"The first thing you have to understand about BrandStyles," says Geri Mazur, senior vice president and director of research at Porter/Novelli, "is that it's not about brands. It's about the way in which consumers relate to brands, and different consumers relate very differently."
BrandStyles is the third in a series of research projects conducted by Porter/Novelli, following on the heels of HealthStyles and TechStyles. Each of the studies has used the same database of about 3,000 people and explores consumer attitudes, aiming to produce broad demographic profiles that are useful to the international PR agency's account staff as they approach various markets.
Clients can also go back to the same group to learn more about their attitudes on more specific issues, as Novartis recently did to develop HeartStyles data for its new hypertension therapy.
In looking at BrandStyles, PN asked consumers whether they agreed or disagreed with 32 different statements, dealing with issues ranging from the importance of brands in their lives to their willingness to take risks to the importance of price to the role of corporate ethics in their purchasing decisions. Five distinct psychographic profiles emerged: brand traditionalists, brand champions, experimental ethicals, principled pocketbooks, and thrifty skeptics.
Brand traditionalists are enamored with brands because they see them as the safe choice. They tend to buy traditional mass-market products. They are the oldest of the four groups, and the least well educated, and many live on a fixed income. They see themselves as cautious and risk-averse. Their main source of information is television, and their print publications of choice tend to be Readers Digest and Modern Maturity.
Says Mazur, "These folks are tremendously loyal. Eighty percent of them will buy their own brands no matter what else is on sale. When you talk to them you can talk about the importance of loyalty and they will understand."
Brand champions are equally concerned with brand identity, but for a different reason: they see brands as an extension of their personality and choose products they believe say something about them. They are not price sensitive, but they do value both quality and service. They tend to be male, well educated, and have the highest income of any of the five groups. They see themselves as leaders. They get a lot of information from newspapers, watch CNN and ESPN, and are also likely consumers of new media.
"You need to leverage your leadership to reach these people," says Mazur.
Experimental ethicals are defined by their appreciation of anything new and different and the importance they place on corporate reputation. They are the youngest and best educated, and they see themselves as confident, dynamic, and unique. They get a lot of information from cable, from MTV to the Discovery Channel, and from new media.
The fact that this group is the youngest and the most concerned with corporate ethics raises interesting questions. Is their idealism a factor of their youth, or will they retain it as they grow older? "It will be interesting to watch this group develop," says Mazur. "Right now they respond well to mission marketing, and they are very loyal to the right company. But they are also unforgiving of companies that betray their trust."
Principled pocketbooks also believe ethics is important, but they are also extremely price sensitive and appreciate generic products. More than 80 percent believe store brand products are better than nationally advertised brands. They are more likely to be female, and they are less well educated than most of the other groups. They see themselves as practical, thrifty, traditional, and cautious. They watch Lifetime and the Family Channel and read Parents magazine.
"Their view of corporate ethics may be different from the experimental ethicals," says Mazur. "They are more concerned with how ethical behavior affects them as consumers and employees. Experimental ethicals may put more emphasis on more abstract issues, like the way companies treat employees in developing countries."
Finally, thrifty skeptics are the least concerned about corporate reputation. They seek out as much information as possible, to convince themselves they are getting the best deal they can, and they are very price sensitive. They are young, and the best educated of all the segments. They see themselves as practical, clever, and take pride in being shrewd shoppers. They retrieve a lot of their information online and watch the least television of any group.
Says Mazur, "Avoid hyperbole and stress value and practicality. This group is suspicious of advertising, but public relations can reach them because they want the depth of information we can provide."