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Chapter 11
Groups, Families and Households

The family unit is still one of the most basic groupings in society—and an important buying group for
marketers to understand. Classification of families by stage in the family life cycle provides valuable
insights into family consumption-related behaviour. In addition, members of a family have varying roles in
the purchasing decision process. Children and the youth market are growing in their influence in family
purchases. Households and the trends affecting households are also important for marketers to understand.
Most individuals tend to be involved with other people on a continuing basis. Group pressure can have a
significant influence over an individual’s attitudes and behaviour. Social influence from families,
households, peers and other groups the individual belongs to needs to be considered by marketers.
Reference groups in particular can have a large influence on behaviour. A reference group can influence
attitudes and behaviour for individuals who consider it a reference point for their own situation.
Opinion leaders can also be a reference group. They receive information from the media and pass it along
to their peers. Opinion leaders are perceived to be more knowledgeable about various topics and their
advice is taken seriously by others. Identifying opinion leaders in the market can have a profound impact
on the effectiveness of a marketing communications campaign.

After reading this chapter, students should be able to:
     Describe the roles of families and households as consumers
     Explain the influence of different family life cycle stages and family decision-making processes
         on consumer behaviour
     Discuss the marketing implications of changing household composition and consumption
     Describe the characteristics of groups and their influence on consumer behaviour
     Discuss the role of opinion leaders in influencing consumer behaviour
     Discuss the influence of different social styles on consumer behaviour.

1.   Families and households
2.   The family lifecycle
      Case in point 11.1—Marketers plug into pester power to target parents
      Young independent singles
      Young married couples/partners
      Full nest I
      Full nest II
      Empty nest I
      Empty nest II
3.   Family purchasing decision roles
4.   Changing family structures
      Case in point 11.2—Pestering tweens drive purchases unlicensed
      Households
5.   Social influences on consumer behaviour
      Case in point 11.3—Chasing the singles dollar
6.   The nature of groups
      Reference groups

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                           Page 113
      Opinion leaders
      Opinion leaders and power
      Case in point 11.4—How and why to research word of mouth
      Characteristics of opinion leaders
7.   Teenagers and the youth market
      Case in point 11.5—The use of opinion leaders by the Australian Dairy Corporation
      Case in point 11.6—Reinventing Bonds
      Case in point 11.7—Youth of today just doesn’t watch enough TV

Encourage discussion to introduce subject:
Imagine your family is deciding whether to renovate, knockdown or move houses. Is this decision made by
one person only? Probably not! Almost everyone who can speak will have some opinion on the move.
Even a 5-year-old would want to be heard with such a major decision! Family can have a big influence on
purchasing behaviour—and not just major decisions at that. Other people can also have an influence on
our behaviour, even though we may not be conscious of it.

This chapter will explore the influence other people have on our purchasing decisions. We were made to
be social beings—and nothing is more social than shopping!

1.       Families and households
‘Family’ can have many different meanings. The ABS describes a family as ‘the basic unit of social
organisation’. Refer to the Interactive Exercise below. How families are structured has changed over the
years, but regardless of their make-up, all members of a family play a role in the purchase decision
Expenditure patterns have changed as a result of more working women, allowing double incomes. Also,
greater divorce rates and spilt families, means more pressure on the main income provider, emphasising
the importance of ‘value’.
Research has shown that children have more influence on purchasing decisions when they will be the
primary user of the product or service.
Understanding the roles different family members play in the purchase decision process allows marketers
to better target their efforts.

Case in point 11.1—Marketers plug into pester power to target parents
If you have ever taken a young child shopping, you will know what is meant by ‘pester power’. But
marketers believe that it is worth targeting children for certain product categories, since children learn
from a young age how to shop. Children develop shopping habits by observing and ‘co-shopping’ with
their parents.
Marketers believe that for products to be enjoyed when they are consumed, children need to be shown the
magic of the brand. They also need to be excited about that product. With constant use of a toy, or
enjoyment of a snack product, comes brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is what results in the longevity of a
brand. However, it is important to not ignore the parents’ needs in advertising as well.
Encourage discussion on famous brands targeted toward children. If the ads discussed rational educational
or health benefits for adults, would they be as popular once purchased?

