Family, The Subliminal Influence

Teenage is termed as the transitional stage of development from child to adult whereby people in this category age from 13 to 19 based on www.knowledgerush.com (2009). According to www.businessdictionary.com (2009), buying behavior can be defined as purchase decision pattern which is a complex fusion of needs and desires. Teenagers have currently emerged as a consumer group with perhaps the largest buying power in this eon. As explained by Jill Kilcoyne 2010 of Teenage Unlimited Research Inc, there are several explanations to why such a trend has emerged. Primarily, just by looking at the sheer size of the global teenage populace will provide a view of market which is full with opportunities. Next, they play a major role in setting the trends as teenagers possess the substantial unrestricted buying power. Besides, teenagers are gullible when it comes to the process of formation of brand loyalties. Family is the perhaps the most significant consumer group in the society and this has been investigated comprehensively. As cited by Hogg and Bruce (2003) in the journal article ‘Fashion brand preferences among young consumers', the social influences exerted by families on children's decision making and product choice confirmed the findings of the Beatty and Talpade's (1994) study that there are different perceptions of the influence of children in family decision making. This is further supported by Phau and Cheong (2009) in the journal article of Young Consumer: Insight and ideas for responsible marketers. All in all, family is the prime factor in impelling the buying behavior of teenagers as they serve as the testimonial group, molding their children's lifestyle, brings out desirable changes in self-concept, regulating the economic situation and creating brand awareness.

First and foremost, family impels teenager's buying behavior by serving as the testimonial group. The testimonial group is a term based on social psychology which identifies the group to which people refer or make reference in evaluating themselves (Kotler, 2008). Testimonial group will uncover new conducts and lifestyles which directly influence a person's mindset and self-concept. Hence, creating a condition that pressures him or her to conform that may affect the choice of product or brand in the future. When the product is perceptible to others whom the buyer respects, that is when the group's influence tends to be most effective. As cited by Martin and Bush (2004) in the journal article ‘Do role models influence teenagers' purchase intention and behavior?' suggested that family's influence on consumption patterns and attitudes often supersedes any other form of influence. Besides, the family background of a child plays a very dominant role in shaping the buying behavior. As a result, teenagers too tend to harmonize with their family's perception in the sense of economic and social status when it comes to spending. For instance, a teenager will develop a positive attitude towards a particular product if it is trusted and used by their family members. Moreover, Hogg and Bruce (2003) also cited that the family influence relates evidently to perception of brands as Hite and Hite (1994) signposted. Through the reflection on child development theory, it is plausible that children's behavior is absorbed at very young ages from familial examples (Hite and Hite, 1994). Teenagers may mimic certain buying pattern of the family. For instance, most of the Chinese teenagers tend to buy more clothes during Chinese New Year. Likewise, they may also follow the buying pattern of the family such as the duration and frequency in using and purchasing a product. An example will be the purchase of daily product in terms weekly or monthly basis.

Lifestyle is a person's guide of living as expressed in his or her psychographics, standards for grouping consumers through lifestyle, attitudes, beliefs, values, personality, buying motives, and/or extent of product usage which involves gauging consumers' AIO (Activities, Interests and Opinions) dimensions (Kotler, 2008). Family members, especially parents, shape the very lifestyle of teenagers. One example would be teenagers habitually think in a similar manner with their siblings or parents. However, it is undeniable to an extent that they will most likely follow the habits and behavior of their parents more. In the journal article ‘Do role models influence teenagers' purchase intention and behavior?' the author Martin and Bush (2004) pointed out,

“…parents are still the most important influence on teenagers; lifestyle and consumption patterns. It is just that no teenager will ever make such an admission, nor will their parents perceive how much influence they provide.” (Martin and Bush, 2004)

Lifestyle seizes more than just social class or personality, it summarizes a person‘s whole pattern of acting and interacting in the world. The environment and how the child is brought up in a particular family very well predetermine his or her future development and lifestyle.

As family influences the lifestyle of teenagers, it also provides a significant effect in conditioning teenager's buying behavior in terms of self-concept. Self-concept is basically, one's own perception of oneself. Conferring to Kamaruddin (2006), self-concept is developed through the social interface of an individual with his or her surroundings. As a result of the interface with noteworthy people, mainly the family members, the personality and self-concept are formed. The self-concept concludes a person's faith that holds about his or her own traits and how he or she evaluates themselves on these attributes. (Solomon, 2009) Teenager's self-assurance is gradually built up by family through the process of growing up. It simply signifies the positivity of a person's self-concept. Teenagers tend to make a purchase based on their self-assurance. The most substantial area will be one's physical manifestation. Rendering to Solomon (2009) in his book Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having and Being, he suggested that female college students incline to compare their physical appearance with models in advertisements. For example, a female teenager with high self-assurance will be more likely to wear bikini when it comes to a pool party or swimming whereas the one with low self-assurance would always reveal as little skin as possible. In conjunction to that, self-esteem can also be shaped in the family through displaying benchmarks of people with self-confidence. In accordance to April Lane Benson, Ph. D,

