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Sometimes, it takes a village to make a decision

More often than not, a consumer’s decision to purchase a product or service is influenced by various individuals or groups in assorted roles. In many situations, individuals or groups play a number of specific roles (Solomon, 2008). Understanding each role and how it affects a purchase decision is an advantage to any marketer. Children, for example, acting in the role of initiator or influencer sometimes manipulates parents into making purchases. However, the initiator is only one of several contributors in the decision-making process.

How Does it Happen?

In the following example, a multi-role decision making process involves both internal and external influences.

A typical American household––Your thirteen year old daughter comes home from school sobbing and announces she has no friends. Being the good parent that you are, you ask her why. She’s says she’s just a nobody. You ask her why she feels she’s a nobody. She says “Because I’m the only kid in class who doesn’t have a cell phone.” Kindly grandpa says, “Well we can’t have that little princess. I’ll get you one for your birthday.” She says, “I have to have unlimited text messaging too.”

A child feels pressure from friends to join in the ranks of the cellular community. The child, hoping to convince her parents to buy her a cell phone is positioned as the benefactor of the decision. The grandparent is providing additional pressure on the parents by assuming the role of the accommodator. The kids in the young girl’s class combine efforts and take on the role of facilitator. It is the peer pressure from the children in class that is the catalyst for the decision. Although influenced by all of the other roles, the parent is ultimately the decision maker.

This example goes beyond parental yielding and follows the pattern of multi-role decision making. While common in family life, organizational decision making follows many of the same traits.

Organizational decision making can involve many individuals in one or more roles including, initiator, gatekeeper, influencer, buyer, and user.

Family as well as organizational decisions is subject to many levels of influence, including peer-pressure.

Social conditions also play a role in the decision making process. A cell phone to an adult is a necessity, whereas with a child it is more closely related to a status symbol. Every child in the class with a cell phone is in a different social class than those without. The parents become vicariously a member of the same less-fortunate social class as their child. This offers additional pressure on the parents to buy the child a cell phone. Pressure-proofing a child is nearly impossible. Adolescence children are susceptible to influences from both parent-pressures and peer-pressures. When confronted by these two choices, a child will choose peer-conformity (Brittain, 1963). As a result, the parents become the minority voice in the decision making process.

It is important to understand when it is beneficial to market to multiple decision makers and influencers. It is never a bad idea to have someone on the “inside” evangelizing your products or services. There is a very good reason grocers and product placement experts reserve the bottom two shelves for the Frosted Flakes and competing sugary cereals. It places the products directly in line-of-site of the freckle-faced influencer for this particular category of products.



Brittain, C. (1963). Adolescent choices and parent-peer cross-pressures. [Electronic version]. American Sociological Review. 28(3), 385-391. Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.jstor.org/pss/2090349

Solomon, M. (2009). Consumer behavior buying, having, and being (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.