2.       The family lifecycle
The family lifecycle concept is based on the idea ‘that families move and evolve through stages over time’
(text, p. 317). Classifying families by stages in the family lifecycle can explain how consumption changes.
Figure 11.1 (text, p. 320) illustrates the different stages of the family lifecycle. This model is considered
more relevant than traditional models that did not allow for divorce, couples living together, etc. Clearly,
not everyone goes through every stage. Refer to Interactive Exercise below.

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                               Page 114
The model works on the premise that when households undergo change like divorce, unemployment,
additions, or death, they often experience immediate changes in their needs and brand preferences.
At each stage there are different needs and demands on the family’s resources.
  Before people have children, they will probably work, giving the phenomena called ‘dinks’—double
   income, no kids. With money to only spend on them, and perhaps even before a mortgage, this group
   will have a greater disposable income to ‘live it up’. This group is a marketer’s dream—before
   financial commitments force people to restrict their lifestyle and their spending.
  Once people are mortgaged, and children are born, spending power is reduced. Greater financial
   commitments, changing lifestyle, often less than a double income, and more than two people using
   the available resources changes the way purchases are viewed, and the type of products and services
  Once children leave home or at least are old enough to work, lifestyle will change again. Although
   the adults are older, and may have more health problems, there is more opportunity to spend the bulk
   of the income on two people again. However, the types of products and services demanded are
   different to when they were younger—through life experience and also because of age.
  Once people are older and perhaps even widowed, and no longer working, spending power is again
   reduced. Value is critical, and the type of products and services demanded will be different.
Refer to the Interactive and Discussion Exercises below to encourage student input.

Young independent singles
This group is the one marketers find most lucrative. This group of 18–34-year-olds have just started
working and have no major financial commitments. They have money to spend on holidays, cars, mobile
phones, computers and other luxury items. Premium brands or popular brands will be demanded by this
group. However, the quality brands in some categories like wine might be less appreciated.

Young married couples/partners
This group refers to all couples—any gender—living together. Building a home-life will be important
here—so furnishings, home renovations and associated services, including financial services, will be more
highly sought after here.

Full nest I
Younger children enter the picture here. The family income may halve, as one parent stops working full-
time. In addition, family expenditure will increase in many areas, from basic services like water and
electricity to products and services like baby needs, schooling and child care, as well as extra-curricular
activities like swimming lessons and ‘Little Athletics’. Families may trade up to a bigger home, but
typically expenditure on luxury items will be minimal.

Full nest II
Children are older and nearing the age of independence. However, their awareness of quality brands and
the latest gadgets has increased, which in turn increases expenditure in areas like clothing, leisure items
like bikes, and music. However, other types of expenditure will be reduced as this group reduce their
extra-curricular activities and start working part-time. This group is spending longer at home now, to save
money and place less pressure on themselves.

Empty nest I
Children leave the family home and start independent life. Parents are planning retirement and enjoying
the freedom of not having dependants at home. The products and services here can include holidays
(outside of school holidays), caravans, and leisure gear like golf clubs, gardening, and maybe even some
community work. In most cases, income is still coming in and there is less expenditure on ‘essentials’.

Empty nest II
IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                              Page 115
This is the retirement or semi-retirement phase which can allow even greater freedom from duties. People
may trade down to smaller homes and have a major shift in their lifestyle. Health is an important concern
as well. Longer holidays and recreational lifestyles will be pursued. However, they may also be involved in
caring for grandchildren on a regular basis.

3.       Family purchasing decision roles
Members of families often play different roles in the purchase decision-making process. These roles are
most clearly defined for high involvement decisions, although ‘high involvement’ is perceived differently
for certain purchases by each member. In addition, a member’s influence will change over time. For
example, a young child will be devastated if they don’t have that packet of chips, whereas clothing brands
will be more important as they become older. Also, furnishings for a new house will be influenced mainly
by the parents. Young children will have little influence, if any interest at all, in the purchase.
There are a number of distinctive roles in the family decision-making process, including:
 a)    Information gatherers and holders (also known as gatekeepers)—control the flow of information
       about a product into the family or seek the information out that will be used in a purchase decision.
 b)    Influencers—provide information to other members about products, based on their desires.
 c)    Deciders—have the authority to determine whether or not to shop for product, and which brand to
 d)    Purchaser—makes the actual purchase and may change the final decision made by the decider
       based on situational factors like price specials, stock availability or salesperson factors.
One family member can clearly play a number of roles in the purchase decision process.
Refer to the Interactive and Discussion Exercises for examples.

