly affect the offers of the company through the factor of demand. The greater the demand, the more diverse the distribution strategies would be.
The Curiosity Factor
Based on essay 109 on the raw materials pack, a male, readers like him would react optimistically to new and divisive literature provided that the plot is interesting and the ideas are new. Benefits on the point of view of reader-consumers are relatively positive since The Da Vinci Code imparted a good quality of rewarding the reader-consumers’ natural tendency to be curious with sensible justification of the existence of norms we know today. The writer of essay 34, female, on the other hand admitted that she did not like the book but was curious what the fuss was all about. The makers of the book, basically thinks that the popularity of the book is a bonus to their efforts they were paid to do. Normally, curiosity works in such a way that the book becomes superior to any other reading materials and thus making it successful (Saad, 2007). Theories in economics dictate that a superior good is always preferred by consumers from an inferior good.(Lars Perner, N. D.) So any book with a sense of “superiority” would be preferred by any reader in the market.
Means of Marketing the Book
As content draws more interest to the people, the means of distribution and who it’s being distributed to, heavily affected the popularity of The Da Vinci Code. According to essay 134, the advertisements and reviews of the book are everywhere. Making her want to read the book herself to find out why The Da Vinci Code is so famous. The first concern is the way in which content reaches the people, the audience, has made the mass media even more reachable. This flood of content availability is greatly changing the people’s way of assimilating media. Taking for example the internet, it provides a great deal of information to the people, so much more than what people could take. In order to face this great deal of information, improved searching capabilities like search engines made it easier to process the information, may it a lot easier to classify the ones you need and the ones you don’t need. The distribution aspect of this information is going mobile. People are able to acquire different information anywhere and anytime they want to. Because of this, the people who create these contents are responsible for the information that made The Da Vinci Code a global phenomenon.
With the increased means of disseminating information, there is also a great change in the ones who will be using the book’s content – the people. The people, the main audience of these changes in content and much more, are the ones who need to understand it more. The concern then is how the different groups of people accessing this information will be able to assimilate them, how these messages will be appropriate for them. The accessibility of information to these people is very great; you can get information just like any other people anywhere in the world.
IV. Structural Analysis of Consumption
The reasons why the book by Dan Brown has been rated as a bestseller include the standard of the basic elements in the book. For instance, The Da Vinci Code has an interesting plot which features various twists and turns which are then able to capture the basic adventurer’s preferences. Next is the element of controversy which directly hits our religious norms on target. This sparked the Roman Catholic Church to denounce the release of the book which thereby created a natural tendency for readers around the world to know why such decisions would be carried out if the book is just fiction. True enough, after reading Dan Brown’s novel, one could interpret the meaning as well as the intentions of the author in several ways. With the introduction of the world to secret societies such as the Priory of Sion and ordinary groups like the Masons and the Knights Templar further aggravated reader curiosity. This created such impact which then resulted to a chain of events that only lead to the book’s further popularity with everyone.
A. Integration of Consumption Patterns of The Da Vinci Code
Jim Novo describes reader loyalty as the tendency of a consumer to choose one product, in this case a book, over another for a particular need. This is the early notion of consumer loyalty wherein they use repeated purchase or patronage as the basis (Novo, 2007).
Alan Dick and Kunal Basu also shared the same ideas but they further define interpretation loyalty as the strength of the relationship between an individual’s relative attitude and repeat patronage. This relationship according to them is intervened by social norms and situational factors. Social norms include gender preference, ethnic group and some other related factors while the situational factors include the sense of patronage (Dick, 1994).
Srinivasana considers some researchers’ viewpoints in her discussion of loyalty in the case of the The Da Vinci Code. She cited Assael’s definition (1992) of brand loyalty, “a favorable attitude toward a brand resulting in consistent purchase of the brand over time.” On the other hand, she mentioned the four categories of loyalty according to Brown (1952), (1) undivided loyalty, (2) divided loyalty, (3) unstable loyalty, and (4) no loyalty, based on the purchase patterns of consumers. Lastly, she cited that Engel ; Blackwell (1982) defined brand loyalty as “the preferential, attitudinal and behavioral response toward one or more brands in a product category expressed over a period of time by a consumer (Srinivasana, 2004).
