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two or more individuals who share a set of norms, values, or beliefs

a set of individuals who interact with one another and who share some common need or goal; their behaviors are interdependent

Note: almost all consumer behavior takes place in a group setting of some sort.

a group whose values, norms, attitudes, or beliefs are used as a guide for behavior by an individual

a group whose presumed perspectives or values are being used by an individual as the basis for her/his current behavior in a specific situation

Note: as the situation changes, so do reference groups and so does out behavior.


  • colleagues at work
  • friends at school
  • roommates
  • members of clubs, church, fraternities/sororities, etc.


  • aspiration group:
    a group to which an individual would like to belong

    • What is the attraction of a Harley to different age groups?
      Does a Harley have a Forbes or Hell's Angels image?

    • What is the attraction of a "gold card" or an American Express card?
      What are the long term strategic implications?

  • dissociative group:
    a group with which a person does not wish to be associated

    • Does a Harley have a Forbes or Hell's Angel's image?

the tendency to want to be like relevant and significant others

a change in behavior or belief toward a group as a result of real or imagined group pressure

Conformity is often viewed as following the crowd, not acting and thinking as an individual.

  • compliance:
    the person merely conforms to the wishes of the group without really accepting the group's dictates

  • private acceptance:
    the person actually changes his/her beliefs in the direction of the group

Group norms:
general expectations about behaviors that are deemed appropriate

Violation of norms can result in sanctions.

Conformity: the Asch experiment

Eight subjects are asked which of three unequal lines is closest in length to a fourth line.

Seven subjects (who actually are 'cohorts') announce incorrect answers. These subjects are actually working for the experimenter, but this is unknown to the eight subject.

If the eighth subject makes a decision without prior knowledge of the other's choices, then the eighth subject is likely to make a correct choice.

If the eighth subject makes a decision after hearing the incorrect choices of the other seven subjects, then the eighth subject is very likely to make an incorrect response that is in agreement with the group.

C.f., Latane's social loafing experiments.

the process through which people evaluate the 'correctness' of their opinions, the extent of their abilities, and the appropriateness of their possessions


prescribed pattern of behavior expected of a person in a given situation by virtue of the person's position in that situation

punishments imposed on individuals for violating role parameters

Role parameters
range of behavior acceptable within a given role

Role overload
results when a person attempts to fill more roles than the available time, energy, or money allows

Role conflict
results when a person faces incompatible role demands in which roles demand different behaviors

Role stereotype
a shared visualization of the ideal performer of a given role

What sorts of products might a 'supermom' buy? How do product choices differ between a traditional mom of the 1950s and a working mom, going to college, in the 1990s?

Word of Mouth (WOM) communications
refer to exchanges of comments, thoughts, or ideas between two or more consumers, none of whom represent a marketing source

  • Joe Girrard: we each have about 250 friends, relatives, and acquaintances and will tell them about good or bad experiences

those consumers who influence the purchase decisions of others

a group member who consistently filters, interprets, or provides information for others

  • direct flow of information:
    a marketing communication flows directly from the marketing organization to a relevant market segment

  • multistep flow of information:
    a marketing communication is processed by opinion leaders and others as it flows to a relevant market segment

Opinion leaders are likely to be used under conditions where an individual has low knowledge but is in a high involvement situation. E.g., interview outfit.


continuous innovation

  • usually modifications of existing products to improve performance, taste, reliability, etc.

  • requires little change of behavior

  • requires little learning

  • low perceived risk

dynamic continuous innovation

discontinuous innovation

  • innovations that produce major changes in the lifestyles of consumers

  • requires great change in behavior

  • requires much new learning

  • much perceived risk

Turning a discontinuous innovation into a continuous innovation, or, the best marketing move that I've ever seen:

George Eastman couldn't sell his new strippable film to even photography amateurs of the day: it was too difficult to develop and print.

His solution: the world's first 'disposable' camera. A box camera came loaded with enough strippable film for 100 pictures. The user paid $25 for the preloaded box and sent the whole box back to the factory when all of the pictures had been taken. The promotion: "You press the button; we do the rest."

Teletronix has just introduced a new wristwatch which contains a "personal communicator." It will transmit and receive picture and voice signals with another wristwatch on the same frequency code within a half-mile distance.

Picture and voice clarity is constrained due to the small physical size of the device. In size, the wristwatch is a little larger and about twice as thick as a standard wristwatch. Price: $999; not discounted due to limited distribution channels.

  1. Would you buy one of these?

  2. Do you know anyone who would?


  • innovators
  • early adopters
  • early majority
  • late majority
  • laggards