Case in point 11.2—Pestering tweens drive purchases unlicensed
Tweens are aged between 8 and 14 years, and can have significant influence over big-ticket purchases like
cars. The influences tend to be based around model, colour and extra accessories. Marketers in Australia
are slow to catch onto the influence children can have on family purchases.
Encourage discussion on why marketers may not target children for adult purchases. Raise the issue of
media watchdogs and the publicised ‘unethical practices’ of targeting children.

4.       Changing family structures
Family structures have changed significantly over the last 100 years.
The ‘nuclear family’ comprising a husband and wife and one or more children is now more prevalent than
an ‘extended family’ which is made up of a husband, wife, one or more children, and at least one
grandparent. Even the nuclear family is less common today than it was 50 years ago.
Between 1986 and 2001 the number of single-parent families increased by 53 per cent. In contrast the
number of two-parent families increased by only per cent. These figures should be translated bearing in
mind that there was a greater number of two-parent households initially, and fewer single-parent
Figure 11.2 (text, p. 325) illustrates a growing trend in couples without children. This can be a result of a
combination of factors—including both adults pursuing careers, less maternal instincts and growing
infertility rates.

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A household is ‘a group of people that live together and form a purchasing unit’.
Seventy per cent of households are families. But other types of households include friends sharing together
and single people living on their own. The latter has grown by 64 per cent between 1986 and 2001. This
equates to 1.6 million households.
In Australia in 2002, there were an estimated 7.2 million households, and this increases on average by 2.4
per cent every year. However, this does not equate to a population growth of 2.4 per cent every year.
The major trend in households is shrinking household size and a large projected growth of single person
A key marketing implication here is the sizes of products, particularly in the grocery (FMCG) industry.
Single and smaller serving sizes are readily available. Encourage examples from students.

Case in point 11.3—Chasing the singles dollar
Thirty-seven per cent of the adult population in Australia now lives alone. But some researchers believe
that marketers have failed to identify this trend and respond accordingly. And those that have tend to focus
more on the young singles. But what about the widower? Or the middle-aged divorcee?
Since living alone isn’t ‘singled’ out to any particular age group, the challenge of marketing to ‘singles’ is
even greater. Disposable income also differs widely. This does not mean that older singles are necessarily
poorer. Singles tend to have greater spending power than couples, but are less inclined to spend it just on
Some marketers believe that when you are targeting niches, the communications strategy should be based
around lifestyle—in this case marital status. This type of statement is particularly relevant for products like
cars, but can easily extend to grocery items as well.
Banking seems to be about life stages—but when banks say this, they are probably meaning age. So older
people no longer working or only working part-time are less likely to want a loan of any sort. In fact most
banks offer products with broad appeal.
Ask students what type of products would be best aimed at older singles? Consider parents or grandparents
living alone. How would their needs differ to that of older couples? Remember the segmentation rule that a
segment must be substantial and profitable enough to be worth targeting in the first place.

5.       Social influences on consumer behaviour
Social pressure and power can have an enormous influence over an individual’s behaviour.
Social pressure and acceptance comes from families, households and peer groups and has important
implications for marketers. Marketers need to understand the role of individuals in terms of the different
groups to which they belong or to which they aspire. It is also important to understand the importance of
that group to the consumer, because the greater the importance, the greater the influence.
To introduce ‘groups’, refer to the Interactive Exercises below.

6.       The nature of groups
Consider the number of ads that show groups—families eating dinner, friends having a drink together, and
fragrance is usually shared with someone. Even those relaxing soaks full of lavender and ylang ylang that
are intended to be enjoyed alone, make us want to aspire to the feeling that woman in the ad is
experiencing. We want to be just like her!
        Everyone is a member of a range of groups. ‘Members of groups share common goals and needs’
         (text, p. 331). A group’s goals are formed by shared values and beliefs.
        Each group has its own norms—so in essence it could be considered a sub-culture (depending on
         the size of the group). These norms represent the ‘expected behaviour of that group’. Failure to
         behave appropriately will result in punishment, ridicule or even isolation from the group. In group
         situations the norms may be observed and unspoken.

