Group Influence & Opinion Leadership


Do other people influence our purchasing decisions? If so, who influences us?

Does that influencing person or group need to be in our presence to influence us? Why are some people more influential?
How do marketers enlist those influential people to attract attention?



Reference Groups

are an actual or imaginaryindividual or group that has a significant effect upon an individual's evaluations, aspirations or behaviour; forms of reference groups: informational influence, utilitarian influence,value-expressive influence (range from known person to unknown famous person or character)

Even the Flintstones could be your reference group

Informational Influence of Reference Group

Individuasl seek information about brands from professional/independent group of experts; people who work with product; from friends,family,associated;seal of approval?; it is the observation of what experts do or use

Utilitarian Influence

influence from consumer's own preference; preferences of social circle,family; to satisfy expectation others have of her/him

Value-Expressive Influence

Individuasl feel the brand will enhance image others have of them;individuasl feel those who purchase or use brand possess characteristics theye wants; individuasl feel it would be nice to be like person in ad; purchasing product would make individual respected,or what they would like to be

Types of Influence

Normative Influence: the process where a reference group helps to set and enforce fundamental standards of conduct; parents as an example

Comparative Influence: the process where a reference group influences decisions about specific brands or activities; a group you belong to for example


Aspirational Reference Groups are composed of idealized figures such as successful people,athletes, performers -see more celebrity endorsements (inside link)

For many companies the celebrity endorsement is a two edged sword. A celebrity can one day be great and the next day toxic.

In 1987 Anheuser-Busch in their "Night Belongs to Michelob" campaign recruited Eric Clapton for their commercial The problem was that as the commercial was released Clapton admitted to drug and alcohol addiction and admitted himself into a detox clinic.

Stars make commercials in Japan

Olson Twins Got MilkIn 2004 The Got Milk Campaign used the Olsen twins for their healthy campaign. The ad was pulled when Mary-Kate checked herself into a treatment program.

In 1986 Cybill Shepherd was hired by US Beef Industry to promote beef, problem was a few months later she tried to stay away from red meat.

Read about Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and his 2008 butter commercial

Jared Fogel lost 200 pounds eating only Subway sandwiches and then became their spokesperson, but in 2015 he was found guilty of distributing child pornography. His name and likeness was immediately removed from any Subway materials. No wonder many companies select animated characters as spokespeople. Read about more celebrity endorsements gone bad in Market Watch Subway's Jared

Fogle, and 10 Other Endorsement Deals Gone Bad


Reference group can be large and formal or small and informal. Marketers more successful to influence small informal group; survey said 34% teens spending influenced by friends; 25% admitted advertising had impact. Larger groups tend to be product or activity specific and are high in Comparative Influence.

Some reference groups consist of widely admired person, or ordinary person like you or me; effected by distance-those close to you, people we are merely exposed to;

Group cohesion- There is a loyalty to the group especially when membership is exclusive->cohesiveness- they stick together.

Reference group can be positive or negative influence; there may be avoidance groups who individual looks at and ensures he/she is not like them


Reference group can be virtual: a virtual community of consumption where people share enthusiasm for specific product, activity: rooms, rings, blogs, lists, bulletin boards; community created by web pages, and social networking sites like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and Linkedin

What you say about yourself online may not always be true, but what you write about yourself may reflect your "ideal" self. As we mentioned before, the more different your real self is from your "ideal" self makes you a target for fantasy appeals.

Search engines and social networking sites can create detailed profiles of consumer's interests; these can be used to behaviourally target individuals. Cookies track the things you look at and are interested in. Your behaviour online is being watched. Virtual community depends on how central the activity is to self-concept and the intensity of social relationships

Types of virtual community participants:

Tourists-have passive interest;
-strong social ties but not that interested in central consumption;
Devotees-strong interest in activity, but few social attachments;
: strong social and strong interest in activity

Devotees and Insiders are target of marketer as heavy user; reinforcing can upgrade participants

At one time Devotees of the Band Kiss could purchase A Kiss Casket for $4700' They said on their website that it could also be used as a cooler before actual use as a casket.