But for Darell Zahorsky, these researchers are talking about consumer satisfaction not consumer loyalty. For him, consumer loyalty is the practice of finding, attracting, and retaining your consumer who may patronize your work (Zahorsky, 2007).
Pokorny further elaborates Zahorsky’s point of view. She added that these two concepts differ in the levels of satisfaction they require. Consumer satisfaction can be easily achieved by just focusing on some areas like ideology, literature quality and reliability. But consumer loyalty can only be achieved if the consumer will not only purchase the product but endorse it to her family and friends (Pokorny, 1995).
This assumption is supported by Jill Griffin who believes that satisfaction alone is not enough to build reader loyalty. He said that many companies operate under the false impression that a “retained” customer is automatically a loyal reader (Griffin, 2002).
However, Brian Woolf, a global leader in loyalty marketing said that there is no universally accepted definition of loyalty only given theories. This is the great challenge the practitioners have to address, he added. According to him, a measurable and understandable definition of reader loyalty will promote harmony on the marketing industry (Woolf, 2002).
Based on a study conducted from 600 individual readers who belong to different reader levels, researchers found out that societal image that any book may present may have an effect on reader loyalty while reader satisfactions have not. This finding challenges the common notion that reader satisfaction is the proof of reader loyalty (Andreassen).
Reader loyalty can also be achieved by personal recognition between the author and the reader according to Arthur Middleton Hughes. But, he also said that this is very hard to follow especially now that almost everything is run by computers. Most of the publishers prefer the use of computers to provide recognition and distribution of products to the customers since it demands less effort and relatively cheap. As a result, reader loyalty declines (Hughes, 2007).
Jones and Sasser therefore conclude that the reader (both in highly competitive and less competitive markets) who are simply satisfied with the service however may not repurchase while those who are completely satisfied not only seems to buy again but become loyal readers (Jones, 1995).
The second factor would be the marketing strategies employed by the company. The company’s strategies are always geared towards the achievement of a higher number of market shares that they can acquire. Just how exactly would they be able to do this? They can advertise and advertisements are what Random House provided for The Da Vinci Code. With the power of various forms of the media, the book was able to broadcast that its existence to the world, with better mediums such as the internet coupled media conglomerates which were initially captivated by the book’s subject that denounces common knowledge on religion. Coincidentally, most entries that the book presented pertained to specific and existing places, events, people, organizations and other entities that further enticed the curiosity of the reading public. The book was also successful in claiming that these entries are true. For instance, The Da Vinci Code was able to erase fiction from the real events through the extensive research Dan Brown made during the book’s inception. The author even mentioned in the first part of the book that all entries are real so the reading public believed that it was so.
The influence of preference, however, is a very tricky subject. This factor can be easily divided into a lot of parts, the most common of which are the factors of influence of others, taste and the quest for prestige (Johnson, 1999). It is human nature to be influenced by others. It is human nature to be influenced by your taste. And, of course, it is human nature to be influenced by a person’s want and desire to be the first one to read a controversial book and be in the know. The influence of others can be by recommendation of friends, relatives and other acquaintances; but it boils down to one thing: that they talk of the controversy of the subject of The Da Vinci Code and thereby leave other people who haven’t read the book yet out. The ones that influence a particular person generally are all praises for the book, triggering a sense of curiosity in the person that makes him/her to discover the things that make these people claim such things. If the person then gets satisfied, he would also do the same in which he was influenced. The influence of taste, however, is a little murky since the taste of the readers is a volatile topic to discuss. The market is a very dynamic unit to analyze, attributing it to the fact that tastes change so fast. The readers may want a certain book now, but tomorrow, they may not want it anymore. If today, they don’t think it is wise to purchase Dan Brown’s book, maybe tomorrow, that person would turn into a The Da Vinci Code fanatic. The market is very dynamic.
All marketing strategies point out to one conclusion: that the book had the best marketing strategies there is and that there is no reason not to buy the bestselling book. It seems funny but psychology tells us that this is done and has been done in the previous years.(Johnson, 1999) People have been attracted to these kinds of deals and that until now, they claim to be satisfied. The confirmation of which would be present in the recent developments in the book selling (Haussman, 2002). The boost that is all of a sudden present in the book selling sector which only confirms the fact that the marketing strategies that are employed by Random House are on the rampage. They are gathering market shares like they are just stones to be picked from the road.