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                               Page 117
        The role of a person in a group is ‘the set of expectations other people have of the behaviours and
         attributes appropriate to that position’. Failure to comply will result in social disapproval.
         Everyone has a different role for each group they are a member of.
        A person’s ‘actual or perceived position in a group is referred to as status’. This position may not
         necessarily be clearly defined.
        ‘Group norms and role definitions are learned through a process called socialisation’ (text, p.
         331). How did we learn to talk? Try to explain the colour blue to someone who can’t see. We
         learnt colours and how to speak by observing others and having others demonstrate these
         concepts to us. Refer to the class at the beginning of session. They were probably quieter and less
         willing to participate until they established what the group was like.
        ‘Primary groups are those with which we have frequent interpersonal contact’, such as family and
         work colleagues. ‘Secondary groups are those with which we have limited interpersonal contact’,
         if any (text, p. 332).
        Formal groups have a defined structure, and it is easy to determine the members. Informal groups
         are based on loose structures, such as a group of Aussie supporters. Primary and informal groups
         tend to have the most influence over our attitudes, opinions and behaviour. Our role can also have
         an influence over our behaviour.

Reference groups
A reference group is a group individuals look to as a reference point for evaluating their own situation.
Reference groups influence attitudes and behaviour for individuals who consider it a reference point for
their own situation.
Reference groups have their greatest influence when the product is a luxury item and where the product is
highly visible to others. In other words, the brand of singlet that you wear is less likely to be a reference
point than the t-shirt you wear over the top of it.
Reference groups can be classified as:
        groups we actually belong to—‘associative reference groups’ or
        to which we aspire—‘aspirational reference groups’.
Associative reference groups are closer to consumers and include the types of groups addressed in the
previous Interactive Exercise, such as family, friends, sports team-mates and the like.
Inspirational reference groups are groups of individuals we look up to, but are unlikely to ever be a part of.
A good example to consider here is the Australian Olympic team. We compensate for never belonging, by
buying the same products and services they do. This is the reason behind many sporting brands sponsoring
sportspeople and using sportspeople in their marketing communications.
Reference groups can be normative or informational:
        Normative is based on someone perceiving what is expected of them. The bonds of social
         relationships form the foundation for normative social influence. Individuals conform to group
         ideas because they want acceptance from others. You wouldn’t wear stretch denim if all your
         friends wore baggy hipsters! Normative groups have two functions: utilitarian and value-
             -    The utilitarian function causes individuals to conform to a group’s influence to receive a
                  reward or avoid a punishment. Consider examples like clothing and even language.
             -    The value-expressive function is when an individual conforms to enhance and reflect
                  their own self-concept. Joining a particular group may help you travel further up
                  Maslow’s hierarchy to self-esteem and self-actualisation.
        Informational groups provide guidance on brand preferences and product knowledge. Individuals
         conform to accepted behaviour standards based on social influences, because we see others as a
         source of information to guide behaviour. Celebrities are used in advertisements as a credible and
         aspirational information source.
             -    Group membership gives individuals a sense of identity—such as sporting jackets and
                  emblems or certain types of dress. It also reduces the conflict the person may experience
                  by not knowing how to conform or what to wear.

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             -    Conformity is when an individual adjusts their behaviour to reflect the norms of a group.
                  Conformity is most prevalent when it occurs only because of the influence of the group
                  (and the behaviour would not have occurred on its own).

Opinion leaders
Opinion leaders are individuals who receive information from the media and pass it along to their peers.
Opinion leaders are perceived to be more knowledgeable about various topics and their advice is taken
seriously by others.
        An opinion leader cannot be a ‘wealth of knowledge’ across more than one or two product
         categories. For example, a doctor might give good advice on pain relief, but their opinion may be
         less valued on which brand of pet food to buy.
        Opinion leaders do not have to be famous, just respected in their particular field.
        Opinion leaders are usually in an individual’s reference group.
        Opinion leadership is not really a personality trait—but a role taken by some individuals under
         certain circumstances. The people chosen as opinion leaders change across different situations.
        Opinion leaders can be classified into two types: Monomorphic—have an influence in one area,
         such as doctors and dentists are experts in their field. Polymorphic—have an influence in a
         number of areas. For example, friends may not be experts on everything but may have some life
         experience in a required area of need.
        Opinion leaders are particularly useful in the information search and evaluation stages of the
         purchase decision process.
        Opinion leaders are referred to (1) for their advice to reduce perceived risk; (2) to help the
         individual gain social acceptance, (3) to provide information to help with decision making.

