One American in 10 tells the other nine how to vote, where to eat and what to buy. This, according to a new book, “The Influentials,” by Roper ASW’s Ed Keller, chief executive officer, and Jon Berry, vice president. “The Influentials” studies the population segment of the same name as a marketing phenomenon. Well-connected in business, politics, religious groups and their communities, Influentials wield enormous power simply by sharing their opinions with others. They have the ability to spot important products and ideas earlier than the rest of us, and effectively communicate their discoveries. The suggestions of Influentials have a multiplier effect, which translates into millions of recommendations a year on a national scale. You can’t put a dollar amount on that kind of word-of-mouth advertising; it’s priceless.





1) Restaurant

85 percent

26 percentage points higher than the general public; Average number of people given recommendation: 4.7

Food and restaurants are a subject of interest for the group, and Influentials are regularly asked for their insights on where to eat. They have a disdain for fast food.



2) Movie

67 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +19; Average number of people given recommendation: 5.4

Influentials believe that people – family, friends or others – offer the best information in most areas, including movies they’d like to see. Influentials, in turn spread the word about a movie they loved or tell others to avoid movies they disliked. No wonder word-of-mouth can make or break a film.



3) Vacation Destination

54 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +30; Average number of people given recommendation: 4.7

The percentage of Influential Americans reporting that travel abroad is part of the good life was 39 percent. About 37 percent listed a vacation home as something they’d like to have, above the 33 percent who listed “really nice clothes.”



4) TV Show54 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +16; Average number of people given recommendation: 4.7

Influentials are information sponges, getting their news from a variety of sources, including television, newspapers, public radio, magazines and the Internet. Otherwise, the group doesn’t watch much television or let its children watch much TV.



5) Car

38 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +17; Average number of people given recommendation: 3.9

Like most Americans, Influentials look for safety in cars, but also consider quality of workmanship. Few Influentials look to cars to confer prestige, which may be a function of their individualist streak.



6) Retail Store

37 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +16; Average number of people given recommendation: 4.2

The criteria for Influentials when it comes to shopping is saving money, getting good value for the dollar and making life easier, in that order. However, they are willing to spend more for products and services that simplify their lives.



7) Hotel

32 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +18; Average number of people given recommendation: 4.2

Influentials are among the most highly stressed segments of society, so travel with a hotel stay is viewed as a necessary respite from the workaday world. Influentials are more likely than others to do things to indulge themselves, such as taking a long vacation.



8) Magazine

32 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +16; Average number of people given recommendation: 3.7

Magazines are a source of ideas for Influentials, with 36 percent regularly reading newsweeklies. Shelter publications are regularly read by 25 percent, and women’s magazines, 24 percent.



9) Clothing

31 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +10; Average number of people given recommendation: 3.6

Influentials are not especially engaged in the latest fashions. Nonetheless, Roper estimates their opinions on fashion will be sought 23 million times. Their tendency is to buy brands, but not pay more.

10) Computer Software

28 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +16; Average number of people given recommendation: 4.4

Large numbers of Influentials use personal computers to research art and medicine. They do their banking and file their taxes online.



11) Web Site

27 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +13; Average number of people given recommendation: 5.6

Influentials were one of the first groups to recognize the potential of the Internet. In 1996, 40 percent of Influentials were accessing the Internet, as opposed to 19 percent of the overall population.



12) Insurance

24 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +11; Average number of people given recommendation: 3.2

About 78 percent of Influentials feel somewhat competent buying life insurance. In terms of investments, only 9 percent of Influentials view car or life insurance as a good investment.



13) Investment (stock, mutual fund, CD, etc.)

23 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +13; Average number of people given recommendation: 3.8

Influentials were among the first to take advantage of Individual Retirement Accounts in the Eighties. They then made the leap to investing directly in the stock market, scouring the financial media for insights.



14) Computer Hardware

20 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +11; Average number of people given recommendation: 4.4

The Influentials began buying personal computers before anyone else and have been at the forefront of finding uses for them other than word processing. By 2002, 72 percent of Influentials used a computer to send or receive e-mail. Many started using their computers to view photos and listen to music.



15) Consumer Electronics

20 percent

Percentage point difference from general public: +10; Average number of people given recommendation: 3.5Influentials were early to use VCRs. In 1982, Influential Americans began buying video camcorders, only a few years after their introduction.



SOURCE: ROPER ASW

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