What is product involvement? Marketers have come up with a variety of definitions for this concept, but basically it comes down to this: product involvement is a measure of a customer’s interest in a particular type of product and commitment to a particular brand.

Let’s say you love motorcycles, especially Harleys. You wouldn’t even consider buying a different brand. Obviously you have a high product involvement. (Someone once said that Harley-Davidson is the only brand that inspires so much product involvement that millions of people are willing to have the company logo tattooed on their bodies.)

In general, the more expensive the product, the greater degree of product involvement. People will spend a lot of time researching different makes of cars. They may even consider the car they choose a part of their self-image. Compare this sort of involvement with the attitude most people have toward something less expensive, for example, paper towels. Most people don’t care very much about paper towels, and they have little brand loyalty. They might not even know the name of the brand they usually buy.

Still, there are some inexpensive products that inspire a high degree of product involvement — for example, shampoo. Some women are very concerned about the appearance of their hair. They may have a strong commitment to a certain brand of shampoo because they feel it makes their hair particularly soft and shiny. (Men, on the other hand, typically don’t have much product involvement with shampoo.)

Whether a consumer is buying shampoo or a motor cycle, there is a strong relationship between brand loyalty and how important the product is to the customer. The more a consumer cares about a particular type of product, the more loyal the consumer is likely to be to a particular brand.

Measuring Product Involvement
A simple product questionnaire can be an effective way of measuring product involvement. One question might ask how important a particular type of product is to the respondent on a scale of 1 to 10. A second question might ask how loyal the respondent feels to a particular brand. If most people feel that a product is very important but they feel little brand loyalty, this situation represents a real opportunity for a marketer. With the right message, a marketer can take advantage of this situation to build brand loyalty.

On the other hand, if a survey reveals that most people feel a particular product is not very important, it would probably be a waste of money to try build brand loyalty. Most people don’t feel strongly enough about the product to care which brand they buy.

It’s important to remember that product involvement is different from product evaluation. Respondents might rate a brand highly on an evaluation, but if the product is not important to them they will probably not have much brand loyalty.

Predicting Product Involvement with New Products
New product surveys can help marketers predict what sort of involvement a new product might create. The key here is to ask questions about similar products that a respondent might already be familiar with. For example, suppose you were going to introduce a new line of organic snack foods. Your survey might ask how important people consider snack foods and how important they consider organic foods in general. These questions will help you forecast the potential level of interest in your product, and its potential for building brand loyalty.