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Consumer Behaviour Case Study

Case Title: Crafting a Brand Positioning with Reference Groups

Publication Year : 2009

Authors: Prashanth Vidya Sagar Thalluri, C.V.Chiranjeevi, Nagendra V Chowdary

Industry: Home Appliances and Personal care Products


Case Code: CSB0023

Teaching Note: Available

Structured Assignment: Available

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Set in mid-2009 and meant to be discussed in the ‘Consumer Behaviour’ Course, this case study helps in understanding the psychology of customers in the social context and enables an interesting discussion on the influence of reference groups and opinion leaders on consumer buying behaviour. Further, it attempts to analyse how social networking communities are proving beneficial – compared to conventional advertising strategies – in creating brand awareness and brand salience. Consumer goods companies in the new millennium are undergoing a metamorphosis by changing their attitudes and understanding that brand building is not a simple exercise of advertising. Realising this fact, companies are moving away from ‘advertising’ to ‘content’ and is one such initiative, attempting to craft its brand positioning in an unconventional way. Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) used the brand ‘Sunsilk’ for creating a social networking website by targeting young girls, particularly in the age group of 16–24 years, providing them a means of communication to share issues of interest.

Marketing in the new millennium is all about managing relationships and ‘responsible marketing’ has evolved as a key factor for success in marketing. With the over-crowded media commercials, consumers have become cynical about brands and brand promotion attempts in the new-age marketing. Conversely, consumers are shifting to online social communities to draw opinions about the products and their performances. Online social communities are evolving into reference groups and energising the buying process by sharing and exchanging opinions and ideas on social media platforms. Although reference groups are said to play an important role in the purchase process of luxury products, they also exert a strong influence in creating high brand awareness and brand loyalty in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) products. This case study highlights how is drawing thousands of young females around the world by using online social networking as a mode of communication? And how Sunsilk ‘gangs’ are playing crucial role as reference groups, influencers and opinion leaders in positioning the brand.

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • Understanding the role and influence of reference groups on consumer behaviour
  • Analysing the reasons for shift in product promotion methods by marketers from conventional advertising to online social community networks
  • Understanding how opinion leaders can influence the consumer buying process.

Keywords : Consumer behavior, Consumer community, Reference groups, Production Promotion, Opinion Leaders, Consumer Relationship Management, Sunsilkgangofgirls, Word of Mouth Publicity, Viral marketing, Buzz Marketing, Types of Reference groups, Online marketing, Online Social Marketing, Social Media


  • Sunsilk Gang of Girls – An Innovative Marketing Strategy
  • Influence of Reference Groups in

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