Just how much influence do your reference groups have on what you purchase…and what you don’t purchase? Your brand preferences may indeed be subconsciously influenced by the people around you – whether that be friends, bloggers or celebrities.
So what does this mean for brand managers? You have to ensure that your target consumer will be surrounded by positive exposure to your brand and it’s offerings. Take a look at this quick video of the infamous George Costanza.
Now relate the above scene to your personal life, there aren’t many individuals who would continue to wear the “Gor-Tex” coat if there closest friends had that reaction…unless your a Costanza of course. Hence why it is vitally important for Brand Managers to understand not only their target consumer but ensure a positive impression within their reference groups.
Here are three steps for Brand Managers to ensure reference groups are identified and made use of for a product campaign:
One) Understand the different types of reference groups.
Marketing Managers must distinguish that there are three major reference groups that must be identified (per target market) that influence a consumer differently;
#1 Dissociative Group: Individuals that your target market want to distance themselves from due to inconsistent behaviours.
#2 Membership Group: Groups your target market are currently a member of (ranging from social clubs to sporting clubs).
#3 Aspiration Group – Individuals that your target market want to be a part of/associated with.
Two) Ensure your product requires reference group exposure.
It should be noted that not all products need to focus resources on reference groups. With disposable income increasing amongst consumers, high-end fitness, fashion and leisure products are all dominating public exposure. This demands that managers and marketers work collaboratively in allocating resources to ensuring the appropriate Membership and Aspiration groups are channeled for exposure.
Three) Trial, Adjust and Repeat
After you understand what reference group/s should be targeted for the appropriate product, it is (now more than ever) crucial for managers to continuously trial and adjust how their product fits. This should include a representative group of your target market being tested as to how they react to the potential reference groups.
With individuals more than ever expressing disapproval towards a campaign that hasn’t been thought out, the process of ‘trial and adjust’ should continue until there is great confidence that the target consumer will be positively influenced by the reference group.