Opinion leaders and the diffusion of innovation
Diffusion of innovation is best compared to a teabag that diffuses tea throughout a cup of water. At first it
is slow, and then it speeds up until the whole cup is taken up with the tea flavour. The longer the teabag is
immersed, the stronger the flavour. If milk is added, the effectiveness of the teabag is diminished.
Diffusion of an innovative product follows the same ‘natural’ laws.
Diffusion of innovation refers to ‘how quickly and widely new ideas are accepted by markets’ (text, p.
336). At first it is slow, and reliant on the strength of the opinion leaders who help to encourage
acceptance of the new product. The longer the product is in the market the more widely accepted it will be.
Consider mobile phones as an example here. If ‘milk’ is added, such as a better innovation or worse still,
poor publicity, the rate of diffusion will diminish.
Marketers are interested in how innovations are adopted and spread through a market. Opinion leaders are
powerful influencers in the innovation process. Consider how fast mobile phone technology and SMS
messaging have been adopted.
Opinion leaders can provide positive word-of-mouth and encourage trial. It is important that opinion
leaders can be identified and provided with all the relevant and correct information.
Sometimes marketers use spokespeople such as celebrities that have some relevance or credibility to the
product category. The effectiveness of public relations is highlighted when opinion leaders or ‘experts’ in
their field, such as Don Burke, recommend a product on their television shows.
Consumers and buyers trust opinion leaders because they provide both positive and negative information
about a product. This makes opinion leaders more believable than advertising used alone, since advertising
will only ever highlight the positive aspects.
Quite an investment in market research is required to identify your innovative consumers, who are most
likely to adopt new products early and act as opinion leaders.

Case in point 11.4—How and why to research word of mouth
Word of mouth can be an extremely effective marketing tool, if used correctly. Research on attitudes and
opinions doesn’t necessarily reflect what someone would say about a product. A private opinion, not

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                                  Page 119
willingly shared with researchers, is what really drives behaviour. What people say to friends and family
about a product can influence the behaviour of others, spreading throughout the market.
Word of mouth has to be researched directly. You need to determine not just what someone would say to
someone else, but what questions arise and what non-users have heard. Focus groups using exploratory
techniques are probably the best research method to consider.

Opinion leaders and power
The opinion leader’s power comes from their willingness to share both positive and negative information
about a product. Opinion leaders are often perceived as having particular specialist knowledge or power.
The types of power are as follows:
        Reward power gives physical or psychological rewards to people. For example cash back
         promotions, special airline check-in lounges, someone telling you that you look great, or a free
         donut with a cup of coffee. The reward needs to be relevant to the target consumer.
        Legitimate power is based on an official capacity, such as a recognised position of power or
         authority. For example a lecturer might recommend a student buy a particular textbook for their
         studies. The perception of legitimate power is linked to our system of cultural norms and values.
         In some societies, religious leaders’ views are respected, whilst in other societies they are not.
        Expert power refers to the influence and credibility a person has in their particular field of
         expertise. Expertise is based on the perception of the receiver. People often believe a person in a
         white coat is knowledgeable, so marketers may use ‘white coat’ actors to get their message
        Coercive power is the use of messages that warn of bad or unpleasant consequences of behaviour.
         This power is closely linked with operant conditioning and negative reinforcement. Examples of
         coercive power include campaigns linked to changing attitudes like community announcements
         associated with ‘stop smoking’ and ‘drug use’.
        Referent power is the influence some people have because they are popular. They may not have
         any knowledge or expertise in the area, but are credible because they are well-liked. Consider
         examples like Delta Goodrem and Pepsi.

Characteristics of opinion leaders
Different opinion leaders will be identified for different situations. Give examples to illustrate this point.
For example a sportsperson might be considered a good opinion leader for equipment in their chosen
sport, but not for purchasing a plasma TV.
Spokespersons of your brand must be trustworthy, credible and likeable.
        Credible means they are seen as telling the truth. Shane Warne did himself no favours promoting
         Nicorette (to help smokers quit), only to be caught smoking himself!
        Trustworthy means regarded as honest and truthful.
        Likeable refers to being attractive and connecting emotionally with the target audience.

