Chapter objective: Why do others, especially those who possess some kind of social power, often influence us? Consumer Behavior concepts: Brand communities, positive versus negative reference groups, conformity A reference group is any person or group that serves as a point of comparison (or reference) for an individual in forming either general or specific values, attitudes, or a specific guide for behavior . Reference groups influence consumers in three different ways: information, utilitarian, and value-expressive.

Reference groups form brand communities called, in which the members share similar interests and a set of social relationships based on their usage of a particular product. When involved in a larger group, individuals may be affected in certain ways and act differently than normal. Individuals may conform to group norms due to certain group pressures and constraints. There are two main divisions within reference groups. Almost all individuals have contact with these reference groups in some form. They are: Primary reference groups and secondary reference group.

Primary reference groups exert the most influence on our buying behavior, as we often have the most contact with members of these groups. Examples of these groups are sororities, fraternities, or any other professional organization with which we have daily contact. Secondary reference groups have less influence on our behavior; however, consumers usually belong to multiple secondary reference groups, negating the relative lack of influence power. Examples of these groups are boat clubs, social communities, or anything else that requires a smaller time commitment.

These groups typically assemble on weekends and consumers use these as a release from day-to-day activities. A reference group is an actual or imaginary individual or group conceived of having significant relevance upon an individual’s evaluations, aspirations, or behavior. There are three different ways that reference groups influence consumers: informational, utilitarian, and value-expressive. First, an informational influence is when an individual seeks our information about different brands from an association, professional or independent group of experts.

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These individuals can seek out brand-related knowledge and experience from their friends, neighbors, relatives, or work associates who have reliable information on the brand that they are seeking. This also occurs when the brand the consumer selects is influenced by observing a seal of approval from an independent testing agency. Next, a utilitarian influence is when an individual’s decision to purchase a particular product is influenced by the preferences of people with whom they have a social interaction with or a member of their family.

The individuals brand choice is impacted by the desire to satisfy the expectations that others have of them. Finally, a value-expressive influence is when a consumer feels that a purchase or use of a particular product will enhance the image others have of them. Individuals feels that the people who purchase a particular brand are admired and respected by others and that those people possess the characteristics that the consumer would like to have. It is important to note, these influences do not always have high impact for every type of product and consumption activity.

Consumers are not going to be as influenced if products have a low perceived risk, or if they are able to test out the product before they buy it. Whether a product is consumed publicly or privately, and whether it is a luxury or a necessity helps determines the degree of influence that reference groups will have over an individual. The amount of social power, the capacity to alter the action of others, one has also helps determine the amount of influence one will have over the consumers. This influence or power can take many different forms.

A person can have referent power, information power, legitimate power, expert power, reward power, and coercive power over consumers. Those that are considered to be part of a reference group form a community with those that have similar interests. A brand community is when a group of consumers share a set of social relationships based on their usage or interest in a particular product. These members typically only meet for brief periods of time at brandfests that community-oriented companies sponsor, since they live further away from each other.

Consumers that participate in events have a more positive attitude toward the product, which helps increase their brand loyalty. Characteristics of these consumers include: forgiveness of product failures and lapses in service quality and an emotional attachment to the company’s welfare. Similar to a brand community is a consumer tribe. A consumer tribe consists of members who share a lifestyle and who can identify with each other because of a common interest in an activity or product. These members share emotions, moral beliefs, lifestyles, and an interest in similar products.

When involved in larger groups, other people tend to have a certain affect over consumers and cause them to act in a different way. Individuals are less likely to be singled out, causing them to have fewer restrains and having the mindset that they can get away with more. De-individualization occurs when individual identities become submerged within a group. Consumers may also agree to try a new activity or a new product when involved in a group, because they feel the need to conform to that group. Conformity, the change in beliefs or actions, is due to real or imaginary group pressure.

Reference groups function based on a set of informal rules, or norms, that dictate the group’s behavior. Individuals feel the need to conform for several different reasons, including fear of deviance, which is when individuals believe that the group will punish them for nonconforming behaviors. Conformity may result due to the level of commitment one has to a group; the more dedicated they are, the greater their motivation to conform to the groups wishes are. Group unanimity, size, and expertise can contribute to conformity because as a group gains more power, compliance may increase.

