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This report, drawing upon relevant insights from two of  Euromonitor International’s consumer surveys: Annual Study 2011 and Global Youth Survey, explores attitudes and behaviours related to role models. Who has a greater influence on consumers? What are consumers generally aiming for and whom do they look up to in life?

About Euromonitor International’s Annual Study & Global Youth Survey

Euromonitor International’s Annual Study surveyed 16,000 consumers of all ages (15-65+) in 8 mature and developing markets in July and August 2011, questioning respondents on the following themes: health and wellness, food and drink, technology, shopping and leisure, personal traits and values.

Euromonitor International’s Global Youth Survey reached out to young consumers living in 15 countries with the largest and fastest-growing youth populations. Fielded August-September 2011, the survey questioned 16-24 year olds on the following themes: financial expenditure, food and drink, technology, leisure activities, personal traits and values.

This comment piece is the first of several consumer comment pieces highlighting insights from our survey material. For more information on Euromonitor’s survey findings, please see the Survey page.

Commercial opportunities

  • Over-endorsement by a celebrity could lead to a substantially negative effect on all brands, as the credibility of the celebrity becomes questionable leading to consumers being sceptical. For example, a washing-powder ad campaign in China featuring action star Jackie Chan backfired as consumers find it hard to believe Chan’s acting skills have anything to do with knowledge of doing laundry;
  • For Chinese consumers who traditionally value the spirit of beating the odds, entrepreneurs are often cited by younger generations in China as worthy of far more respect than those successful in other professions.

The new context

Consumer behaviour is considered to be a complex process affected by a variety of internal and external factors such as the personality of individuals and trends and images created by or around famous people. Consumers look up to various figures in their lives impacting their decision-making behaviour by directly or indirectly coming into contact with those figures. Role models have long been used by marketers to communicate with consumers in the hope of inspiring them to spend.

Role models are individuals possessing successful attributes or behaviour that people generally admire and imitate. The desire of individuals to emulate certain aspects of a role model’s attributes or behaviour often stems from a perception of similarity as well as aspirations. Role models come from various aspects of people’s lives. They can be parents, life partners, friends and teachers or they can be famous individuals from politics, media or the sports world. Parents are typically the closest personal relationship experienced by people during childhood and adolescence, and play an important part in character-building, with influences on certain preferences and dislikes.

Parents as role models

Role Models of All Consumers (Ages 15-65+)

 

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Euromonitor International’s Annual Study 2011 reveals that consumers aged 15-65+ years of age, particularly in China, Japan and India, respect those closest to them, more so than religious leaders, co-workers and famous figures. Children start learning shopping behaviour from their parents, from dietary patterns to brands and prices. Experiences and habits gained from parents in childhood reflect later shopping preferences.

Role Models of Young Consumers (Ages 16-24)

 

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Source: Euromonitor International Consumer Survey – Global Youth

Based on results from the Euromonitor International Global Youth Survey of young consumers conducted last autumn, this group of consumers tends to look up to their parents and significant others as role models as well rather than celebrities, teachers and politicians.

Celebrities as role models

Celebrities can be actors, sports personalities, politicians, or pop icons. Their fame and success allow them to inspire and influence consumers. Teenagers and young adults are generally more susceptible to their influence compared to the mature population. When celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Katy Perry and Cheryl Cole were seen and photographed in J Brand coloured denim in late 2011, sales went through the roof. “WhoWhatWear”, a blog set up in 2006 by former Elle magazine editors Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power charting celebrity fashion with links to retailer sites receives about four million visitors a month. Similarly, RedCarpet-FashionAwards.com, a British-based blog launched in 2007 by Catherine Kallo who worked at a sports marketing agency, gets 50,000 to 60,000 visitors a day. On awards evenings, such as the Oscars and BAFTA, the site can get up to 120,000 hits.

Euromonitor International’s Annual Study 2011 showed that respondents in rapidly rising economies like China, India and Brazil are generally more status driven and tend to be attracted to new products and services. At the same time, this group of consumers is also more community-minded. Famous personalities such as former NBA basketball star Yao Ming, actor Jackie Chan and Olympic gold medallist Liu Xiang are frequently featured in advertisements in China for a wide range of products and services as diverse as soft drinks, credit cards and life insurance. To Chinese consumers, famous people represent more than success and status; they reflect the values and ideals of their culture. For example, Yao Ming is perceived as much more than just a successful athlete; he is revered as a powerful winner and pioneer. Such an image closely matches the brand image sought by a multitude of products and services. The Chinese culture also includes loyalty at its core. It was, therefore, no surprise when Nike retained Liu after his disappointing, injury-induced performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Many of Liu’s sponsors dropped him, but Nike’s move demonstrated much greater insight into the cultural context of brand-building and celebrity endorsements.

According to Tiffany Dunk, editor of Dolly, an established teenage magazine in Australia, there is a major change in the type of celebrities young consumers see as role models. The magazine conducted a Dolly Youth Monitor 2011 poll of more than 1,000 Australian teenagers aged 14 to 17 late last year. ”Persistence, charity work, openness – those are all worthwhile qualities. But there is one more essential ingredient, they have to be real. This generation is really savvy. They are looking for truth and authenticity. They can smell a fake a mile off. It’s important that celebrities just be themselves if they are going to be a good role model.”

I’m not being represented well

According to an April 2011 survey by Yahoo!, Mindshare and Added Value conducted in the USA, digital advertising does not engage Hispanics, Blacks and Asian-Americans mainly due to the fact that they are poorly represented. Some 78% of blacks, 74% of Hispanics and 72% of Asians surveyed agreed that diversity in ads is the best reflection of the real world, and nearly as many in each group said ads should show more of that diversity. “Respondents said they would prefer to see ‘someone who is not famous but who is authentic’ as a spokesperson for a brand, not just “white-washed celebrities” explained Lauren Lambert of Yahoo! Hispanic respondents, for example, pointed out that they would rather see an ad with a typical Hispanic family sitting down and enjoying a meal together than white celebrities endorsing tacos and tortillas.

Online independent reviews – arbiters or noise?

When it comes to selecting a product, brand or service, respondents of all ages to our Annual Study 2011 indicated that traditional modes of advertising are most influential, with a greater impact on women than men. Independent consumer reviews, ranking third in the survey, exert a more powerful influence on consumers of all ages and genders than many other forms of marketing. Stephen Candelmo, CEO and co-founder of Klaggle, an emerging online site that focuses on changing the way people write, share and find quality reviews, believes that online reviews have not yet fully evolved to influence consumers as they lack credibility. “What is at risk is the authenticity of social in terms of commercial value. What is real or fake? What can be relied on? What should be questioned? We as an industry need to address this for the bad apples are growing in number,” said Candelmo. The unauthentic nature of many reviews is a growing problem. To help address it, Klaggle recently introduced ReviewRite, a solution for consumers to help write and share quality and trustworthy reviews through social networking platforms. At present, product quality and price is still the most important factor when it comes to purchasing decisions, with almost 90% of global respondents in Euromonitor International’s Annual Study 2011 ranking these factors over recommendations and reviews.

Looking ahead

In the face of a looming global financial crisis, consumers may not connect with celebrities as much, with many needing real life day-to-day figures as role models. Most respondents, particularly those in the United States, think parents know best and they generally value recommendations by their family members. Most respondents are also aware that a happy life comprises more than just materialistic pursuits. Despite the constant exposure to advertising campaigns and the lure of new products and services out there, almost all consumers (90%) globally ranked health over financial status when it comes to achieving a happy life.

 

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