Consumer Behavior - Social Class and Reference Groups

Are there other ways that we can group consumers to understand and predict their behaviors?

Social Class .…

Other Definitions

Social Class Membership

What Is Social Class?


Income Source

What do you think?
Does a professional athlete making $20 million belong in the same social class with a physician making $150,000/

A mechanic wins $50 million in the lottery…will his social class change?

Have you ever calculated Social Class?

Social Class in the United States
A five-class hierarchy

Upper class
Attend elite schools, engage in inconspicuous consumption
Upper-middle class
Professionals, independent businesspeople, corporate executives
Lower-middle class
Salespeople, clerical workers, supervisors, construction contractors, small retail store owners
Upper-lower class
Skilled and semi-skilled blue-collar workers
Lower-lower class
Lower blue-collar workers, the  unemployed, families on welfare, and unskilled workers
Marketing to the poor

Social class is an important source of beliefs, values, and behaviors

Can marketers use social class?  Product influence

Social Class and Marketplace Behavior:  Media Use
Influence on media use

Choice of magazine is likely tied to education and reading ability

Broadcast media choice also varies by social class

Influence on Advertising: Themes
Lower-status consumers are more receptive to advertising that depicts activity, ongoing work and life, expressions of energy, etc.  Why?

Upper-middle class consumers are more critical of advertising, suspicious of emotional appeals, and skeptical of claims.  Why?

Social Class:  Shopping
Lower-class women are the most “impulsive” about shopping
Outlet choice varies by social class
Upper-lower class women are likely to respond to promotions offering coupons or other special inducements
Members of the upper class prefer traditional home furnishings

Social Class and Leisure
Bowling, TV, and bingo are favorite lower-class leisure pursuits
Most activities enjoyed by middle- and upper-class people are less time consuming than lower-class choices

Who is likely to influence your company’s customers?
Who do they want to imitate?
Who will they ask for advice?

 Does your company have any social processes where your customers are influenced by others?

Why are Reference Groups Important?

Reference Group Influences

Social Norms and Conformity

Conformity pressures—actions taken to encourage or force members to act, think, and/or express themselves in certain ways

Reference Groups:  Have you Ever Sought the Opinions of Others in making a consumer decision?

Types of Reference Groups: how much contact, familiarity

Remember - the question is how much impact the reference group has!

Promotional Messages and Power