7.       Teenagers and the youth market
To many marketers, teenagers and the youth market present a large, distinct and attractive segment,
especially for products associated with mobile phones, fashion and computing and electronic technologies.
Lifestyles of generations X and Y were discussed in Chapter 10.
This group is heavily influenced by social forces—peers and other reference groups. They are not
necessarily predisposed to mass media advertising. This group is also harder to convince of advertising
claims. Marketers need to be creative by identifying appropriate opinion leaders and undertaking effective
public relations activities like sponsorship.
Teenagers have an enormous influence over purchasing decisions for the family and themselves. They are
also considered to be early adopters of innovations, thus presenting a stage for diffusion of innovations
across the whole market.

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                                 Page 120
Case in point 11.5—The use of opinion leaders by the Australian Dairy Corporation
The ADC used opinion leaders who are ‘experts’ in health to spread the word about the importance of
dairy in our diets. Doctors and nutritionists were targeted through business-to-business techniques, using
scientific research to justify their claims about the importance of dairy foods. This approach has been
relatively successful in achieving the campaign’s objectives.
Can students think of other instances where those who have expert knowledge have been used as opinion
leaders to change attitudes and behaviour?

Case in point 11.6—Reinventing Bonds
Bonds have repositioned themselves through the use of likeable opinion leaders or role models: Sarah
O’Hare and Pat Rafter. This is a good example of the use of ‘referent power’, as prospects aspire to be like
the role models presented in all of the marketing communications.

Encourage examples from students on other uses of ‘referent power’, where celebrities are used because
they are attractive and likeable.

Case in point 11.7—Youth of today just doesn’t watch enough TV
The youth of today have less brand loyalty and are less reliant on traditional media such as television for
entertainment. They are different from past generations because of instant gratification through credit
options and so many brand choices. Yet more than half live at home with their parents and see their
parents as role models (for some decisions). Several other statistics were also presented in the case study
to unravel the mysteries behind marketing to this lucrative market.
Ask students how they would market a product or service to the youth market of today.


Families and households
‘Family’ can have many different meanings. A household is not necessarily a family.
Before this is covered in the teaching material, encourage students to discuss when a household is not a
family. Consider single-person households, couples living together, friends living together, estranged
couples, the amount of time people have lived together, homosexual couples, etc.
How would this household/family distinction be relevant to marketers?

The family lifecycle
Break students into groups. Each group will represent a different stage of the lifecycle. Ask each group to
determine the products and services most likely to be demanded by that stage. For example, what products
and services (and brand preferences) will be most relevant for the bachelor stage?
Changes in society have meant that fewer people travel through the traditional family lifecycle. Encourage
discussion on what different stages might be also relevant now (this follows on from previous discussion
above, under ‘Families and households’). For every stage, how might demand change? For example:
childless couples, couples having children later in life, single parents, de-facto couples, single-person
households. Present in table format as shown below.

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                              Page 121
Non traditional stage                      Implications for marketers
Childless couples

Couples having children later in life

Single parents

Never marrying

De-facto couples

Single-person households

Career couples living apart

Young independent singles, young married couples/partners, Full nest I, Full nest II,
Empty nest I, Empty nest II
Break students into groups. Ask each group to choose three distinct stages of the family lifecycle. Ask
each group to demonstrate how a marketing strategy would differ for one of the following products
depending on who was your target market.
        Health insurance
        Zoo
        Mortgage market
        Frozen dinner
        Paint
        Visiting international artists

Family purchasing decision roles
Students can assume they are the marketing manager for an airline which offers package deals for families
(either Full Nest I or Full Nest II). Their task is to determine the importance each family member has on
holiday decisions. How would they structure the research process? (e.g. questionnaire, observation etc.)
What questions would they ask? Who would they ask? Would the end results be different depending
whether the family was Full Nest I or Full Nest II?

Changing family structures
This exercise should be treated with caution. You may be able to encourage students to discuss their
family structure (in family home) in terms of:
        Nuclear family
        Extended family
        Single parent family, etc.
Statistics from the class will be interesting to compare with Australia-wide research.

Ask students for the reasons behind the growth in number of single-person households (or why people
would live alone). Reasons that should be considered include:
        Increasing divorce rates
        Decreasing birth rate
        Ageing population—people will live alone when a spouse dies

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                            Page 122
        Lower marriage rates
        Trend to live overseas and work when young.

Social influences on consumer behaviour
Ask students to consider how different people influence what they do.
For example, do they behave differently in front of friends to that of family?
What brands do they buy in clothing?
Is this purchase made with group acceptance in mind?
If not, why not buy the cheaper brand at the cheaper store?
Have they ever been influenced to buy a product (like skincare or fragrance) because someone famous
uses it and looks good?
A string of questions should be asked with everyone answering separately on a piece of paper first to
encourage participation by everyone.