These are the factors from the point of view of the publishing house. However, like many things, the factor of expectation also comes into play. If ever a person comes into an idea to read the book, they would also have a certain number of expectations to satisfy. First of which would be if The Da Vinci Code would be able to live up to the promises that they say? Would they be able to give me the answers that I want to know? Are the entries really interesting that they claim it to be? Is the book really as controversial as it claimed to be? Would the answers the book presents really compensate the money that I paid for in buying it?
Such are the questions that would run in the minds of new readers. How the book would satisfy these would be at their discretion. The only thing that would matter is that: if the reader would find the subject interesting enough, he can spread his dissatisfaction or disapproval on the subject about the book. This would result to a decrease in the market shares and eventually profits on the part of the publishing house. The publishing house would, of course, not want this.
The relationship differs from person to person but most think that reading entails a connotation of blasphemy towards the Roman Catholic Church. It would look like the reader does not have any concern on the book’s blasphemous nature that he can still afford to buy the book. What clergy do not really understand is that the book is just a realistic interpretation and does not necessarily have to have the connotation and that readers of the book just seek an outlet for their curiosity. The concept of blasphemy is really subjective such that it varies from person to person’s interpretation of the book. The prevailing concept is that the religious context is defined as so if it is not really needed. A reader may view that the book has a blasphemous effect on its readers if the reader interprets the subject of the book in a negative manner. However, if it does not become part of their regular routine and has become a staple for the person, it may be considered as blasphemy.
V. Reader Thinking Patterns
But before we judge people with their thinking patterns, it would be essential for us to know the readers’ thinking path upon reading The Da Vinci Code. Learning and understanding the thinking path of readers would definitely be beneficial to the market and the industry. The market and the industry also take advantage of the thinking and reasoning patterns of people to make the consumer behavior more comprehendible to common thinkers. The line of thinking is somehow related to the common theory of consumer behavior. However, the only difference would be that the thinking path takes on a more scientific way of dealing with the situation. Since thinking path can be generalized with accordance to the type of reader, it is essential that we understand first a unit before we would be able to understand the whole group.
The concept of cognition which was developed by Leon Festinger, a social psychologist from New York closely related to such abstract concepts as mind, reasoning, perception, intelligence, learning and many others that describe numerous capabilities of human mind and expected properties of artificial or synthetic intelligence as cited by Deninis Posadas on his journal article about cognitive dissonance. According to him, we can minimize our cognitive dissonance while there is no way to totally beat it out. In the case of The Da Vinci Code, this became evident with the presentation of the “facts’ intricately constructed by Brown for readers to believe in its validity. Furthermore, the only way to do that is to make sure all our claims are backed up by facts, and the people who make the claims are credible (Posadas, 2006). Cognitive phase, the first facet of reader loyalty is directed by the costs and benefits of products or services. According to Kitayama, some experiments provide support to the hypothesis that upon making a choice, individuals justify their choice in order to eliminate doubts. However, these things only proves that cognitive loyalty is the weakest type of loyalty since readers purchase the product only because of the said hypothesis (Kitayama, 2004).
Meanwhile, Dagmar Recklies, in his article “Understanding and Managing Customer Perception”, explains how customers’ decision-making is influenced other reader’s notion of the product or interpretation or influencing groups perceive the product, how the actual marketing campaign address the needs of the readers and how credible the affiliates or distribution partners are. When these things are met, customer loyalty will be very possible (Recklies, 2001). “Personalization doesn’t always mean high touch. It means understanding what the reader wants and delivering it. Relevancy is a definite driver,” said Adam Sarner Gartner Inc. principal analyst (C. Crosby, 2005).
As confirmed by Barnes (2002), “the emotionally loyal reader feels an attachment to the book or the brand that transcends functional attributes. This is a loyalty that offers a more functionally-attractive alternative and most likely to last, even in the face of competition from other novels of the same degree(Barnes, 2002). Even Dr Crosby, who have made some reader loyalty studies, found out that emotional factors have constantly higher impact over rational aspects. His findings always prove that the emotional connection with brands or products is what best contributes to costumer repurchase and loyalty (L. Crosby, 2006).
