Consumer socialization

Roles in groups (just as those in a play) are learned but not very individual learns a given role in the same way. Society allows variation in role performance but if too much latitude is taken, sanctions of some sort will be imposed. Thus, other people expect us to expect us to behave in a certain way and will reward conformity and punish nonconformity to those expectations.

Roles have a strong, pervasive influence on our activities as consumers. For example, other people have expectations regarding the products we buy to meet the needs of our roles. Just a few of the many consumption decisions directly affected include the places we shop, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the houses in which we live and the recreational activities we engage in. Marketers therefore, help individuals play their roles by providing the right costumes and props to be used in gaining acceptance by some group. Again, it‘s the symbols of products that provide so much of the satisfaction that accrues from a product.

Because of the many roles we try to fulfill, whether at different times or simultaneously we may develop role conflict, which means that two or more of our roles incompatible with each other. The strain may often be evidenced in the behavior of consumer. For example, a working wife may feel that the demands on her time may be more easily met by fixing her family quick and easy meals, particularly by using frozen TV dinners. However, in her role as a loving wife and the family’s gourmet cook, such product usage may be abhorrent. Thus a resolution of this conflict will be necessary. A creative advertiser may suggest a solution through showing her purchasing the company’s TV dinners because although easily prepared when served on her regular china seasoned to taste and garnished attractively they resemble a gourmet meal.


Socialization refers to the process by which a new member learns the system of values, norms and expected behaviors patterns of the group being entered. When a new student arrives on a college campus, she or he soon learns from fellow students what is expected in the way of dress, eating patterns, class attendance, extracurricular activities, and so on. Residents new to a neighborhood soon learn what patterns are expected in the group concerning home maintenance, lawns and landscaping interior decoration entertaining and so on. Thus, individuals are continually engaging in the process of socialization (although it is more intense at an early age) as they encounter new groups that have an impact on their lives. Consumer socialization therefore is the process by which individuals acquire skills, knowledge and attitudes relevant to their effective functioning as consumers in the market place. This is particularly relevant to young people, although as an ongoing process it has usefulness in other situations too, as was indicated above.


Groups have power to influence their members’ behavior. Various sources of social power may be operative in different social group situations, however reward power: coercive power, legitimate power, expert power, and referent power. Marketers also seek to use these forms of power to influence consumers.

Reward Power: This is based on the perception one has of another’s ability to reward him. The strength of reward power increase with the size of the rewards which an individual perceives another can administer. Rewards might include either tangible items such as money or gifts or intangible things such as recognition, praise or other nonmaterial satisfaction.

Social groups often have a great deal of reward power which they may dispense to their members. This carrot approach can often result in the desired behavior being exhibited by members. For example, Amway Products, which uses direct selling methods for its line of household products, makes effective use of reward power in motivating its sales force, by holding large sale rallies where young sales people usually middle class couples watch a 290 minutes color film that features family scenes of successful Amway couples enjoying the fruits of their labors – swimming pools and motor homes.

Marketers also use reward power directly and indirectly in order to influence consumers. Of course, they are able to reward consumer directly by providing high quality products and services. In other situations, marketers promise (implicitly at least) the rewards of group acceptance such as love through use of a product. For example, some brands of beer (such as Lowenbrau and Old Milwaukee) and liquor attempt to show group acceptance takes place through purchase and consumption of their product.