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This is one of a series of excerpts from older articles put online by John Ray as a public service. The articles concerned are in general otherwise available only by special request to a University or other major library. In view of the relative obscurity of the source I have on this occasion reproduced the whole article below.

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FEEDBACK 8, Christmas 1973, p. 29-31.

ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?



Rick Wilson

EVERY ad man needs to know who is going to buy his "great" new product, but nine times out of ten the advertiser still launches with his fingers crossed - he cannot be sure if that new idea, which seemed great on the drawing board, will really have the stuff to make it. After all, up to 90% of all new products introduced annually end up being rejected by the consumer, (of those which make it past the drawing board).

Given the high costs involved in the researching, development and launching of new products, identifying the consumer most likely to be first to try the new product and, more importantly, the factors which make this individual an experimenter with new products, assumes tremendous practical importance.

Not only do these "new product tryers" provide a toe-hold for new products into an ever widening market, but they also appear to play an integral part in the subsequent diffusion of new product experimentation through the population at large.

HOW CAN WE DESCRIBE OR ISOLATE THESE INDIVIDUALS IN THE POPULATION?

Some recent findings suggested that innovators (new product adopters) tend to have the following characteristics:

a) higher income and status
b) more mobility
c) better educated
d) literate
e) young
f) greater discretionary income in relation to their peers.

These individuals (let us call them "experience seekers", and they are individuals) are most likely to possess venturesomeness towards trying new products and are willing to follow up new ideas and to experiment with new behaviour. In addition, they demonstrate a greater preparedness toward 'risk taking'.

Before readers rush off to write their new copy, a qualification should be made. Often, as a result of the luxury items selected in the new-product-adoption experiments, it is perhaps not so surprising that innovators tend to have higher income and the finding that innovators tend to take greater risks may be largely a function of their financial ability to do so rather than the outcome of some underlying personality trait. A recent study by Frank however, found that factors such as income, education, and occupation appear to bear little relation to early product adoption when the innovation happens to be a new but mundane commodity such as coffee. It appears, then, that the new product experimenter is more than a demographic mix.

Different attitudes towards income obviously affect purchasing behaviour. Demographic measures which treat income as an absolute, rather than a relative factor can neither detect the attitude nor predict the behaviour.

Education was reported by Demby to have a powerful but ambiguous effect. A study in the U.S. showed that college graduates with an active interest in the Arts seem to own more appliances than college graduates who do not have much interest.

ON THE TRACK OF THE JONESES

Demby conducted some additional research which revealed that among persons with high incomes, college educations, managerial or professional jobs, there is a certain group who tend to be the first with new cars, new foods and new appliances. This vanguard lives on the edge of change and in effect, Demby asserts, create the economy of the country. They are the Joneses, the people every other person is trying to keep up with.

These Joneses seem able to be identified by definite traits and attitudes, i.e., they read more magazines than their neighbours do, they entertain more frequently, they are more liberal in political thought, they describe themselves as innovative, progressive, imaginative, foresighted, sociable and responsible.

We can now look afresh at the forces at play when men buy clothes, when women buy cosmetics, when couples buy homes and electrical appliances, when a man buys a car and so on.

Beyond a given level of affluence it becomes evident that a person selects products that make a statement about himself, building the environment in which he feels at home or perhaps more importantly the environment in which he thinks he should feel at home.

THE AUSTRALIAN PICTURE

No research had been available in Australia on the "experience seeker" until recently, but among the several behavioural and attitudinal indices constructed out of Probe's Social Barometer is a profile of a particular group of consumers that has been labelled "experience seekers". These individuals tended to endorse the following items as a whole:

enjoy eating out often
enjoy continental food
love good wine
value overseas travel highly
experienced willingness to try new products
diet and weight conscious
attracted to antiques
described themselves as:
....active
....energetic
....imaginative
....leaders amongst their friends

The total group of items comprise a scale of "experience seeking". Each respondent's scores for the individual items in the scale are summed to produce an overall score.

