In order to understand the nature of groups better, we need to examine several other important concepts including status, role, socialization and power, and their significance from consumer behavior.
Status refers to the achieved or ascribed position of an individual in a group or in society, and it consists of the rights and duties associated with that position. We referred to status in a prestige sense; however this is only one of several different ways in which statuses may be classified. Status also may refer to some grouping on the basis of age, family, occupation, and friendship of common interest.
Norms are the rules and standards of conduct by which group members are expected to abide. For informal groups, norms are generally unwritten but are, nevertheless, usually quite well understood. Example as a salesperson for a large business machines company, you might be expected to live in a certain area of town, drive a certain type of car (perhaps a midsize Oldsmobile), and dress conservatively such as in a navy blue suit and striped tie. Behavior deviation outside these latitudes might result in slower advancement in the organization. Thus, as employees or consumers, we often readily know what we can and cannot wear, drive, say eat and so on, in order to be well accepted within the relevant group.
This term is used to designate all of the behavior patterns associated with a particular status. Role is the dynamic aspect and includes the attitudes, values and behavior ascribed by the society to persons occupying this status. The social structure partially prescribes what sort of role behavior is acceptable and thus what is expected. For instance, an upper class husband who is a successful physician may feel that in position he is expected to drive an expensive car, live in an exclusive neighborhood dress in fashionable clothes, attend country club activities and give generously to charities. Conversely, a lower class husband who is an assembly line worker may feel comfortable in a role in which he drives a pickup truck, lives in a bungalow wears jeans and boots and fishes hunts and drinks beer with his friends.
Essentially, role theory recognizes that an individual carries life by playing different roles. This concept was expressed in a poetic way by Shakespeare in the following well known passage.
All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts
His acts being seven ages
This means that each consumer enacts many roles, which may change over time, eve during the course of a day. For example, a woman may have the role of wife, mother, employee, family financial officer, lover, Sunday school teacher and many others. Her behavior in each of these roles will differ as she keeps switching hats depending on her role moment.
Carrying the concept of playing a role further, the individual must not only learn his lines (the group’s special language) but he needs a costume (the group’s accepted dress), props (the group’s equipment or accoutrements), a set (where the groups interacts), and a team or cast of players (the group members).
Roles in groups (just as those in a play) are learned but not every individual learns a given role in the same way. Society allows some variation in role performance, but if too much latitude is taken, sanctions of some sort will be imposed. Thus, other people expect us to behave in a certain way and will reward conformity and punish nonconformity to those expectations.