Reference Groups and the Influence Exerted by them Consumer Behaviour

Reference Groups and the Influence Exerted by them
Reference groups can be further classified into four categories given below, depending on the functions they perform and, the kind and degree of influence exerted by them. These groups lay down certain norms, roles and status that are followed by members.Norms are unwritten codes, or standards of conduct that are assigned to individuals within a group.Roles are the part that the members play as initiator, influencer, gate keeper, decision maker, the purchaser and final user.Status is the position of authority that is designated within a group. High status relates to more power, e.g., father and mother in a family have greater status than the other family members. Also the chief executive has greater authority and power than the subordinates in an organisation. Products are also bought and consumed, which relate to the status of the individual or group.
Thus, there are four categories of reference groups namely normative, comparative, status and dissociative groups. We shall discuss these one by one.
Normative Groups: These are groups that uphold the norms of the groups. There are values that must be adhered to, while exhibiting consumer behaviour. There is also the judgementor the perspective one uses in defining personal situations.

These norms also influence the choice of clothing or how much a person should eat or drink at a party normative influence may lead to normative behaviour. The influences are exerted on purchase of clothing, furniture, appliances, food, etc. These are visible items. Other items like mouth-wash, perfumes, etc. may not be visible, but are used for the approval of group members. Normative influence is also known as utilitarian influence, which occurs when an individual fulfills group expectations to receive a direct reward or to avoid a sanction. You may purchase a given brand of coffee to win approval from a spouse or a neighbourhood group, or you may refrain from wearing the latest fashion for fear of being teased by friends.
Comparative Reference Groups: These are groups with whom the individual compares himself and his attitudes. He compares himself to other members of the group to find out whether they support his views and attitudes.

The new resident in the neighbourhood are attracted to neighbours who are similar to themselves, because they reinforce existing attitudes and behaviours. Advertisers also use spokesmen who are perceived by consumers as similar to themselves, because they reinforce existing attitudes and behaviour. Comparative reference groups provide the basis for validating beliefs, values and attitudes. Consumers need not be in direct social contact with a reference group to be influenced by it.

In the case of comparative reference groups, if values are expressed, they can be practiced and one can come closer to the group and be accepted by it. This is known as value expressive influence, e.g., where drinking is prohibited and expressed. One practices the same to be accepted by the group. In groups where chappals and sandals are not allowed and is expressed, then one has to conform with the values of the group to come closer to it.
Dissociative Group: Some individuals do not want to be likened to, or identified by a group of individuals. They try to dissociate themselves from that group. These groups are known as dissociative groups. You may try to dissociate yourself from a group in your office who may be dishonest and you want to uphold your image of honesty. This is also done to move upwards into a higher social class. You may not buy products used by the dissociative group. You may want to move away from this dissociative group of people.
Status Reference Group: When one refers to the status or a position of the people in a group, he is referring to status reference group. An individual who may not belong to this group may aspire to achieve that status and, want to be a member of that group (aspiration group).

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