We live in a world where our values, choices and behaviors are influenced by others. Not only is this part of our human experience as social animals but it is also integral to the work of marketeers and policymakers who have long been aware that social influences are a powerful way to shape our lives.
Social forces are becoming increasingly important. While in 1800 it’s estimated that just 3% of the world’s population lived in urban areas, today the estimate is beyond 50%. This trend is more pronounced in emerging markets as evidenced by the growth of cities such as São Paulo and Mexico City. Globalization has led to a familiarity with life in previously isolated parts of the world; Russian and Chinese people now know about the experiences of their Western counterparts and vice versa.
Technology has facilitated our interconnectedness and familiarity. Over the last century, television swept into our houses and telephones became the norm. In the last 10-15 years, mobile phones and the internet have changed the landscape and we now communicate with each other at unprecedented levels. As such, we have “far greater knowledge of the choices, decisions and behaviours of other people”.
Yet we need to understand how this enhanced awareness changes how we think and operate. This paper argues that we now live in a world where social influence and, more specifically, ‘network effects’ have a strong influence on each of us in many spheres - from the partners we choose and the careers we develop, through to the goods and services we purchase.
While the science of networks has existed for some time, it is only recently that we have started to understand how this is relevant to the consumer purchase journey, and to determine the appropriate responses for marketeers. While we now know enough to see that it is important to have some initial guidance towards this landscape, it is only just creeping out of academic institutions into the commercial mainstream. As such, we are setting out the challenge to invest in leveraging the undoubted opportunities that this field offers.
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