Reasons for using scales as opposed to single items have been outlined elsewhere, but suffice it to say that response to any one question could be atypical for a particular respondent, e.g. psychological repression or denial, lack of comprehension etc. Further, if appears more fruitful to get a benchmark or an individual's overall disposition towards that area of thought or behaviour.

In order to ensure that the scale of items which was developed was both valid and reliable, (two essential criteria for any good psychological measuring instrument) the following procedure was carried out:

1. The test for reliability using co-efficient "alpha" produced an "alpha" value of 0.68 which suggests a good degree of reliability (internal consistency of the items) for a sample of size 2000.

2. A check on predictive validity of the "Experience Seeking" scale showed that, in fact, experience seeking was positively related to:

a) Person's perception of his social class (0.31)
b) Objective social class (0.26)
c) Occupation (0.24)
d) Education (0.24)
e) Achievement motivation (0.24)
f) Upward mobility (0.21)

Thus from some of the research which had previously been carried out, chiefly in the U.S., this scale of "Experience Seeking" appears to have both predictive validity and reliability. This scale was tabulated by allocating respondent's scores to quintiles, i.e., as a general rule of thumb for this exercise it was decided to call the top 40% of scorers on the (ES) scale "Experience Seekers". In actuality, a stronger group would emerge if we took only the top quintile i.e., the top 20% of scorers. However, the top two quintiles provide enough valuable information for our needs here.

THE FINDINGS

Experience seekers tend to be younger, more upwardly mobile, better educated professional or managerial.

Experience seekers (i.e. top 40% scorers on the experience seeking scale ) were found to consist of:

5O% of people under 25
52% of students
53% of $7,000 + p. a. earners
60% business managers, professionals
56% educated to matriculation or better.

It is notable that although demographics explain some of the information they fail to enumerate all likely experience seekers.

LIBERAL ATTITUDES

Compared with total population experience seekers are more likely to have liberal attitudes:

............................................................... % in favour
.................................................... Exp. Seekers....Total Population

liberalisation of abortion law..............50...................43
legalisation of homosexuality.............35...................29
object to pre-marital sex....................34...................40
find it difficult to let go, even
at a lively party..................................23...................32

THE MEDIA

Experience seekers read more current affairs and business magazines i.e., the top 40% on experience seeking are 58% of these magazines' readers. However, they are also less likely to watch TV as much as they did in the past.

GENERAL FINDINGS

Experience Seekers

Are more likely to:

.......................................................Experience seekers.... Total population

Look for purpose in life.................................32.......................25
Spend free time with friends ........................23.......................18
Prefer to live in capital city...........................34.......................28
Travel overseas in next 3 years...................39.......................28
Drink wine regularly......................................39.......................28
Drink spirits regularly....................................26......................17
Drink coffee regularly....................................76......................71

Experience seekers comprised:

58% of the likely overseas travellers
61% of dishwashing machine owners
55% of holiday home owners
49% of boat owners
49% of swimming pool owners

CONCLUSION

Experience seekers enjoy an outward going life style. They possess a drive to live life to the fullest i.e. they have the work hard play hard ethic. They are urban oriented, a friendly mobile younger group with high achievement motivation; they are searching for challenge and purpose in life.

This information does not come from demographic data, for the growing affluence amongst the middle class and for that matter the growth of the middle class has further threatened the predictive power of the almighty demographic.

The rich are no longer all that different from the rest. The working class do not admit to their existence. The increase in disposable income amongst the population as a whole has created a new catalogue of life styles and credit with which to finance them (we are at present experiencing the inflationary consequences of this development). This means our experience seeker is not necessarily top income, top occupation, nor top education.

Immediate satisfaction of needs appears to be the order of the day: it is a rarity to find some stalwart willing to forgo the sensuous pleasures of a coloured cathode ray beam. This exists to such an extent in Australia today that the wait on consumer goods such as furnishings, manchester, building materials, and white goods can be anything from 6 to 12 months.




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