See story of Elvis impersonators

Reference groups are not equally powerful for all products/activities; low risk product not complex are less susceptible to reference influence; impact of reference group can vary at times.

Consider these factors--is the product used privately or publicly? is it luxury or necessity?

Today sites like YouTube provide a platform for the young to promote their own brand. Billboards promote the new YouTube stars. These young stars have built loyal communities and marketers are paying close attention. See a list of the 30 Top YouTube influencers according to The Hollywood Reporter NextGen 2015: YouTube's Top Influencers



Peer pressure

Social Power: the capacity of one person to alter the actions or outcome of another



Kardashian BrandReferent Power

If person is admired, consumer may try to imitate; prominent people can influence others. Britney was anointed the voice of a new generation in Pepsi commercials. When not in the commercials, she was consistently filmed drinking Coke. The Kardashian's have this kind of power.




Information Power

Jon StewartinfoA person can be an influence because they have information or knowledge; For example an editor decides the story you read or see. Today sites like facebook have become sources of news for many people and many get their political news from satirical shows like Saturday Night Live, the former Jon Stewart's Daily Show and now Trevor Noah's Daily Show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The information now is not strictly from news organizations



Pope promoting wine with cocaine

Legitimate Power: Power granted by social arrangement; a uniform, or actor wearing one

In the ad with the Pope, he is promiting a wine that has cocaine in it.

nurse promoting productDentist promoting cigarettes

Apple leader

Expert Power: derived from having specific knowledge or skill



reward power-use the brand and get loveReward Power: when person has power to reinforce real or approval



I miss my lung bobCoercive Power: evident in fear appeal; often effective in short term





People tend to follow society's expectation especially in the presence of others.


Asch experimentrefers to change in beliefs or actions as a reaction to real or imagined group pressure

Read about Solomon Asch's Conformity Experiment



the informal rules that govern what is right and wrong; helps society function; example changes in attitude to smoking

Normative Social Influence

the conformity that occurs when people alters their behaviour to meet the expectations of a person or group

Informational Social Influence

the conformity that occurs because the group's behaviour is taken as evidence about reality

Factors Affecting Conformity

cultural pressure, fear of deviance (I won't fit in"),Commitment (more dedicated to group more will follow), Group unanimity,size and expertise; gender differences, susceptibility to interpersonal influence (need to identify or enhance image


Sometimes we look to the behaviour of others to check reality

Social Comparison Theory says people compare their outcomes with others to increase stability of self-evaluation especially when physical evidence is unavailable- example; choice of music appears to be personal yet people believe some choices are "better" or "more correct"; people are selective about who is the benchmark


How can marketer increase likelihood others will comply?

Foot-in-door technique: a small request first is granted first; then comes the next


Low ball technique: asked a small favor and then informed of high cost


Door-in-face technique: person asked to do something extreme (usually refused) and then asked to do something smaller



More people in group means lower likelihood any member singled out; people behave wilder in costume

Deindividuation is submerging of identity within the group; sometimes group will take more risks; perhaps individual within group is less accountable

Decision polarization occurs when after group discussion members become more extreme (group shift)

Social loafing occurs when in large group individuals devote less effort, Example; large group tends to tip less

Anticonformity versus Independence

Some will go out of their way not to buy what is "in" this is anti conformity. Independence is when person is oblivious to what is expected. This is different from anti-conformity. People need to preserve freedom of choice Reactance is a boomerang effect that sometimes occurs when consumers are threatened with a loss of freedom of choice; they respond by doing the opposite of message Example: censored item increased desire. For more information on anticonformity see Adbusters

See a great link with a Comic of Banksys Call to Action Against Advertisers at

"On Oct. 20, Yegor Sak walked into the Apple store in Yorkdale Mall, bought an iPod, took it out of the box, and smashed it on the ground....Sak rankled legions of iPod devotees when he launched on Oct. 4.The website invited people to donate to a fund set up to purchase a $380 iPod for the express purpose of destroying it." See the video at