The nature of groups
Ask each student to answer the following questions about groups they belong to.
Each student should consider at least family, neighbourhood, any sporting teams, friends, their marketing
class, associations, supporter groups of the same football team. You don’t even have to know people in
that group to be a member of that group. For example all St George Illawarra supporters want their team to
win, regardless of knowing each other.
        What are the norms or expected rules for each group? For example, at home with family they
         would wash their hands before dinner.
        What is their role for each group they belong to?
        What is their status in each group?
        Is the group primary or secondary? Is the group formal or informal?
The table presented below will help them see differences in their groups and expected behaviour.

Group         Norms                    Role                    Status                 Formal/informal
e.g. family

Reference groups
Break students into groups. Each group should firstly identify one target market (such as 18–35-year-old
females). Describe the most likely reference groups and indicate the probable degree of influence for each
of the following products and services. Classify each as aspirational or associative.
   a) Health club
   b) Clothing

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                            Page 123
     c) Holiday
     d) Mobile phone provider
     e) Brand of pain relief
     f) Laundry detergent

Opinion leaders
A roleplay is recommended here. Break students into groups and choose a particular innovation each. Ask
some to be the enthusiastic product advocates and others to be the sceptical prospects. What type of
questions would non-users ask? How would a conversation start? Would the advocates actually tell a
friend about the product?
One person should observe the exercise. How did the opinion leaders handle the objections put forward by
the sceptics? How valuable do students believe word-of-mouth can be in spreading information about
innovations and helping that new product or service diffuse throughout the whole market?

Characteristics of opinion leaders
Consider examples of spokespeople used in various ads. Ask students to evaluate their effectiveness in
terms of their credibility, trustworthiness and attractiveness.

1.      Consider which stages of the family lifecycle, presented in Figure 11.1 (text, p. 320) would be the
        most likely targets for the following products and services:
        a)   Mobile phone camera
        b)   Adventure holiday to the Antarctic continental shelf
        c)   Tour group holiday to Europe
        d)   Good wine
        e)   Government subsidies/payments
        All of these products could be targeted at more than one stage—but the brands, or ‘perceived’
        quality would be different. In fact all groups could consume these offerings, so students could just
        look at the most profitable segments.
        a)   Mobile phone camera—the most profitable groups here would be the bachelor stage (sending
             photos to their friends); young married couples (who want to see each other all the time); full
             nest I for the parent who is working and missing their children) and perhaps full nest II with
             their older children as the consumers of the products.
        b)   Adventure holiday to the Antarctic continental shelf—younger people with no dependants
             would be the targets. Using Figure 11.1 (text, p. 320), the bachelor stage and young married
             couples would be most relevant.
        c)   Tour group holiday to Europe—this could be any group with a disposable income large
             enough to travel. Younger people would be after a different type of group experience to older
             people. The groups least relevant would be single parents or full nest I with young
        d)   Good wine—Younger people would less likely be the targets here. Older people (even
             regardless of income) could be targets here.
        e)   Government subsidies/payments—This could be relevant for younger people who cannot find
             work or are studying full-time. Full nest I with young children could need family support,
             single parents could require assistance, and older single people or empty nest could receive
             senior citizen discounts or pensions.

