Let’s talk about consumer reference groups and their possible benefits in marketing and advertising.
What is a reference group?
There are several definitions of this phenomenon. Two definitions are commonly used:
A reference group is understood as a group of people capable of influencing in some way the decisions made by an individual. The number of such groups may be more than one, and the individual may not consider himself to be one of them. In addition, the reference group can influence other cognitive characteristics of a person.
Also, a reference group is understood as an association of persons perceived by another person as a kind of ideal that should be equal to when making decisions.
In our case, both definitions are suitable. Reference groups have an indirect or direct impact on people and in every possible way provoke them to buy specific goods or use certain services.
At the same time, the phenomenon itself is much broader and affects many aspects of people’s lives. Such groups can influence how a person thinks, acts, lives, relates to other people, etc.
Reference groups in marketing
The group itself may not be a real gathering of people (family, colleagues, hobby group, etc.), but virtual. The concept of a reference consumer group is gradually blurring. There are too many groups, and most of them exist far from a person.
They might just be rich people that the individual is oriented toward. People who own a similar product (you can say hello to those who are still fighting on the Internet on the topic “iOS versus Android”). People doing the same sport or doing the same job. There are a lot of examples.
In marketing, it works like this:
The corporation analyzes the target audience.
Looks at what category she considers herself or would like to classify.
They build their own advertising campaign on the basis of this reference group.
Sometimes companies invite prominent representatives of the association and use their name and image to advertise the product. Sometimes it turns out well and beautifully for everyone, and sometimes it turns out an advertisement for Lays chips with Messi.
Types of reference groups
Typically, consumer reference groups are divided into three segments with subgroups according to their global characteristics, sometimes adding some more narrowly focused types of associations to the classifications.
By the degree of impact
Primary groups are the smallest and closest communities to a person: family, colleagues, friends. That is, those with whom a person actually interacts on a regular basis, being part of a group directly, and not just imaginary.
Secondary groups are larger associations, sometimes exclusively ideological. Interaction between its members can occur rarely or exclusively remotely. Or it never happens at all.
By the peculiarities of relationships in the group
Formal – these are all communities in which the participation of a person is somehow documented. For example, belonging to a political party or working for a company.
Informal – any group where there are no strict rules. Some kind of club of interests without a specific hierarchy and structure, or a group of friends, hobby partners.
By the degree of self-acceptance in the group and the characteristics of the team
Positive – associations with which the individual wants to associate himself and where he draws inspiration. Communities where people live from whom he takes an example and who are able to influence his choices.
Negative – communities where people live who do not like a person. He would like to avoid interacting with them, as well as any association with this group.
Also, the classification sometimes includes such groups as value groups – associations based on common views of the world. Informational, where experts usually live, sharing opinions with each other and group members, or utilitarian, i.e. associations, participation in which gives a person some benefits.
Forms of influence on consumers
The 4 main forms of exposure:
The power of self-identification.
We are most interested in the power of reward and self-identification.
In the first case, we are talking about rewarding for following the rules and belonging to a group. This can be both a reward at work for strict adherence to the rules of the team, and a discount for using the services of a particular company. Referral programs and savings systems work in a similar way. Companies seem to say to customers and users: “If you play by our rules, we will give you bonuses.”
Self-identification is a little more complicated. Here, the brand needs to present its product in such a way that the user considers it a blessing to use this product. Without any discounts. All sorts of luxury brands work according to this principle: the possession of a certain product makes the consumer “special”, and he is happy to buy for it.
Coercion and legitimate authority work in the context of political organizations and labor relations.
Other forms of consumer interaction with reference groups and brands
Value form of influence
Sometimes companies use a less than fair game, trying to leverage certain feelings of the audience, forming groups of loyal customers and using a value form of influence. A brand can declare that it supports the LGBT community and promote its products to this category of users. The firm associates itself with this group of people and attracts their attention, because support is important for this association.
You can also put pressure on other problems, for example, with the environment or poaching, by offering goods that do not harm nature. Or by offering goods for children, ostensibly defending family values. In general, the ideological views of people are taken under control.
Information form of influence
Sometimes users influence the popularity of a brand. It can be either a large group of people or a small association without big names. For example, if a person wears a brand of a particular piece of clothing and praises its quality, then those who respect his opinion will also be predisposed to buying things from that brand.
In such groups, either power users or people with authority play a key role.
Why are there reference groups?
Marketers are studying this phenomenon to drive sales and better control consumers. It is much easier to sell a product, service, service or force to perform some action if you can find something in common in the audience of interest and hit it exactly.
For this reason, brands are hiring celebrities and hiring ambassadors. people who use their popularity to promote a brand. Usually this promotion consists only in the public use of the product.
Reference groups always influence our actions, the choice of goods, food, organizations, etc. Therefore, Apple has a hard time sharing functions and programs with other operating systems. She knows that if someone in the family uses an iPhone, that someone, for their convenience, will convince the whole family to buy iPhones. And then it will not come off, because the family is a very effective reference group. And there are a lot of such examples.
Our desire to associate ourselves with someone and to be guided by someone always plays into the hands of marketers.
One of the most powerful mechanisms for influencing buyers, which is generated by reference groups, is fashion.
Fashion is a value in which the norm of external behavior of others is perceived by the individual as his own need and desire (to possess something, to be someone).
Fashion is an extremely sudden phenomenon that takes shape and quickly fades away. Some artist puts on new sneakers, and they immediately become part of fashion, which means that everyone wants them. And when around friends, acquaintances and just countrymen begin to wear these sneakers, you involuntarily begin to stare at them.
Brands shape fashion themselves, attacking large reference groups, and thereby lure a larger audience into their camp.
Instead of a conclusion
Using reference groups in marketing campaigns ensures that you attract new audiences. The main thing is to correctly identify the target audience and those associations with which it associates itself, because the decisions made by an individual largely depend on the society around him. Especially bands that he likes.