Reference Groups

Having discussed some important group concepts necessary for our interests let us further examine the topic of reference group influence.

Types of Reference Groups:

Reference groups are those an individual uses (that is, refers to) in determining his judgments, beliefs and behavior. These may be of a number of types as explained by the following classification system.

Membership versus Non-membership: Membership groups are those to which the individual belongs. Membership in some groups is automatic by virtue of the consumer’s age, sex, education, and marital status. Before acting a consumer might consider whether purchase or use of a product would be consistent with his or her role as a member of one of these groups.

Non-membership groups are those to which the individual does not presently belong. Many of these groups are likely to be anticipatory or aspirational in nature, that is, those to which the individual spires to belong. Such aspirational groups can have a profound influence on nonmembers because of their string desire to join the group. This pattern of behavior is evident among upwardly mobile consumers who aspire to join higher status clubs and social groups.

Positive versus negative: reference groups can also be classified as to whether they attract or repel the individual. For instance, a positive reference group for the upwardly mobile consumer may be the country club crowd in that city. There are negative groups, however, that a person attempts to avoid being identified with. For example an individual who is trying to succeed as a new management trainee may attempt through her speech dress and mannerisms to disassociate herself from her lower social class background in order to have a greater chance of success in her job.

Reasons for accepting reference group influence:

Generally, consumers accept reference group influence because of the perceived benefits in doing so. It has been suggested that the nature of social interactions between individuals will be determined by the individual’s perception of the profit of the interaction. An interaction situation may result in rewards (such as friendship, information, satisfaction, and so on) but will also exact costs (lost time, money expended, alternative people and activities sacrificed). The difference between these rewards and costs, that is, the net profit from the social exchange, individuals will attempt to maximize. Thus, individuals will chose their groups and interact with members based upon their perception of the net profit of that exchange rather than rewards or costs alone.

At more specific level, consumers may be seen to accept reference group influence because of its role in providing informational utilitarian and value expressive benefits. Table presents a series of statements of that typify these three types of reference group influence situations.

Typical Reference Group Influences on Brand Decisions

Informational influence:

1) The individual seeks information about various brands of the product from an association of professional or independent group of experts.
2) The individuals seek information from those who work with as a profession.
3) The individual seek brand related knowledge and experience (such as how brand A’s performance compares to brand B’s) from these friends, neighbors, relatives or work associates who have reliable information about the brand.
4) The brand which the individual selects is influenced by observation of a seal of approval of an independent testing agency (such as Good Housekeeping).
5) The individual’s observation of what experts do influences his or her choice of a brand (such as observing the type of car which police drive or the brand of TV which repairmen by).

Utilitarian influence:

1) To satisfy the expectations of fellow work associates, the individual’s decision to purchase a particular band is influenced by their preferences.
2) The individual’s decision to purchase a particular brand is influenced by the preferences of people with whom he or she has social interaction.
3) The individual’s decision to purchase a particular brand is influenced by the preferences of family members.
4) The desire to satisfy the expectations which others have of him or her has an impact on the individual’s band choice.

Value Expressive Influence:

1) The individual feels that the purchase or use of a particular brand will enhance the image which others have of him or her.
2) The individual feels at those who purchases or use a particular brand posse the characteristics which he or she would like to have.
3) The individual sometimes feels that it would be nice to be like the type of person which advertisement show using a particular brand.
4) The individual feel that the people who purchase a particular brand are admired or respected by others.
5) The individual feels that the purchase of a particular brand helps to show others what he or she is, or would lie to be (an athlete, successful business person good mother etc).