Reference group moderates the relationship between self-image congurence and brand loyalty
For some time, social scientists have recognized group membership as a determinant of behavior.The fact that people act in accordance with a frame of reference produced by the groups to which they belong is a long-accepted and sound premise (Merton and Rossi 1949). People engage in consumption behavior in part to construct their self-concepts and to create their personal identity (e.g., Belk 1988; Richins 1994). Marketers have generally accepted the reference group construct as important in at least some types of consumer decision making. Consumer research on reference groups has demonstrated congruency between group membership and brand usage (e.g., Bearden and Etzel 1982; Bearden, Netemeyer, and Teel 1989; Bumkrant and Cousineau 1975; Childers and Rao 1992; Moschis 1985) and has defined several types of social infiuence (e.g., Bearden and Etzel 1982; Park and Lessig 1977).Consumers form associations between reference groups and the brands they use and transfer these meanings from brand to self by selecting brands with meanings relevant to an aspect of their current self-concept or possible self.
Consumers may remain loyal to a brand to identify with a brand community ( Muniz and O ’ Guinn, 2001 ), negotiate belonging to brand-defined in- and out-groups ( Escalas and Bettman, 2005 ), and form reference group associations ( Bearden and Etzel, 1982 ). Alternatively, a consumer ’ s desire to break away from his or her present environment may motivate brand loyalty ( Hirschman, 1983 ), where consumers experiencing high levels of stress and dissatisfaction with their social and physical environments may turn to a brand to create comfort or temporary refuge.Although belonging to a group is often seen as the main motive for consuming brands with social meaning, it is also conceivable that consumers use these brands to disassociate themselves from another social group.Brand consumption may also be motivated by a reduction of ties or even an escape from an imagined social group or environment.(Lauren I. Labrecque,Anjala S. Krishen,Stephan Grzeskowiak 2011)
The operationalization of reference groups is actually relatively recent. Hyman (1942) coined the term in a study of social status when he asked respondents with which individuals or groups they compared themselves. For example. Kelley (1947) distinguished between reference groups used as standards of comparison for self-appraisal (comparative) and those used as a source of personal norms, attitudes, and values (normative).Bumkrant and Cousineau (1975) demonstrated that people use others' product evaluations as a source of information about products. McCracken's (1988) model of meaning transfer asserts that such meaning originates in the culturally constituted world, moving into goods via the fashion system, word of mouth, reference groups, subcultural groups, celebrities, and the media. Reference groups can be a critical source of brand meanings. Consumers use others as a source of information for arriving at and evaluating one's beliefs about the world, particularly others who share beliefs and are similar on relevant dimensions. Some author also elaborated on value expressive reference group infiuences, characterized by the need for psychological association with a group either to resemble the group or due to a liking for the group. The far-reaching influence of groups was suggested by Cocanongher and Bruce (1971), who found that socially distant reference groups can influence consumers if consumers hold favorable attitudes toward the members or activities of that group.
Self-image congruence refers to the cognitive match between consumers' self-concept (e.g., actual self,...
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