According to Keaveney, the switching customer behavior damages market share and profitability of service firms (Keaveney, 1995). Meanwhile, some authors (Storbacka, Strandvik and Groonroos) (1994) focused on another viewpoint of affective loyalty. Based on their perspectives, the task of marketing is not only to establish customer relationships, but also to maintain and enhance them in order to improve customer profitability (Storbacka, 1994).
An empirical study was conducted on a private university in Switzerland with the participation of 220 students in 2005 about the impact of The Da Vinci Code. The study aims to discover the link between the variables such as mood states, emotions, and perceptions on the reader interpretations. Findings confirm the correlation of these variables to reader loyalty. However, the contribution of mood to explaining the variance in loyalty was minimal (White, 2006).
Another study was conducted, this time emphasizing the importance of experience as a tool to create emotional affection between the readers or guests and the author. According to this article, supplier tries to develop loyalty by aggressively designing, continuously innovating, and managing their reader experiences (Pullman, 2004).
Conative loyalty is related to the intention to actor to buy a product according to Gupta. It has the lowest intensity among the three factors (cognitive, affective, and conative) as supported by findings. Researchers imply that gender may affect conative loyalty but not at all time. Some folks believe that female is compulsive compared to male (Gupta).
In addition to Gupta’s definition, Reid states that conative grouping refers to the resulted action effects from the traditional hierarchies. This would include action, sale, intention, behavior, and purchase. This group includes any effects from the other hierarchies that involve a reader’s actions and intentions regarding a product (Reid, 2006).
Regarding this, readers have the freedom to accept or reject a product based on advertisements and plugs. Normally, some people buy a product not because s/he needs it but because the picture of his/her “idol” is there. These situations reflect that loyalty of some customers is present only when favorable attitudes or conditions for a brand are manifested. According to research of Ingrid Porter, publishers have particular target groups in advertising–groups defined by gender, ethnic group, income, occupation, region of the country and so on. He also said that a technique that works for one group may not appeal (I. Porter, 2007).
This insight possibly demarcates between repeat and loyal readers who are both satisfied as what The Da Vinci Code offers. Hence, the raw data for students suggests various reader reactions that are related to the interpretation of Dan Brown’s book. Though most are generally satisfied with what The Da Vinci Code has to offer or whose expectation of a bestseller rating of the book are met, only a fraction are actively promoting the book to their acquaintances.
Likewise, the majority of the readers, based on the raw data provided who not mind an increase would suggest either money is no problem or willing accept that The Da Vinci Code is acting within fair literature practice. The latter suggest trust which is key aspect of loyalty. Though tolerance of price increase is not conclusive of being loyal it is suggestive that loyalty may be a work at such tolerance.
Cognition plays a vital part in shaping attitudes and interpretations related to the book. Regularity is discernable and associated with reliability, that is, there is a high probability that at every instance in author-reader encounter, expectations are met. Deviation from the familiar may result to a dissonance on the complex relationship between the book and its readers. This is evident in the item of reaction to possibility of changing the beliefs of readers which the Vatican over-reacted upon. The consistency of meeting expectations may be the operative principle in reader satisfaction or the main attribute of satisfying a consumer in any literature. On the same note, consistency in meeting the psycho-social expectations associated with loyalty like familiarity or a level of comfort not only in terms of literature structure but emotional and intellectual satisfaction or strong feeling of worthiness of read but also of being accepted and strong sense of belonging. In other words, consistency defines the familiar through which the reader could identify with.
The working definition of reader satisfaction must take into consideration the psychological makeup and needs of the readers of The Da Vinci Code – in making them important and satisfying their curiosity and providing alternative answers. Viewing satisfaction in two levels could lead to a working model of author-reader relationship founded on trust and loyalty. Loyalty could be so subtle to a point of having difficulty in differentiating between repeat readers from the loyal reader. This may entail a closer view of the reader behavior towards for example, the publishing house and participation of readers in regular events of related to the book such as the book’s film interpretation.
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