There's an evangelical mission afoot- It's the Reverend Billy's Unholy War on Consumption -known for his Retail Interventions...''We must exorcise this cash register,'' 'We are drowning in a sea of identical details!'' his Church of Stop Shopping and their performance art -guerilla marketing activism may be coming to a Starbucks or Walmart near you. See more on Rev Billy's website at


Altoids became successful by word of mouth, information transmitted by individual to individuals; we tend to believe from those we know

altoids adHush PuppyHush PuppyBlair witch

Marketers are more aware of WOM but more and more try to promote and control it

Studies show information from impersonal source can create brand awareness, but word of mouth is relied on in later stage of evaluation

In 2004 in recognition of the importance of Word of Mouth an organization was formed-WOMMA is an industry group dedicated to building a strong discipline around Word-of-Mouth Marketing. A core goal of WOMMA is to help grow the acceptance and legitimacy of word-of-mouth as part of the broader marketing mix. For more info see their site (outside link)

In 2007 WOM was the fastest-growing slice of the $254-billion (U.S.) marketing industry

to read more about WOM see 40+ Word of Mouth Marketing Statistics You Should Know

Types of WOM: According to WOMMA
Buzz Marketing:

Using high-profile entertainment or news to get people to talk about your brand.

Viral Marketing

Creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often electronically or by email.

Community Marketing:

Forming or supporting niche communities that are likely to share interests about the brand (such as user groups, fan clubs, and discussion forums); providing tools, content, and information to support those communities.

Grassroots Marketing

Organizing and motivating volunteers to engage in personal or local outreach.

Evangelist Marketing:

Cultivating evangelists, advocates, or volunteers who are encouraged to take a leadership role in actively spreading the word on your behalf.

Product Seeding:

Placing the right product into the right hands at the right time, providing information or samples to influential individuals.

Influencer Marketing:

Identifying key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to talk about products and have the ability to influence the opinions of others.

Cause Marketing:

Supporting social causes to earn respect and support from people who feel strongly about the cause.

Conversation Creation:

Interesting or fun advertising, emails, catch phrases, entertainment, or promotions designed to start word of mouth activity.

Brand Blogging:

Creating blogs and participating in the blogosphere, in the spirit of open, transparent communications; sharing information of value that the blog community may talk about.

Referral Programs:

Creating tools that enable satisfied customers to refer their friends.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is building buzz for a brand with low cost innovative, unconventional techniques. Examples include street teams pushing an idea, postering an area or creating an event. The technique started in the 1970s. It includes unconventional locations and word-of-mouth. Information can be from a chat room infiltrated by "actors" creating buzz or live events creating talk about the event and product. Usually it is done on streets or public areas to get a large audience.

Guerrilla marketing can include ambient marketing, ambush marketing, stealth marketing, viral, wild posting, astroturfing, and street marketing.


See someblog posts on guerrilla marketing

Ambient Mediaambinet media example fake running event

Events sponsored by brands that unfold in real time in real life and are intended to surround or enfold prospective customers- flash mobs. Rather than one-way communication, from advertiser to the consumer they try to engage the consumer in two-way communication.

Fake Marathons to promote Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Granola

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is a strategy of getting customers to sell a product on behalf of company that creates it. Examples: RocketTalk-lets you record audio message and e-mail to friend, friend is invited to site to record reply

Backflip into Jeans

See a great infographic by Mashable explaining viral and why things go viral

subservient chicken''Webisodes''/Webcams/Spoof Websites

61 percent of the consumers polled agreed that advertising is ''out of control,'' and 60 percent said they feel ''much more'' negative about it than they a few years ago; yet, 215 million tuned into Burger Kings to give orders to the subservient chicken. The site was passed widely by friends on the internet.

