REPORT: SOCIAL INFLUENCES ON CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
Presented to the
Faculty of the Department of Business Administration
School of Business Economics
University of San Carlos
Cebu City, Philippines
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Course
Second Semester 2013-2014
LEGASPI, NIKKO B
Social Influence and Consumer Behavior
The importance of understanding the role of social influence, how others affect our emotions, opinions, or behaviors, in consumption has a long and varied history in the fields of sociology, psychology, and marketing. As a topic area, social influence is incredibly broad, covering everything from mere presence effects and mimicry to more direct forms of social persuasion often seen in consumption contexts such as retail sales. Given this, early work in sociology and psychology defined theoretical frameworks for understanding and investigating social influence (e.g., Mead’s development of symbolic interactionism, Festinger’s social comparison theory) and provided effective starting points for consumer behavior researchers to build understanding of the role of social influence in consumption. The articles selected for this special collection are representative of this type of work, as they have added new insight into why the social milieu is both a critical and fascinating piece of the consumption puzzle. In each instance profiled, the authors have used an experimental approach to manipulate aspects of social influence, thereby enabling a greater understanding of how the nuances found in the social environment can affect the consumer. As a body of research, these papers validate the importance and complexity of social influence in consumption and hopefully inspire subsequent research questions and ideas in this exciting area of investigation.
Sources of Influence
Social influence can come from marketing or nonmarketing sources and can be delivered via the mass media or in person. Nonmarketing sources tend to be more credible. Information delivered via the mass media can reach many people but may not allow for a two-way flow of communication.
Marketing and Nonmarketing Sources
Influence can come from marketing and nonmarketing sources and can be delivered via the mass media or personally.
-Marketing source Influence
delivered from a marketing agent, e.g., advertising, personal selling.
Influence delivered from an entity outside a marketing organization,e.g., friends, family, the media.
Word of mouth
Influence delivered verbally from one person to another person or group of people.
Someone who acts as an information broker between the mass media and the opinions and behaviors of an individual or group. Opinion leaders have some position, expertise, or firsthand knowledge that makes them particularly important sources of relevant and credible information, usually in a specifi c domain or product category. Thus, Serena Williams is an opinion leader for sports apparel, not for computers.
Sources that control the flow of information or people who have special influence or power in deciding whether a product or information will be disseminated to a market. For example, the Chinese government acts as a gatekeeper, prohibiting viewing of sexually explicit TV shows and music videos from other countries as well as politically sensitive blogs.
someone who seems to have a lot of information about the marketplace in general. A market maven seems to know all about the best products, the good sales, and the best stores.
Reference Groups as Sources of Influence
Social infl uence is exerted by individuals such as opinion leaders as well as by specific groups of people. A reference group is a set of people with whom individuals compare themselves for guidance in developing their own attitudes, knowledge, and/or behaviors
Types of Reference Groups
-Aspirational reference group
A group that we admire and desire to be like.
group A group to which we currently belong.
A specialized group of consumers with a structured set of relationships involving a particular brand, fellow customers of that brand, and the product in use.
group A group we do not want to emulate.
Reference Groups Affect Consumer Socialization
People as Socializing Agents
Reference groups like family and friends play an important role as socializing agents. Parents may, for example, instill values of thriftiness by directly teaching their children the importance of saving money,
The Media and the Marketplace as Socializing Agents
TV programs, movies and videos, music, video games, the Internet, and ads can also serve as socializing agents. Boys are sometimes depicted in ads as more knowledgeable, aggressive, active, and instrumental to actions than girls are; these sex role stereotypes can affect children’s conceptions of what it is like to be a boy rather than a girl.
Norms- Collective decisions about what constitutes appropriate behavior.
How Normative Influence Can Affect Consumer Behavior
-Brand-Choice Congruence and Conformity
Normative influence affects brand-choice congruence—the likelihood that consumers will buy what others in their group buy. If you compare the types of clothes, music, hairstyles, and cars that you buy with the selections of your friends, you will probably find that you and your friends make similar choices.76 The presence of others can influence the enjoyment of shared stimuli (such as going to a movie together) and affect congruence as well.77 Friends, relatives, and others in your social network may also infl uence the types of goods and services that you buy as gifts.78 Simply rehearsing what to say in anticipation of discussing a particular brand purchase with others can change the way that consumers think and feel about the product and its features.
-Compliance versus Reactance
Compliance, a somewhat different effect of normative influence, means doing what someone explicitly asks you to do. You are complying if, when asked, you fi ll out a marketing research questionnaire or purchase the products sold at a home party. Parents comply with children by purchasing foods or toys or allowing activities (such as parties) that kids request. In a virtual community, members may not comply as readily with the group’s desires because the members are anonymous and can withdraw at will.
When we believe our freedom is being threatened, a boomerang effect occurs and we engage in reactance —doing the opposite of what a person or group wants us to do. For example, if a salesperson pressures you too much, you may engage in reactance by refusing to buy whatever he or she is trying to sell. Reactance canoccur in brand communities too. When a member feels too much pressure to perform certain rituals or assume certain roles, desire to participate in the community or buy the brand in the future may be lowered.
According to social-relational theory consumers conduct their social interactions according to the rights and responsibilities of their relationship with group members, a balance of reciprocal actions with group members, their relative status and authority, and the value placed on different objects and activities
The personalities of some consumers make them readily susceptible to influenceby others. The trait of competitiveness, for instance, can infl uence conspicuous consumption behavior.
Finally, the characteristics of the group can impact the degree of normative infl uence. One characteristic is the extent to which the group can deliver rewards and sanctions, known as the degree of reward power or coercive power.100 To illustrate, your friends probably have more infl uence over your clothing choices than your neighbors do because friends have greater coercive power. That is, they are better able to deliver sanctions if they consider your clothing inappropriate or out of style.
The extent to which sources influence consumers simply by providing information.
How Informational Influence Can Affect Consumer Behavior
Informational influence can affect how much time and effort consumers devote to information search and decision making. If you can get information easily from a friend, you may be reluctant to conduct an extensive, time-consuming information search when making a decision. Therefore, if you want a new cell phone, and a trusted friend says that the one he just bought is the best he has ever had, you might simply buy the same one.
Factors Affecting Informational Infl uence Strength
Consumers tend to be susceptible to informational influence when considering complex products such as electronic appliances that consumers cannot easily understand how to use.112 They are also more susceptible to informational influence when they perceive product purchase or usage to be risky.
-Consumer and Infl uencer Characteristics
Characteristics of both the consumer and the infl uencer affect the extent of informational influence. Such influence is likely to be greater when the source or group communicating the information is an expert.
Group cohesiveness also affects informational infl uence. Specifi cally, members of cohesive groups have both greater opportunity and perhaps greater motivation to share information.