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                              Page 124
     2.        Interview a family with at least one child over five years old. Interview one of the parents and one
               child separately. Determine the influence each member has on the purchase (and involvement) of
               the following products and services and where they got information from to have some influence:
              a)   Child’s leisure activities—like dancing, soccer, etc.
              b) Laundry detergent
              c)   Weekend getaway
              d) Breakfast cereals
              e)   New TV
              The child’s age will be important to determine, as well as the number of siblings. Their extent of
              influence will diminish the younger they are, and the more children they ‘compete’ with.
              a) Child’s leisure activities—like dancing, soccer, etc.—the child should have some influence
                 here since they will be the one participating. Their opinion on the extent of their interest will
                 probably be sought. Reference groups will play an influential role here too.
              b) Laundry detergent—as much as mum will disagree, a child may exert some influence because
                 they have seen a brand advertised on TV, and could remember the setting.
              c)   Weekend getaway—this will depend on ‘getaway’s’ meaning—getting away from children, or
                   getting away for the family? A child will clearly have more influence on a family holiday.
              d) Breakfast cereals—A child will probably be heavily influenced by advertising here, like
                 popular jingles or TV characters. Point of sale will play a role here. The child will have some
                 influence if it is their cereal, even as a young child. The parent will have a bigger influence as
                 they will seek out nutritional facts.
              e)   New TV—A young child will have little interest in this decision, unless it is along the lines of a
                   ‘big’ screen or maybe a TV for their room. An older child might even initiate the purchase
                   process. Given the nature of the product, parents will most likely have the greatest influence
                   over the decision.
3. Visit a supermarket and choose a particular product category. This can include fresh food and meat.
   What sizes are available in each brand? What reasons do you think are behind the range available?
          Students will find that there will be a complete range of sizes available for each product category, but
          only for certain brands. However for TV meals (like Lean Cuisine) students will find that the meals
          are typically available in single-serve only. This suggests that this product category actually evolved
          out of the growth in single-person households. Also, generic products will come in few sizes. It costs a
          company money to provide a full range of product lines. Also the generic products are often targeted
          at consumers in large households who seek value to drive their shopping costs down. Parents may
          recall a supermarket called ‘Half Case’, which targeted bulk buyers. This supermarket does not exist
          anymore, because of the shrinking size of many households.

4.        Spend an hour watching television and record the ads that are presented in that time. Which ads
          portray a group setting (which is really more than one person)? What type of group was featured?
          How successful is the ad in portraying the group norms and perceived status of that group if the
          product that is being advertised is purchased?
          Clearly the answers will depend on the ads presented. Students will discover the extraordinary
          number of ads that use groups in their execution. If a family was used for one setting, did the ad
          consider what the expected behaviour should be? Did the ad present the head of the house or the
          children? Or was everyone considered equal? Did the ad suggest that the behaviour (e.g. lots of
          smiling happy faces) could only happen if the product was purchased?

5.        Jeanie is leaving home and needs to set up her ‘pad’ with some furnishings. She has been lucky
          enough to be given some ‘pre-loved’ furniture from family. She knows it will look a lot better with
          some trendy furnishings that reflect her self-image. What reference groups could Jeanie consider
          when trying to decide on furnishings? In your answer consider the following theoretical concepts:
              Associative reference groups
              Aspirational reference groups

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                                      Page 125
        Normative influence—utilitarian and value-expressive
        Informational influence
        Group membership
        Conformity.

     There are a number of reference groups that Jeanie could use as a point of reference.
     Since reference groups have their greatest influence when the product is a luxury item or highly
     visible to others, it is likely that she will use reference groups in her purchase decision.
     Associative reference groups she could use will be more likely friends than family, although family
     will always have ideas to share. People in general love giving opinions.
     Inspirational reference groups may include TV lifestyle shows like Renovation Rescue, or even
     decorating ideas from The Block, or magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens.
     Normative influence is based on someone perceiving what is expected of them. If Jeanie’s friends all
     shop at Ikea, it is likely that Jeanie will be ‘inspired’ at that store, for example. She will want to be
     rewarded and complimented on her taste from friends, and avoid people talking about her ‘daggy’
     taste. This is the utilitarian function causing her to conform to a group’s influence to receive a
     reward or avoid a punishment. If she decorates based on a ‘professional’ or contemporary design
     she could be using the ‘value-expressive’ function as she tries to enhance or reflect her own self-
     Informational groups provide guidance on brand preferences and product knowledge. She may use
     those lifestyle shows as a vital source of information in guiding her decisions on style.
     Group membership may come into play as she seeks to use a certain brand (like Country Road) or
     colour scheme to give here a sense of identity.
     Conformity is when Jeanie adjusts her behaviour to reflect the norms of a group. If she shops at Ikea
     only because her friends do, this is called conformity.

6.   Interview two salespeople in a fitness centre or specialist outlet (e.g. boats). Determine the role that
     opinion leaders play in the purchase of their product or service. To what extent does the salesperson
     use opinion leaders (such as testimonials, etc.)?
     Opinion leaders will be relevant for high involvement products that require some sort of investment
     in time and/or money. The type of opinion leader will depend on the product or service. The
     salesperson may use credible figures to close the sale, or alternatively to gain attention.

IRM t/a Consumer Behaviour by Karen Webb                                                               Page 126

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