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Jared Hamilton
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VJ VJ eCommerce Director

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BRANDS AS FRIENDS – How Social Are You?

A survey of social brand reception by gender, country and age

With my two posts “Why Online & Offline Marketing could be best partners in crime” and “Why should you listen to the Consumer Voice” I am concluding today with “Brands and Friends – Your Social Opportunity” the series of reflections on the TNS Digital Life Study. 

The question was: “How open are people to brands on Social Networks?”


The Findings: The big elephant in the room here – There is great acceptance and openness from consumers to brands in socially networked brands when the market in the country is considered “fast growing”. On the other hand, there is much higher brand resistance from consumers when in a developed market. For us here in the U.S., this means that the approach to connecting with potential customers needs to be carefully planned. According to the TNS study, the stakes are for damaging a brand, image, and perception are much higher in countries like the U.S. and Central Europe due to social resistance. The luckiest retailers are in Russia, where 17% of people are more open to brands than they are resistant to them.

Focus U.S.A.: People are more resistant to buy actually products they are not familiar with than they are open to learn about them online through social networks. Even so social networks are not considered the most ideal spaces for a retail business; it became clear that the growing popularity of group buying sites like Groupon, Yipit, Livingsocial and others opened up new opportunities as we can see here in the example below.


With localizing and personalizing the business’s digital footprint the retailers could be able to sell or offer a service more overtly rather than pushing too many offers in too frequent manner into their social media streams and networks. It is considered a more unapologetically approach to push these offers onto group buying sites rather than be a social spammer. Driving Traffic to the store – Yes! Creating profits – Depends!

Another interesting finding of this study was looking into gender behavior. Do Women approach brands on social networks different than men? – And? Any guesses? You have 3 more seconds to find out…Okay, here we go:

Survey question: How do you feel about finding out about a brand through a social network?

11% of women in the U.S. are more open to brands than they are resistant to them. Men on the other hand are  only 7% more open to connect via social.

Follow-up survey question: How do you feel about buying products through a social network connection?

[BUMMER ALERT!] 16% of the females are more resistant to brands than they are open to them and just 8% of the males showed more resistance to brands than openness.


VJ’s Question: Knowing now that there are indeed differences in brand acceptance and resistance between male and female – how does the research data reflects on age groups? Is there a chance for us dealerships to target in particular Boomers, Gen-X’s and Millenals (a.k.a. Gen Y’s)?  

VJ’s Answer: “Yes – and - No.”Hold on…I am not at all indecisive to provide you a clear answer. Here is why I came to this mixed conclusion.

According to the Data research of the TNS Digital Study – “Age Does NOT Matter”. [Quote]: Globally people’s openness or resistance for brands on social networks is NOT dependent on age. There is an assumption that younger people are more open, but this study shows that older age groups are as open to brands as their younger counterparts. [Quote-end]

Here are the figures I could dug out for you and indeed the fluctuation of the percentage points are minimal.

More OPEN to brands than resistant
AGE 16 - 24 AGE 25 - 34 AGE 35 - 44 AGE 45 - 65
9% 12% 9% 7%




More RESISTANT to brands than open
AGE 16 - 24 AGE 25 - 34 AGE 35 - 44 AGE 45 - 65
16% 12% 7% 13%


So YES, there is a chance to target your marketing messages and social network approach more towards your clientele, focusing on the more reciptive age groups discussed above.

Let’s take our future consumers here at the dealerships – The Millenials. From studies by Exact Target 2010, PEW Research and Morepace Omnibus Report we know that Millenials will “befriend” 51% of brands they like on Facebook. Keep in mind, BRANDS THEY LIKE, and not brands you think they should like! Furthermore, the study states that when Millenials are Facebook friends with an offline retailer (yes, that is you, the dealership) 26% LIKE special offers – again, please read carefully, - and I will spell it out for you “S P E C I A L offers”. Do not use social media “spam them to death” with countless oil-change coupons or car detail specials – they don’t care. Rather tease them with brand clothing and accessories, which appeals more to their brand loyalty. Hip is in! (Scion dealers, VW dealers, Hyundai – are you listening?!).

When looking at the Gen-X clientele consider communicating all the things what could make their life easier, when dealing with your dealership. No matter if you do it via social, in-store or in your marketing messages off- and online. A Nielsen study found that for this age group the convenience factor is considered huge. So when you have a 5-10 miles radius loaner car drop-off and pick-up, – communicate about it. When you want to display your monthly specials on let’s say Facebook, do so in a separate tab of your Facebook Business Page. Gen-X knows how and where to find your offers, believe me – you just need to make sure there are online, considering 80% are checking social networks on a daily basis.

Which brings me to the last group – the Baby Boomers. They are one of the fastest growing groups around social networking. They are still a little bit shy around Twitter, but Facebook plays a huge factor for them to re-connect with all school friends and colleagues. They love to see Reward Programs from businesses they follow. So similar to a frequent flyer card, why not create something similar for your fixed operations department and communicate with messages targeted to them. Loyalty is still highest priority for them and when combined with some savings during a service visit – you’ll win!

I hope you got some brain food reading throughout my “Trilogy” of this TNS Digital Life Study, and I hope you will see the word “Marketing” not any longer as a noun, but foremost as a verb…because it is!

Happy selling and do the right marketing!

Only for you Brian, only for you....happy that I could raise the stock for Tylenol and Excedrin, and of course your comments on my posts are highly appreciated!!! Pop some pills, please!
Eric Miltsch
VJ, so much good info here, especially how/what each segment. While I don't necessarily want to be friends with a brand, I want the brands I like to be friendly with me - I want them to connect & share with me but I also want to be able to connect with them in the ways I want. That's an art form.
Thanks Eric - you are definitely in the U.S. section and not in the Russian section. Nostrovia...have a Vodka on me ;)

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