See the history of Subservient Chicken

Read about the success of Subservient Chicken at
The parodies soon followed. One favourite was where you could make George Bush do tricks. (link no longer active)



American Express also attempted a similar tactic by pairing Jerry Sienfeld and Superman in mini webisodes on their site

Many movies create fake websites to engage viewers in movies, example Avatar

Viral + Social Networks

Old Spice Guy

According to AdWeeks Blog AdFreak Old Spice's Campaign achieved the following

"Old Spice accounted for 75 percent of conversations in the category in the first three months of 2010.
• Half the conversations came from women.
• The YouTube/Twitter social media response campaign was "the fastest-growing and most popular interactive campaign in history."
• More people watched its videos in 24 hours than those who watched Obama's presidential victory speech. (Which most of us can agree is kinda sad.)
• Total video views reached 40 million in a week.
• Campaign impressions: 1.4 billion.
• Since the campaign launched, Old Spice Bodywash sales are up 27 percent; in the last three months up. 55 percent; and in the last month up 107 percent. "

Read more and see a short video case history here

Factors encouraging Word-of-Mouth: effective when consumer is unfamiliar with product category; buzz can be created; person highly involved takes pleasure in talking; sharing of knowledge; concern for another; talking about product gives support

A New York agency affixed 50,000 stickers to US dollars to promote an upcoming miniseries. They hoped to create buzz through WOM -

A concept called "roach marketing" or "undercover marketing" utilizes word of mouth- roach marketing is when marketers or companies try to disguise their come-ons as spontaneous interactions in a bid to give products credibility- an example of this is the case of-Raging Cow-click to find out how things can go wrong!

to read more about word of mouth see the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell


Negative WOM is weighted more heavily than positive; 90% of unhappy customers will not do business with company again; these people share the grievance with 9 people--13% will tell +30

Negative WOM easier to spread online.web sites to complain about products. in 30s professional rumour mongers promoted their clients and criticized competition/See urban legends site for interesting true and false stories Urban Legends Reference Pages


Opinion leaders may be

Generally an opinion leader is not an opinion leader in all areas, usually specific to one area

SElina Gomez drinks Coca Cola Instagram postInfluentials and Influencers

Influencer marketing focuses on influential people rather than the target market as a whole. Influencers are individuals who have influence over potential customers. It could be by testimonial advertising of the influencer, or by images that show the influencer using products or services. Today the largest social site for influencers is Instagram

Selina Gomez instagram post features Coca Cola has over 4 million likes



Today marketers look to this new demographic:
Tech-fluentials- these are the hyper-connected and powerful opinion leaders that can make or break your product or service by quickly spreading positive or negative buzz, sway stakeholders, and establish trends.

Shoppable TV Ads- Watch,Click and Buy- Social Influence

Today Show on NBC showing a Shoppable ad at bottom offering an adirondack chair on the set for sale

NBC in May 2019 tested "shoppable ads" in its Today show, The French Open, The Tour de France and the show Songland in what they called "on air shoppable moments."

What is a shoppable ad?
A shoppable ad is a small QR code and information about a product or service that appears at the bottom of a TV show. A viewer can point their smartphone and will be directed to the ecommerce site to make a purchase of the item in the ad. The item in the ad relates to something going appearing on in the TV show.

In the example above the Today show hosts are discussing something and are sitting or about the be sitting in the Adirondack chairs which are the thing being sold by the QR code. Sometimes the QR code and shoppable ad are the only thing related to the sale at other times the hosts or people on air may actually point out the product.

NBC reported reaching tens of millions of viewers with a conversion rate about 30% above the usual ecommerce rates. The suggestion is the ads are driving 10% growth on social media. (Source: Media Post Oct 29, 2019)

Shoppable ads are examples of social media influence.

Advertisers are finding more and more ways to target customers.

How do you feel about Shoppable Ads?


A Surrogate consumer is professional retained to evaluate or make purchase; examples: interior decorator, stockbroker, consultant. Many ads are intended to reach opinion leader especially if ad has technical information; one method to find opinion leader is to ask people if they are opinion leaders-results questionable

Market maven is a person who often is a source of information about marketplace activities

Sociometric methods are techniques for measuring group dynamics that involve the tracking of communication patterns in and among groups

References as noted above and: Solomon, Michael R., Zaichkowsky, Judith and Rosemary Polegato. Consumer Behaviour: Buying, Having, Being. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada


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