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Chapter 11

Group Influence and


Opinion Leadership

CONSUMER
BEHAVIOR, 8e
Michael Solomon
Chapter Objectives
When you finish this chapter you should understand
why:
Others, especially those who possess some kind of
social power, often influence us.
We seek out others who share our interests in
products or services.
We are motivated to buy or use products in order to
be consistent with what other people do.
The things that other consumers tell us about
products (good and bad) are often more influential
than the advertising we see.

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Chapter Objectives (cont.)
Online technologies are accelerating the impact of
word-of-mouth communication.
Social networking is changing the way companies
and consumers interact.
Certain people are particularly likely to influence
others product choices.

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Reference Groups
Reference group: an actual or imaginary
individual/group conceived of having significant
relevance upon an individuals evaluations,
aspirations, or behavior
Influences consumers in three ways:
Informational
Utilitarian
Value-expressive

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Reference Group Influences
Reference group influences stronger for purchases
that are:
Luxuries rather than necessities
Socially conspicuous/visible to others

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Figure 11.1 11-5


When Reference Groups Are Important
Social power: capacity to alter the actions of others
Types of social power:

Referent power Information power

Legitimate power Expert power

Reward power Coercive power

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Discussion
High schools have all types of reference groups, with
members representing all types of social power.
Think back to high school and try to identify people
who had the following types of power (consider not
only peers but also teachers and administrators).
Referent power
Information power
Legitimate power
Expert power
Reward power
Coercive power
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Types of Reference Groups
Any external influence that provides social clues can
be a reference group
Cultural figure
Parents
Large, formal organization
Small and informal groups
Exert a more powerful influence on individual
consumers
A part of our day-to-day lives: normative influence

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Brand Communities and Consumer Tribes
A group of consumers who
share a set of social
relationships based upon usage
or interest in a product
Brandfests enhance brand
loyalty
Consumer tribe share emotions,
moral beliefs, styles of life, and
affiliated product
Tribal marketing: linking a
product to the needs of a
group as a whole
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Membership versus Aspirational
Reference Groups
Membership reference groups: people the
consumer actually knows
Advertisers use ordinary people
Aspirational reference groups: people the
consumer doesnt know but admires Click to view
Advertisers use celebrity Quicktime video on
spokespeople use of celebrity
athletes in advertising

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Positive versus Negative Reference
Groups
Reference groups may exert either a positive or
negative influence on consumption behaviors
Avoidance groups: motivation to distance oneself
from other people/groups
Marketers show ads with undesirable people using
competitors product
Antibrand communities: coalesce around a celebrity,
store, or brandbut in this case theyre united by
their disdain for it

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Consumers Do It in Groups
Deindividuation: individual identities become
submerged within a group
Example: binge drinking at college parties
Social loafing: people dont devote as much to a task
when their contribution is part of a larger group
Example: we tend to tip less when eating in
groups
Risky shift: group members show a greater
willingness to consider riskier alternatives following
group discussion than if members mad their own
decisions

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Discussion
Do you agree that deindividuation encourages binge
drinking on campus?
What can or should a college do to discourage this
behavior?

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Consumers Do It in Groups (cont.)

Decision polarization: after


group discussion of an
issue, opinions become
more extreme
Home shopping parties
capitalize on group
pressure to boost sales
Informational and
normative social influence

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Discussion
Home shopping partiessuch as Tupperware, Avon,
Pampered Chef, Amway, or Botoxare designed to
put pressure on friends and neighbors to buy
merchandise.
Have you attended these parties? Why or why not?
Do you believe putting social pressure is ethical?
Why or why not?
Why are these parties more common among
women?

