Group Influence on Consumer Behavior

August 16, 2019 | By Jonny | Filed in: Marketing Management.

A recent study suggests that you can use social group influence to alter consumer behavior. I call it influence because it comes from within the group; it is not a trick of the marketing firm or even of the marketer.

Group Influences, like those I am discussing, are also commonly called “tribal leadership” and include styles such as dominance, hierarchy, authority, hierarchy, and submission. These behavioral patterns are not always associated with age, race, or sex. They are found in all cultures.

Social status can be at two different levels. The first level is from success; the second is the status given by a social system which derives its legitimacy from the status of the individual involved. For example, a sports star might be given such a high status by his team that the referee awards him a game-winning touchdown, a victory, or a tournament.

This “status” might be based on how long he has been playing the sport, how successful he has been, and the degree to which his successes are widely publicized and known. The same status would not be awarded if he did not play for a while. It might also be based on the score of the game or the excitement of the moment. It is not based on what he does not do, but on the emotional response to him.

Consumer response to such a celebrity is one of fear, awe, curiosity, admiration, envy, and/or pity. Or it might be in praise.

So, when we see consumers displaying such behavior, their behaviors are being altered to fit the groups to which they belong. They are being influenced.

Another common group influence is when groups make up a hierarchy or a caste. In other words, the consumer’s group status or rank changes with the change in status within the group. The consumer feels a sense of power when the status of another member within the group increases.

There are other mechanisms by which a change in the consumer’s group status can occur. For example, when members of a group are under intense pressure from their leaders, that pressure could also change the status of the consumer. For example, if you are doing a sales pitch, your tone or presentation may change so that you are more persuasive.

Presenters who are under a lot of pressure from customers and competitors often find themselves more successful because their ability to convince is enhanced. Likewise, these same individuals may find themselves less successful because their inability to persuade other individuals in the group makes them appear to be less effective.

You can take this to the next level to influence the behavior of consumers: they can be directed by your behavior. You can make them feel good, you can make them feel bad, you can encourage them to buy, you can pressure them to buy, you can influence them to buy, and you can discourage them from buying.

In other words, they can follow you around and do what you say. As an example, you can give out candy bars to kids on Halloween and tell them that they are now guests of honor to your child and that they need to eat their treats before you do.

It can go beyond the group. A large family with children can be made to feel very important by giving them gifts at the holidays and on birthdays.


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