2. Reference groups and reference group influences3
2.1 Online referential groups and virtual consumption communities3 2.1.1 Online referential groups in fashion and fashion bloggers4
3. Fashion opinion leadership5
3.1 Fashion opinion seeking5
3.1.1 The process within referential groups in fashion: coherence of opinion leaders and opinion seekers6 3.1.2 Victoria Beckham as fashion opinion leader for the Birkin Bag7
4. Why and how marketers make use fashion opinion leaders9
List of references14
List of illustrations17
Audience reach of social media websites, by sub-category, April 2009 - March 201219 Frequency of visits to social networks, February 201220
Activities normally performed on any social network, February 201221
Consumers influence each other in several ways: they exchange information through communication, seek or give opinions and copy each other’s behaviour. Researchers recognise the giving and seeking of opinions as one of the most important word-of-mouth influences on brand and product choice (Bristor, 1990 and Weimann, 1994). Especially in fashion, social groups and opinion leaders influence product and brand evaluations (Amaldoss and Jain 2008). Fashion consumers often refer to fashion opinion leaders who they desire to be alike. The Internet and social media speeded up the way of communication within reference groups and made it possible to share interests without physical interaction. The following essay will outline an overview of fashion opinion leaders and reference groups before giving a better understanding of how fashion retailers make use of fashion opinion leaders in order to influence customers.
2. Reference groups and reference group influences
Consumers use several sources when they seek information or opinions on decisions; informal and social (Goldsmith and Clark 2008). This aspect of consumer behaviour is described as opinion-leadership-opinion-seeking, word-of-mouth, buzz or social communication (Goldsmith and Clark 2008). This means that consumers refer to something or someone when they seek information and clears the way for the term referential or reference group. Solomon and Rabolt (2009) define Humans as social animals that try to fit into certain groups, please others and take “cues about how to behave by observing the actions of those around” (p. 422) them. A group can simply be defined as two or more people sharing common goals and interests. All members of a group interact by certain patterns, frameworks and networks. A group member must therefore be perceptible to belonging to this group. Groups can be primary (family), secondary (professions), formal (churches), or informal (certain group of friends). Belonging to a herd or group, makes consumers want to identify themselves psychologically and physically with desirable individuals of this group. Thus, an individual or group conceived of having significant relevance upon an individual’s sociological attributes, such as evaluations, characteristics, aspirations, or behaviour is defined as reference group (Park et al, 1977). As stated by Holton (2004), Merton hypothesized that individuals compare themselves with reference groups of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires. Hence, the group becomes the individual's frame of reference and influences his ideas and decisions. Reference group influence can occur in different ways. According to Solomon and Rabolt (2009), group members of reference groups can be influenced informational, utilitarian or value-expressive. Furthermore, individuals are also mostly influenced by normative referents of the group, such as parents, teachers, or peers (Childers and Rao, 1992). There are also so called aspirational groups of which individuals aspire to be a member of. This phenomenon can be considered as...