It is much harder to say no to a large group of people than a smaller one. When seeking information about a product an individual may turn to the opinion leader of the group. An opinion leader is a person who is able to frequently able to influence others’ attitudes or behaviors. Individuals turn to them because they are socially active and highly interconnected within their community, they are often the first to buy the newest product, and are technically competent, and they tend to be similar to other consumers. The LEGO group was formed in 1932 by the Kirk Kristiansen family in Billund, Denmark.

The company started out as a small carpenter’s workshop and is now the world’s fourth-largest toy manufacturer. LEGO fans from around the world formed to create a brand community with the love of LEGOs and building and creating. LEGO enthusiasts created an online forum called LUGNET, where they can share LEGO advice, stories, and creations with each other. Members of this community travel from around the world to attend LEGO conventions, where they can witness LEGO creations created by scientists, engineers, and artists. LEGO recognizes certain ‘LEGO professionals,’ whose mission is to spread the joy of LEGO’s to the adult community.

The name ‘LEGO’ is an abbreviated version of the Danish words “leg godt”, which means ‘play well. ’ The company’s most well-known product is the LEGO brick, which was launched in 1958 and is the foundation of their company. The LEGO brick has been named ‘Toy of the Century” twice throughout its life span. The company’s values are imagination, creativity, fun, learning, caring and quality. LEGO’s current target market is young children interested in playing, creating and building. While children are still playing with LEGOs, the brand loyalty has carried over into adulthood.

A huge market for LEGO is adults; fans from around the world collaborate, give advice, and share their LEGO creations. However, this adult fan base was not initially sponsored by LEGO, which alludes to the fact that LEGO did not initially consider the adult market to be a profitable initiative. LUGNET is the International fan-created LEGO user’s network, which is the largest online community with Adult Fans of LEGOS (AFOL) members. The website provides a forum for LEGO users around the world to discuss LEGO related issues and post their latest creations.

The website also provides links to several other LEGO fan sites for members to view. Members sign on to this website to join other fans from around the world to talk about their shared interest of LEGOs. They use the forum to ask for advice on how something was built and gain feedback from other users on their creations. LEGO creators from all around the world have created a brand community and get together at LEGO conventions, which are sometimes called Brickworld, Brickfair, or Brickcon. These members are not just fans of the product but they are even called LEGO engineers, LEGO artists, and some use LEGOs for science and technology.

These conventions provide challenges for LEGO users for the greatest LEGO creation. LEGO. com features LEGO certified professionals within their website. For the select few, LEGO will certify you as a professional. These professionals are LEGO enthusiasts, who grew up playing with LEGOs and are now playing with LEGOs as their profession. LEGO does not employee these members, but recognizes this group of people as trusted business partners. Their goal is to spread the joy of brick building among the adult populations and even provides LEGO team building events for LEGO enthusiasts.

They create intricate, complicated and sometimes even life size LEGO models to share with the world. LEGO also has several places all around the world that LEGO fans young and old can gather to share their interest of LEGOs. LEGOLAND is a theme park with a LEGO inspired waterpark, amusement park, LEGO villages, factories, etc. Fans can witness LEGO creations and even see LEGOs walking around. In conclusion, LEGO is finally beginning to realize that they have just scratched the surface when it comes to maximizing consumer revenue.

After all, LEGO toys are designed for children up to their adolescent ages. However, this means that marketers are missing out on the majority of their target market’s lifetime. Although that sounds far-fetched, the presence of the clubs and forums that have formed organically proves otherwise. With a higher disposable income and bigger dreams, these adult LEGO aficionados are begging for attention. The elaborate sculptures typically take tens of thousands of LEGOs to build, which is a volume of LEGOs that no child will probably ever see.

These highly influential groups are a highly loyal and interested segment. Evidence of the fact that LEGO is not doing everything they can to foster this community can be found in the discontinuation of the “LEGO Factory Design by ME” concept, in which builders could upload their own images and have the bricks sent for assembly, despite the overwhelming response. LEGO’s decision to get involved in the adult market and leverage the use of groups would be an excellent one, provided it pursues the strategy in an organized fashion.


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