A reference group is defined as “an actual or imaginary individual or group conceived of having significant relevance upon an individual’s evaluations, aspirations, or behavior” (Park and Lessig, 1977). Bearden and Etzel (1982) define a reference group as a person or group of persons that significantly influence the behavior of an individual, and argue that the Reference Group concept (Hyman 1942) provides a way to comprehend why many individuals do not behave like others in their social group. Reference groups are usually conformed by the social network of an individual: family members, friends and colleagues, and inspirational figures (Bachmann, John, and Rao, 1993), and can be a source of brand associations that mold the mental representations a consumer has of himself (Escalas and Bettman, 2003).
The objective of this article is to test whether or not reference group influence is distinct in different cultural contexts. To do so, an adaptation of the model proposed by Bearden and Etzel (1982) is used in order to analyze how the influence of reference groups and brands would determine the consumption of public services provided within a public-private collaboration environment. First, reference group influence is defined and discussed. Second, the modified model for measuring reference group influence over the consumption of public services is presented. Third, the methodology and results are discussed. Finally, the conclusions and limitations of the research are explained.
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