Paul Holmes 13 May 2007 // 11:00PM GMT
Consumer decision-making patterns and speed-to-action are radically shifting, according to new consumer research released today by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick. The global survey, New Wave of Advocacy, provides compelling evidence of the shift, and identifies advocates among consumer groups that actively support and undermine brands, causes and issues.
“In a challenging and rapidly changing business environment, companies and organizations need to engage stakeholders in new and creative ways,” says Weber Shandwick chairman Jack Leslie. “Advocates play a significant role in meeting this need as they affect the court of public opinion at Internet speed. They forge emotional bonds and higher levels of engagement that help attract new customers, earn support for issues and causes, spread word-of-mouth, and strengthen brand loyalty.”
Among the survey’s findings is information about what influences the opinions of advocates, how quickly they make decisions and how broadly they share their positive and negative feedback with others:
Decision-making among global consumers has accelerated in recent years. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of global consumers report that they are deciding more quickly to support or reject issues, causes, companies, products and services than they did two to three years ago. Several factors are fueling this speed—people are more informed, have stronger voices, and have easier access to information and experts.
Nearly half of global consumers (45 percent) is identified as an advocate. Advocates take action to support or detract from issues, causes, companies and products, such as making purchase recommendations, sending a letter to a company or elected official, or organizing a protest or boycott.
High-intensity advocates are particularly critical to reach. The most vital advocates represent just 9 percent of all global consumers. They more actively influence others’ decisions, make decisions faster and demonstrate their support or lack of support more zealously than “low-intensity advocates” (36 percent).
Weber Shandwick also found that Advocates contain an important segment of “badvocates.” Badvocates actively make their dissatisfaction known in a variety of ways and do so more quickly today than two or three years ago. They waste little time acting—76 percent report expressing displeasure within one week.
Advocacy is also far more common in Europe and Asia. Advocates are more likely to be found in Europe and Asia Pacific than in the United States. In Europe and Asia Pacific, advocates are more likely to be influenced by environmental and social causes than in the United States. These regional differences present opportunities as well as challenges for multinational marketers who want to communicate their messages more broadly to global audiences.
Finally, both traditional and new media play critical roles in forming Advocates’ opinions. Advocates’ opinions about issues, causes, companies, brands and products are more strongly influenced by the media than non-Advocates’ opinions. Following broadcast and print, online media ranks third in importance of opinion influence among all global consumers.