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Conformity
Most people tend to follow
societys expectations regarding
how to look/act
Factors influencing conformity:
Cultural pressures
Fear of deviance
Commitment to group
membership
Group unanimity, size,
expertise
Susceptibility to
interpersonal influence
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Word-of-Mouth Communication
WOM: product information transmitted by individuals
to individuals
More reliable form of marketing
Social pressure to conform
Influences two-thirds of all sales
We rely upon WOM in later stages of product
adoption
Powerful when we are unfamiliar with product
category

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Negative WOM and Power of Rumors
We weigh negative WOM more heavily than we do
positive comments!
Negative WOM is easy to spread, especially online
Determined detractors
Information/rumor distortion

Click photo for


Ihatestarbucks.com

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The Transmission of Misinformation

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Figure 11.2 11-19


Negative WOM and Power of Rumors
(cont.)
Three basic themes found in Web-based protest
communities:
Injustice: consumers talk about their repeated
attempts to contact the company only to be ignored.
Identity: posters characterize the violator as evil,
rather than simply wrong.
Agency: individual Web site creators try to create a
collective identity for those who share their anger
with a company.

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Virtual Communities
A collection of people who share their love of a
product in online interactions
Multi-user dungeons (MUD)
Rooms (IRC), rings, and lists
Boards
Blogs/blogosphere
Great potential for abuse via untrustworthy members
Amazon.com lawsuit (charging publishers to post
positive reviews of Web site)

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Virtual Communities
Which type of Web surfer are you?

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Figure 11.3 11-22


Guerrilla Marketing
Guerilla marketing: promotional strategies that use
unconventional locations and intensive WOM to
push products
Recruits legions of real consumers for street theater
Hip-hop mix tapes/street teams
Brand ambassadors

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Viral Marketing
Viral marketing: getting visitors to a Web site to
forward information on the site to their friends (for
product awareness)
Creating online content that is entertaining or weird
Example: buzz campaign for Mini Cooper car

Click photo for


Miniusa.com

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Social Networking and Crowd Power
Web sites letting members post information about
themselves and make contact with similar others
Share interests, opinions, business contacts

Click photo for Myspace.com Click photo for


Facebook.com
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Social Networking and Crowd Power
(cont.)
Wisdom of crowds perspective: under the right
circumstances, groups are smarter than the smartest
people in them
Some crowd-based Web sites:
CrowdSpirit.com: participants submit ideas for
consumer electronics products and the
community votes for the best ones
Sermo.com: social network for physicians
Eventful.com: fans can demand events and
performances in their town and spread the word
to make them happen

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Opinion Leadership
Opinion leaders: influence
others attitudes and
behaviors
They are good information
sources because they:
May be experts
Provide unbiased
evaluation
Are socially active
Are similar to the consumer
Are among the first to buy
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Reasons to Seek Advice from Opinion
Leaders
Expertise
Unbiased knowledge power
Highly interconnected in communities (social
standing)
Referent power/homophily
Hands-on product experience (absorb risk)

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Opinion Leadership (cont.)
Generalize opinion leader versus
monomorphic/polymorphic experts
Although opinion leaders exist for multiple product
categories, expertise tends to overlap across similar
categories
It is rare to find a generalized opinion leader
Innovative communicators
Opinion seekers
More likely to talk about products with others and
solicit others opinions
Casual interaction prompted by situation

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Perspectives on the Communications
Process

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Figure 11.4 11-30


The Market Maven
Market maven: actively involved
in transmitting marketplace
information of all types
Just into shopping and aware
whats happening in the
marketplace
Overall knowledge of how and
where to get products

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The Surrogate Consumer
Surrogate consumer: a marketing intermediary hired
to provide input into purchase decisions
Interior decorators, stockbrokers, professional
shoppers, college consultants
Consumer relinquishes control over decision-
making functions
Marketers should not overlook influence of
surrogates!

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Finding Opinion Leaders
Many ads intend to reach influentials rather than
average consumer
Local opinion leaders are harder to find
Companies try to identify influentials in order to
create WOM ripple effect
Exploratory studies identify characteristics of
opinion leaders for promotional strategies

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The Self-Designating Method
Most commonly used technique to identify opinion
leaders
Simply ask individuals whether they consider
themselves to be opinion leaders
Method is easy to apply to large group of potential
opinion leaders
View with skepticisminflation or unawareness of
own importance/influence
Alternative: key informants identify opinion leaders

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Sociometric Methods
Sociometric methods: trace communication patterns
among group members
Systematic map of group interactions
Most precise method of identifying product-
information sources, but is very difficult/expensive to
implement
Network analysis
Referral behavior/network, tie strength
Bridging function, strength of weak ties

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