Research shows links between TV choice and marketing success

Issue date: 25 July 2005


Issue date: 25/07/05

A new research study has revealed an intriguing link between certain television programmes and key influencers in the success or failure of newly launched products and marketing campaigns.

The study, conducted by Channel 4 TV, Bristol Business School and research agency TNS, and published in Admap in May, showed that the best connected 16-34 year olds in terms of shaping opinions on fashion are 38% more likely to choose to watch Hollyoaks and 21% more likely to watch the Simpsons than the average 16-34 year old. However, when it comes to cars the better-connected opinion shaper is more likely to choose to watch Channel 4 News.

While all good marketers recognise the importance of consumers who are first to try new products or who influence the consumption of others, this new study has gone one step further by examining ways of identifying these early adopters (“Movers”) and opinion shapers (“Shakers”) and determining their spheres of influence, in order to help marketers specifically target the most influential consumers.

Says the researcher Clive Nancarrow, Professor of Marketing at Bristol Business School: “Once a product is launched it is important to be seen to be moving and pulling more product through the distribution channel. This research framework is designed to identify key segments of the population that can have a positive influence on the extent to which a new product or brand is recognised and adopted.

There is no doubt that it is becoming increasingly important for marketers to target socially infectious groups as the amount of choice in everyday lives continues to grow.”

The study involved measuring the size of each person’s social network, and identifying the ‘connectors’ who move new ideas between lifestyle and interest groups.

The pilot research was based on 3,010 consumers and examined the well connected early adopters and opinion shapers within six main product fields – fashion clothes, alcohol, financial services, new cars, audio and video entertainment and mobile phones, as well as products in general. The study took into account that opinions can be shaped by both word of mouth and by observation which can lead to copycat behaviour.

The findings:

Respondents were asked about the types of TV programmes, as well as specific programmes they specially chose to watch. Opinion Shapers’ TV viewing habits differ according to the product category that is being looked at. Opinion shapers in finance particularly choose to watch consumer watchdog programmes and programmes about cars. For audio and video products 16-34 year old opinion shapers demonstrate an above average tendency to watch entertainment and music programmes but less so soaps.

The findings revealed that within a typical product category approximately one in four of the sample qualified as either an early adopter or opinion shaper. Of these one third of the respondents were both adopters and opinion shapers, a third were opinion shapers and not early adopters and another third were early adopters and not opinion shapers.

According to the researchers it is the people who are both that offer the greatest potential to product marketers as they can drive early retail trade support while also stimulating fellow consumers to buy.

The research analysis is likely to excite media buyers, enabling them to target the better-connected opinion shapers in a product category by specific TV programmes, which is essential information for choosing which broadcast channel to sponsor or which programme to place advertising around.

Professor Nancarrow comments: “The research helps advertisers and media owners target these influential individuals by identifying their TV viewing preferences.

Ian Kennedy of Channel 4 added "it is important for Channel 4 to be ahead of the game in terms of audience understanding. This research helps our advertisers get beyond demographics and target audiences who really matter."

Notes to editors:

1) Bristol Business School is part of the University of the West of England.
2) Research methodology:
Opinion shapers were examined in greater depth to gain an impression of their sphere of influence. In order to determine the size of the potential social circle of contacts, respondents were presented with a large number of surnames (randomly chosen). Then each respondent was checked to see how many people they personally knew of each name.

Respondents were next asked whom they tended to spend time with – including family members, other relationships, the workplace or college, and people in other areas of their lives who might be very similar or very different as types of people. From this the researchers were able to create a scale representing the number of communities each respondent ‘moved in’.

On average it was found that respondents knew 20 people from the list, with opinion shapers typically knowing 24. Opinion shapers also moved in more circles. Importantly, amongst opinion shapers there is still a very wide distribution in terms of both the number of people they know and the variety of social groups. The researchers concluded that some opinion shapers could be more influential than others and therefore should be primary targets for marketers.

For further information contact Chris Lawrance at JBP Public Relations on 0117 907 3400.

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