Title: Consumer Behavior Essay Example

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Title: Consumer Behavior


Considering the variety of products and services in the market, each individual has to consider several factors before purchasing a good or service. Different consumers behave differently when it comes to choosing what to purchase. This can be explained by customer behavior theories, which include; the needs and motivation theory, the classical conditioning, consumer nature theory, customer’s attitude theory, reference group theory, to name but a few. This report is meant to give a feedback on my personal consumer behavior. It was written after a ten days study on my shopping behaviors.

The purpose of the ten days study was to monitor own mannerisms during the purchase of different services and products. It was done through keeping a personal consumer journal for the ten consecutive days. The report will include a detailed discussion of one consumer behavior theory, how the theory influences my own consumer behavior and a reflection on my personal consumer behavior.

The reference group consumer theory

The initial definition of a reference group was done by Hyman (1942). He defined it as a group that impacts on the attitude of the individuals who look upon it as a reference point during the evaluation of their own situation. With time, the definition has broadened to cover a wider scope including the business world. According to Park and Lessing (1977), “it is a situation which can be either imaginary or actual” (p. 42). It can also be an individual or group which is regarded as having a significant impact on individual’s valuation, aspiration or mannerism. In simple terms, it is a group which is used by different people as a framework of their personal identification or a group which an individual can use to identify or regard to other people.

In any reference group, there are two main subgroups referred to as aspirational and the non-aspirational group (Forsyth, 2006). An inspirational group refers to the group which an individual wishes to join while non-inspirational group is a reference group which an individual wishes to dissociate himself or herself from. In an aspirational group, more often than not, the group possesses a considerable amount of prestige that an individual outside the group admires. Unlike aspirational groups, in non-aspirational an individual perceives the norms of the out-group as being negative when compared to his or her values (p. 117).

Reference groups are very imperative in the business world. This is because the urge to fit in (aspirational) or dissociate (non-aspirational) with a certain reference group plays a significant role in the explanation as to why an individual purchases certain products in a consistent manner as a way of expressing their identity. The concept of reference group in business is that an individual who belongs to a certain group, whose members use a certain product tend to compare himself or herself with the members of his or her group as well as with people in other different groups which purchase the same or different product (p. 378).

Since time in memorial, reference groups have been viewed as vital determinants of buyers’ behaviors. This is especially when it comes to selection of products and choosing of a brand, staying loyal to a brand, and views on the quality of a product (Lamb, Hair, & McDaniel, 2006, p.170). Currently, many companies utilize reference groups as an advertising strategy. They do so by associating their products with a certain public figure that is adored (McCarthy & Howard, 2003).

According to most consumers, reference groups are significant because they give them a sense of belonging, self-affirmation and self enhancement. They also tend to enhance an individual’s sense of self-worth and self-image (Wade and Brittan- Powell, 2000). According to the social identity theory, in addition to in-group against out-group, preconceived notion has a great effect on an individual’s decision to perceive himself or herself as part of a group which is larger than him or her (p. 327).

How the reference group consumer behavior theory has influenced my personal consumer behavior

Like many other people, the reference group theories have impacted on my consumer behavior in several ways. For instance, prior to joining college, I did not mind much about the type of mobile phone I owned. After joining college life, I observed that majority of the highly regarded college students were using mobile phones from apple manufacturer. Since I wanted to fit into this class of students I also had to go an extra mile and earn myself such a phone. This made me feel like I belong to the cadre of my fellow learned collage mates. It gave me a sense of belonging.

It has also affected my perception of the quality of many electronic products. For instance, by taking a glance on my consumption journal, one will realize that my laptop is an apple product, just like my mobile phone. According to the standards of my collage group, apple products are more quality as compared to electronic gadgets from other manufacturers. This has also influenced how I view people using products from other manufacturers, especially when it comes to the electronic gadget. Unless an individual is using an apple product, I tend to regard them more lowly as compared to individuals using apple products.

Thirdly, it has affected my self-perspective and self-worth in a big way. For instance, when purchasing for my cloths and perfumes, I have to go for the kind of designer that people from my class go for. This helps a lot in the boosting of my self-esteem. It makes me feel as if I am expensive and worth so much respect and recognition from the society and the rest of my colleagues.

Reflective thinking on personal consumer behaviors

After doing a reflective thinking on the type of consumer I am, it is clear that I am the type of customer who goes for a product or a services on the bases of value placed on it by the community around me. For instance by looking at my journal one will realize that even before purchasing the most trivial thing in my house, I first consider what my people have to say about the product. For instance, before considering sea salt as the salt of choice to use in the house, I had to go to the internet and search for the best type being used by people from a high society (Escalas & Bettman, 2003).

I also had to consider what my fellow colleagues were using in their houses. Before choosing Amarula as the wine of choice, I had to do a thorough research in order to fit into my group. Before deciding on the restaurant to take my lunch in, I have to consider whether it is actually clean enough, well ventilated, high quality food to name but a few factors. I am the kind of consumer who does not compromise quality of the products I purchase simply because of the cost. Other than the reference group theory, the need and motivation theory also influences my decisions. For instance, paying for my rent, my electricity bills and getting a good laptop are all basic requirements for me.


Purchasing a product may appear to be an easy task, but it can get complex bearing in mind the variety of goods and services available. This means that the decision to purchase a certain product depends solely on an individual’s preference. Different people will consider different factors. Different consumer behaviors are explained by different consumer behavior theories. Reference group theory is one of the theories which have affected me in a great way. In this report, reference group theory is thoroughly explained and the extent to which it has influenced me as an individual is explained. There is also a reflective thinking on my personal consumer behaviors, which makes its reference from my personal spending journal. Attached to the report is ten days spending journal.


Escalas & Bettman. “Self-construal, reference groups, and brand meaning”. Journal of Consumer Research. 32(3). 2005: 378-389.

Escalas & Bettman. “You Are What They Eat: The Influence of Reference Groups on Consumers’ Connections to Brands”. Journal of Consumer Psychology. 2003. 13(3): 339- 348

Forsyth, D. Group Dynamics. California: Thomson Wadsworth. 2006.

Lamb, Hair, McDaniel. Marketing. Ohio: Thomson Higher Education, 2006. p. 170-173

Lessig & Park. “Promotional Perspectives of Reference Group Influence: Advertising Implications”. Journal of Advertising, 7(2): 41-47.

McCarthy, M., & Howard, T. (2003, January). Jordan heads band of famous faces in Super Bowl ads. Retrieved February 24, 2008, from


Wade, J.C. & Brittan-Powell, C. “Male Reference Group Identity Dependence: Support for Construct Validity”. Sex Roles. 2000: 324-329.