“Most shopaholics try to counteract feelings of low self-esteem through the emotional lift and momentary euphoria that compulsive buying provides… Another group of excessive buyers-less likely than the first group to have the same high degree of comorbidity-buys in the hope of acquiring an identity closer to their ideal.” (Benson, 2007)

Additionally, the family also affects teenager's perception on self- congruence. According to Claiborne and Sirgy (1990), teenagers are discovered to select products where their attributes match some aspect of the self. These models don a process of rational matching between product attributes and the consumer's self-respect as cited by Solomon (2009). The ideal self is a person's thinking of how he or she would like to be, whereas the actual self refers to the more authentic evaluation of the qualities available and not available. Based on this theory, teenager will buy product which reveals their actual self and also product which demonstrates the self they want others to see perceive them as.

Moreover, family can manipulate teenager's buying behavior in terms of economic situation. Firstly, the amount of allowances being received by every teenager differs with different family. Penman and McNeill in the journal article ‘Spending their way to adulthood: consumption outside the nest', specified that

“…youth spending habits are likely to be heavily influenced by their experience with money, their upbringing and their perceptions of parental role model behaviour. Interestingly, all of the participants of this study held part-time jobs prior to leaving home for university, and saw this as their primary source of income, closely followed by parental contributions.” (Penman and McNeill, 2008)

Teenagers which are given a huge sum of pocket money may results in overspending thus fails to manage their financial matters in the future. On the contrary, for teenagers who receive very little pocket money will tend to be thrifty and more cautious in their expenditure. Hood (2004) implied that a teenager who grew up in a wealthier home with easier access to pop culture images would succumb to societal norms more likely than those who in lower income household. Besides that, parents can instill discipline within teenagers by providing pocket money in a weekly basis rather than monthly basis. Through this, they will learn to spend within their limits and learn to save as well. In ‘Insights for Parents: Teenagers and money', the author Lawrence Kutner Ph. D. (2005) declared that children understand the power and symbolic value of money very quickly. They have the aptude to abstract and plan for the future spending of their money. All in all, they are fortified to learn to manage their own money through savings and earning interest.

Furthermore, brand awareness can be created among teenagers through the influence of family as well. In the journal article ‘Fashion brand preferences among young consumers', Hogg and Bruce (2003) commented, should parents repeatedly choose a typical brand, the child will definitely be aware of that particular brand and in the long run will perceive it to be “good” hence creating brand loyalty. According to Olsen (1993) and Fournier (1998), some brands may be linked to family memories, which provide an emotional meaning (as cited by Hogg and Bruce, 2003). For example, teenager tends to seek the opinion from family members when making buying decision. They gain confident in purchasing a certain brand or product if the family supports their choices and buying decision. Besides that, repetitive consumption of a brand in the family may generate a habit in the individual that may explain a subsequent loyalty to that brand. Martin and Bush (2004) stated that earlier research by Basow and Howe (1980) found that both fathers and mothers had a more significant influence on young adult career and education objectives than any other group, including peers, teachers, and other adult role models. The family may make frequent purchase of certain brand for example taking the habit of using a certain brand continuously. Teenager may get affected by the habit and continue to use that particular product even after they leave home and have their own family. Specific example for such product will be Maggi's instant noodle and Top's detergent. They will also make repetitive purchase at certain location where the family believe is the cheapest or provide the best quality.

Concisely, teenagers are basically the hope of our nation if not world. Their attitude in spending money very much reflects themselves as a whole and what they are made of. Since the buying behavior of teenagers are mainly influenced and manipulated by family members, mostly parents, they need to play this role right in providing the positive influence to the adolescents. Parents together with elder siblings should teach them the true meaning of luxury versus necessity. Teenagers should and must learn to understand something is just not worth the money. As they learn not to spend money on unnecessary items, the next possible recession could have been very likely prevented. Next, by looking at the viewpoint of marketing, consumer marketing especially, marketers must realize the importance of the role of family in shaping the upcoming market. Therefore, marketers have a duty to target the family segment in order to have some control over the consumer market. To add on, multinational companies should fund research of extends on how family members influence teenager's buying behavior to attain more detailed information on this aspect. As a closing, research on the influences of family in high involvement or low involvement product should also be conducted to acquire possess more specific results.

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