Group Influences on Consumer Behavior
For most products and brands, a consumer or family makes a purchase decision, acquires the item, and consumes it. The basic
purchase motivation relates to the ability of the product or service itself to meet a need of the consumer.
Other purchases are fundamentally different. The consumer buys more than the product or brand. Membership in a group is also
being purchased. A prime example of this is the purchase of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Most purchasers of a Harley-
Davidson acquire not only the bike and some aspect of the image that comes with it; they also join a group or subculture. While
there are a number of distinct Harley-Davidson groups, most share a core ethos or value system.
An important part of the biker identity involves product consumption. Obviously, one must own a Harley; however, just owning a
Harley isn't enough. People, both other bikers and the general public, have expectations about the dress and behaviors of Harley
bikers. As one study found: "The newcomer becomes acutely aware of another aspect of Harley ownership, performance before
an audience. Much of what guides the newcomer's purchases of protective clothing, footwear, helmets, and accessories can be
explained as tasks of impression management driven by perceptions of audience expectation."
Likewise, some Jeep owners elect to become members of a "Jeep community." These owners attend "brandfests" such as Jeep
Jamborees, Jeep 101, and Camp Jeep. At these events, they meet and form relationships with other, geographically dispersed
owners, deepen their involvement with their Jeeps and with the manufacturer (DaimlerChrysler), and become acculturated into
the rituals and traditions of the community. The following quote illustrates how Susan, a first-time Jeep owner, began to become
a member of this community.
I've been very happy. I get a lot of communications from Jeep, which I've been so impressed with. Usually you buy a car and
you're a forgotten soul. It's kinda like they want you to be part of the family. As soon as I got the invitation for Jeep 101, I
registered. I was very excited. But I was also nervous. I didn't think I would end up driving. I was very relieved to see someone in
the car with you, 'cause it gave you the confidence to do what you're supposed to. Otherwise, I had visions of abandoning the
truck on the hill and saying, "I can't do it!" I thought I might wimp out, but I didn't (smiles).