"A Man Is Known By The Company He Keeps": An Explorative Study Into the Role Dissociative Reference Groups Can Play in the Selection of Fitness Provider

Christoffer Molin Surland

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Fitness has become the preferred way to exercise in Denmark and as a result the industry has flourished the last decade. The Danish fitness industry constitutes an interesting case study because two nationwide fitness chains in the form of Fitness DK and Fitness World currently dominate the market. On the basis of that, this thesis investigates if dissociative reference groups have an effect on the Danish fitness users’ choice of fitness provider. Specifically, through eleven semi-structured interviews, this study tried to gain a qualitative insight into how Fitness DK and Fitness World-members choose their fitness provider. Based on the literature review, four relevant themes were identified in the context of symbolic consumption and social identity theory: self-presentation, brand user imagery, reference groups and approach/avoidance behaviour, which subsequently were explored in the interviews. A semi-structured format was used to ensure that the main topics were covered while the discussion remained as free-flowing as possible, particularly appropriate for explorative research.
The findings of this study showcase that the majority of the Fitness DK-respondents perceive the brand of Fitness World to be associated with a dissociative reference group, which had implications for their selection of fitness provider. Specifically, the Fitness DK-respondents chose their fitness provider with a reference to avoidance behaviour as opposed to approach behaviour because they regarded the user imagery of Fitness World to be associated with a negative stereotype, which they did not want to be identified with. Inversely, the Fitness World-respondents did not perceive the brand of Fitness DK to be associated with a dissociative reference group. In relation to this, it is interesting that it is precisely the majority of the Fitness DK-respondents, who can be considered relatively concerned for self-presentation in this sample, that perceive the brand of Fitness World to be associated with a dissociative reference group whereas the Fitness World-respondents, who can be characterised as less concerned about self-presentation relative to the Fitness DK-respondents, do not perceive the brand of Fitness DK to be associated with a dissociative reference group. In regards to this, the findings of this study to some extent indicate that self-presentation concerns do not only motivate the effect of dissociative reference groups on consumers’ evaluation and brand preferences, but is also the mechanism underlying dissociative influence.

EducationsCand.merc.smc Strategic Market Creation, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages204