The power of recommendations: true influence in a changing world
What motivates you to speak out about a brand or experience? Who do you turn to first? And whose opinions matter to you?
The huge worldwide proliferation of social media has led to an enormous rise in the number of social superstars and ‘mega influencers’, some of whom receive eye-watering sums for sponsored tweets or Instagram posts. Many big name brands have been enticed by the allure of endorsements by famous faces – and the potential for retweets – and that’s understandable.
But while there’s no doubting that superstar endorsements can offer up vast brand awareness, does that actually influence audiences in a way that truly matters?
The ‘Influence of Experience’ and the power of genuine recommendations in the digital age is one of the main things that our research of 1,000 UK consumers aged 18-40 looked to find out.
The overlooked ‘Experiencers’
Our conversations unearthed a previously-overlooked consumer segment that we dubbed ‘The Experiencers’ – a group that, interestingly, is more likely to be male, aged 25-34, married and London-based. With so much focus continuing to be placed on celebrities and high-profile influencers, what’s particularly interesting about this group is that they have a strong tendency to broadcast positive brand experiences, much more than the mainstream. That’s a potent force for marketers to harness, without a doubt.
While their followers are much smaller than macro-influencers, our research found that their following is much more engaged and loyal, and this boils down to trust: ‘Experiencers’ are trusted for their genuine, human insights and perspectives, grounded in their real-world experiences.
‘The Experiencers’ appear to be driven by new experiences, often trying things out for the first time because of the value of something being new. Their interests are eclectic and one watch-out from them is for brands to create authentic experiences and avoid being seen to cash-in.
In short, they are fuelled by moments and memories, not money. This is a motivational trend that is continuing to grow. ‘The Experiencers’ take pride in passing on their experiences authentically and do this as far and wide as they can – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Having had a positive experience with a brand, ‘The Experiencers’ are almost three times more likely than mainstream consumers to tell many people in their personal and social networks. As such there is big potential for ‘The Experiencers’ to amplify brand messages in a positive way as a direct result of a live, digital or virtual experience.
The role of face-to-face
It wouldn’t be at all surprising to discover that a largely digitally-driven world has led to a sharp decline in face-to-face communication and real-world conversations of value. But our research paints a very different picture.
When it comes to brand or product recommendations, face-to-face communication remains the most preferred method by a significant margin: 77% of consumers make recommendations in this way, while 66% receive recommendations face-to-face. This highlights the importance of making true, human connections with fans. Social media comes second, higher even than chatting over the phone, while chat apps such as WhatsApp are as likely a method of making recommendations as email and text message.
These recommendations can yield sizeable power. The vast majority (84%) of participants admitted to someone generally influencing their decision to buy products, with friends coming just ahead of partners and parents as the main influencers. Group decision making, however, is much more prevalent when it comes to selecting holidays, white goods, groceries and pet products – consumer goods that clearly require a lot of collective thought, reassurance and discussion.
So what does our research prove? The world may look very different out there these days, but human nature hasn’t changed. All of us still fiercely crave real, personal and relatable connections and recommendations. We rely on the experiences of others to best navigate the world around us.
For brands, here lies a big opportunity: the chance to positively influence and drive face-to-face recommendations by being committed to delivering memorable, positive and personal brand experiences that are just too good not to share.
Learn more about “The Influence of Experience”
Download our whitepaper today for the full results from our research project into the shifting sphere of influence and the role of experience. And to make your brand more visible and relevant to influential Experiencers, contact our Innovations Director Joss Davidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With nearly 30 years of marketing experience, both client and agency side, I’ve acquired a rare perspective on brands and business: I believe you have to challenge things creatively if you want to grow sales. Consumer technology is reshaping our world, and it’s only the great brands that stay on the crest.