Significance of the family in consumer behavior

In this article we examined the topic of social groups in order to understand their relevance to individuals and how marketers could use this knowledge. Now we turn to the family, not just as a type of small group, but one that is often predominant in its influence over consumer behavior. The family is both a primary group (characterized by intimate, face to face interaction) and a reference group (with members referring to certain family values, norms, and standards in their behavior) These two factors, however are not the sole reasons accounting for the strength of the family’s influence. Rather, it is first, the fact that the bonds within the family are likely to be much more powerful than those in other small groups. Second, contrary to most other groups to which the consumer belongs the family functions directly in the role of ultimate consumption. Thus, the family operates as an economic unit, earning and spending money. In doing this, family members must establish individual and collective consumption priorities decide on products and brands that fulfill their needs, and also decide where these items are to be bought and how they are to be used in furthermore family members’ goals. Also, consumers attitudes toward spending and saving and even the brands and products purchased have been molded, often quite indelibly by the family’s influence on its members and the way in which purchase decisions are made by members so that they may effectively program their marketing mix. Table below Illustrates several ways in which families differ from other groups:


Differences between families and other groups:

Family Versus Other Groups

Formation by marriage or birth Formation by job or task

More permanent relationship More contractual relationship

More interpersonal relations
oriented More Goal oriented

More intrinsic value seeking More rational oriented ties

Group oriented (cooperative) Self-oriented (competitive)

The thrust of this article will first be to review several terms important in understanding this subject. Second, we shall describe the basic functions of the family. Next, we shall examine the family life cycle concept and assess its meaning for the marketer. Family organization and decision making roles will then be discussed also incorporating marketing implications and examples. Finally the changing nature of the family especially here in America, will be discussed along with implications for marketers who face this changing scene.

Families and household:

It is important to understand the difference between various terms that are frequently encountered when discussing the concept of family. First, we should distinguish between the terms family and household since market statistics may be gathered on either of these bases. A house hold includes the related family members and all the unrelated persons who occupy a housing unit (whether house, apartment group of rooms, or others). Thus, households may be of two main types: families and non-families. Most Americans live in households, those who don’t live in group quarters such as military barracks, prisons, nursing homes and college dormitories. The terms family however is more limited and refers to a group of two or more persons connected by blood, marriage, or adoption and residing together as household. Families comprise approximately seven out of ten households, One way families are classified by the Census Bureau is on the basis of the householder’s (i.e. the person in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented ) marital status . a householder who lives with his or her spouse is a married couple family ( about 56 percent of all households) Families may also be classified on the basis of whether children are present Although the term would appear to refer only to people under age 18, it actually can refer to children of any age. In fact, over half of all 18 to 24 year olds live with their parents.

It should be noted that marketers are interested not only in the concept of families but also of households, since both may form the basis or framework of much consumer decision making and buying behavior. The marketer will use the concept that seems most relevant for segmenting markets. For instance manufacturers of refrigerators, dishwashers, ranges and other kitchen appliances would probably find households to be the most relevant dimensions in estimating market size purchase and replacement of these appliances would depend more on household formation than family formation. On the other hand, sellers of children’s clothing and toys would probably be more interested in data on families.