‘Global Multipliers’ Have Disproportionate Influence, Spending Power

April 23, 2009

A new study has identified a small segment of the global population that exerts a very significant influence on other consumers in such categories as travel, luxury, finance, electronics and “green” products, and has coined these individuals “Global Multipliers,” according to the The New York Times, Reuters and MediaVest, which co-sponsored the research.

The study, which profiles Global Multipliers in depth, finds that though their numbers are relatively small (1% of all consumers worldwide), they influence and spend more than the average consumer, and in amounts that are greatly disproportionate to their population incidence. For example, in a given week, Global Multipliers make an average of 16 recommendations to nine people, while average consumers make only 10 recommendations to six people:

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These numbers mean that Global Multipliers account for $172 billion in global travel spending, influence 16% of the world’s electronics purchases and spend $51 billion in green products in the US alone, the research found.

First Worldwide Study

While the sponsors of the research acknowledge that the concept of marketing opinion leaders or influentials is not new in the US, they assert that this is the first public study focused on Multipliers on a global scale, adding that the study offers insights into reaching these individuals in five key areas: advocacy, finance, luxury, technology and travel.

Behaviors of Global Multipliers

The study estimates that there are 19 million Global Multipliers worldwide, in countries such as Argentina, the UK, China, India and the US. Global Multipliers are not unique to any one market or region and reside in all countries around the world, but to varying degrees. For example, the study estimates that there are 2.6 million Global Multipliers in the US and 242,000 in Argentina.

Additional findings about Global Multipliers:

  • Each week, recommendations made by Global Multipliers reach 177 million consumers.
  • Global Multipliers are frequent shoppers, spending between 15% and 35% more than average consumers on categories such as travel, technology, luxury fashion and green products.

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  • In addition to spending more than other consumers, they are also the first to buy new products and pass their opinion on to their friends and family. It is more important to Global Multipliers than other consumers to be the first to try something new (72% vs. 43%) and they are more likely to enjoy trying new products even if they are unfamiliar with the brand (81% vs. 58%).

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  • Global Multipliers are on the cutting edge of new technology and use digital media to influence others well beyond their immediate circle of local contacts. They are more likely to use the internet to share their opinions quickly and on a large scale by forwarding links (68% vs. 49% of average consumers), social networking (64% vs. 54%), posting user reviews (50% vs. 30%) and blogging (46% vs. 34%).
  • Global Multipliers send and receive approximately 1.6 billion emails and 1.2 billion text messages every day and post 331 million blog entries every week.
  • They are voracious consumers of news and information across media platforms. They typicallly read 16 newspapers every week and visit four news and information web sites every day, twice as many as average consumers.
  • Global Multipliers are more likely to spread both positive (89% vs. 74%) and negative (51% vs. 43%) reviews of products.

Traits of Global Multipliers

Though they are just as likely to share certain demographic traits with the general population, Global Multipliers are different from other consumers because they share a common psychographic profile, exhibit heavy engagement with products, and demonstrate prolific media usage.

The study identified the following personality traits of Global Multipliers:

  • Open-Minded + Altruistic: Global Multipliers are more open-minded and internationally-focused than other consumers. They have a mix of friends from different backgrounds (86% of Global Multipliers, compared to 65% of average consumers) and they like to stay current with cultural and political news in other countries (84% vs. 59%). They also follow consumer trends in other countries as well as their own.
  • Need for Recognition: Global Multipliers share their opinions and recommendations with others both out of a need to be recognized and from a sense of responsibility. When asked for recommendations, Global Multipliers are more likely than average consumers to feel respected (62% vs. 50%), influential (51% vs. 40%) and flattered (45% vs. 39%). At the same time, Global Multipliers are driven by an altruistic desire to help others. They feel a responsibility to share their knowledge about subjects they know a lot about (89% vs. 67%) and that they like to reward companies they admire by recommending them to friends (88% vs. 68%).
  • Sociable: Global Multipliers are also more social than average consumers. In a typical day, Global Multipliers communicate with 50% more people both online (36 people vs. 24) and offline (29 vs. 20).

Regional Differences

Although Global Multipliers share common traits across all countries, the study found some significant differences in how local cultures shape the ways they influence others in individual markets:

  • China: Among Global Multipliers in all markets, those in China are the most likely to use the Internet to share their recommendations but are least likely to use the Internet commercial purposes.
  • India: Global Multipliers in India are more enthusiastic in their embrace of social media, particularly relative to Multipliers in Western countries.
  • Japan: Japan Multipliers are less vocal compared to Multipliers in other countries, but show the greatest differences in recommendation behavior compared with average local consumers.
  • Latin America: Global Multipliers in Latin America are the most social of all Global Multipliers.
  • UK: UK Multipliers spend the most time engrossed in their categories, including researching, reading about and discussing travel, luxury fashion and green issues. They also are the most committed to green issues.
  • US: Multipliers in the United States are the most likely to play the role of “connectors” in their social circles. More than 80% of US Multipliers prefer to mingle their various friend groups, a larger share than in any other market.

The study also offers specific recommendations for marketers in terms of reaching the Global Multiplier population. “Reaching these individuals can significantly extend the potential impact of marketing campaigns because they make nearly two and a half times as many recommendations per week as the average consumer,” the study said.

About the study: The research was conducted in two phases which comprised an online survey of 4,342 respondents in seven countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Japan, the UK and the US. Respondents were individuals ages 21 to 64 who reported high monthly discretionary spending. A second, qualitative phase consisted of 18 in-depth interviews with Global Multipliers in four cities: Buenos Aires, Delhi, London and New York. The research was conducted by Research International.

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