Different types of Benefits

Informational Benefit:

One reason reference group influence is accepted (or internalized) is that the consumer perceives that his knowledge of his environment and / or his ability to cope with some aspect of it (such as buying a product) is enhanced. Consumers most readily accept those information sources that are thought to be most credible. A consumer using an information reference group may (1) actively search for information from opinion leaders or some group with the appropriate expertise or (2) come to some conclusion through observing the behavior of other people. Therefore, actual physical interaction with the group is not necessary in this type of information search.

In this situation then the marketer may be able appeal consumers through the use of advertising testimonials from experts or even persons on the street or by encouraging consumers to find out more about the brand from friends, neighbors, or work associates. This personal source of information is often more influential in purchasing than are commercial sources such as advertising and sales people as studies of food, small appliances and other indicate. One of the key linkages in this process is the credibility of the influencer. A consumer contemplating a major appliance purchase will rely on friends, salespersons, or even product-rating magazines if the information obtained is perceived as credible. Thus, consumers accept such expertise because of its informational benefits.

Utilitarian Benefits:

This reason refers to pressure on the individual to conform to the preferences or expectations of another individual or group. In a product purchasing situation, the consumer will comply if (1) she believes that her behavior is visible or known to others, (2) she perceives that the others control significant sanctions (rewards or punishments) and (3) she is motivated to realize the reward or avoid the punishment.

Visibility is very important in order for this normative influence to operate. As will be shown later, in situations in which the product is visible or the effects from its use or nonuse are visible, reference groups are able to exert strong normative influence. Thus, products such as clothing and furniture are highly visible to others and therefore are quite susceptible to normative group influence. Even for items which are not themselves visible to others when in use (such as antiperspirant deodorants) normative influence is still likely to be string, because the effects of nonuse will be rather evident (for example, body odor and a stained dress or shirt underarm area). Consequently, fear of group reaction will influence the product’s use.

Thus, an individual accepts influence from the group because she hopes to attain certain specific rewards or avoid certain punishments controlled by the group. In effect, the individual learns to say or do the expected thing in certain situations not because she necessarily likes it, but because it is instrumental in producing a satisfying social effect.

Value Expressive Benefits:

This relates to an individual’s motive to enhance or support his self concept by associating himself with positive reference groups and / or disassociating himself from negative referents. Value expressive reference group influence is characterized by two different processes. First, an individual may utilize reference groups to express himself or bolster his ego. Second, an individual my simply like the group and therefore accept its influence. Thus, an individual adopts behavior derived from the group as away of establishing or maintaining the desired relationship to the group ad the self image provided by this relationship. The individual may say what the group members say, do what they do, and believe what they believe in order to foster the relationship and the satisfying self image it provides.

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