Helping build "Social Nourishment" creates customer ties

Social engagement is the engine that drives the marketplace today. Clever marketers know that fostering connections among consumers is the new energy behind brands today. Consumers are looking for what Yankelovich calls "Social Nourishment" and marketers can learn to feed them.

Excerpted from the Yankelovich Monitor Minute

Social engagement is the engine that drives the marketplace today. Hiving has busted out in a big way: First, throwing open the doors to our home as hubs for connecting with others and, now, annexing cyberspace, creating new forces that drive people online and also to new products and services. People recognize that connecting with others delivers a boost in lots of ways: It provides practical and emotional benefits in the form of mental, spiritual, and physical well-being, a sense of belonging, and edified smarts in the marketplace. And clever marketers know that fostering connections among consumers is the new energy behind brands today. Consumers are looking for what Yankelovich calls "Social Nourishment" and marketers can learn to feed them.

The ties that refresh
Hiving started out as consumers' quest for a nurturing and inviting home, but the bigger picture (and opportunity) lies in consumers' efforts to re-center their lives around interaction and relationships that provide us with comfort and energy. The quest for relationships, which drives consumers' behaviors online and off, can be seen in many attitudes, including the pull of all ages who feel a growing need to share and observe important occasions with others and the desire to have more room for friends in their lives. Interesting is how studies show these pulls get stronger as age goes down.

Implications and Opportunities
>> Not that they're tired of the people already in their lives, but how can you find ways for your customers to meet new folks who can help them grow personally? How can you enable newbies and seasoned veterans to connect and collaborate?
>> Consumers crave togetherness, so find occasions and means for bringing people together. Online can set the gears in motion, but in-person local events can help solidify those connections.

Running with It
For example, Shecky's (, an online guide to local restaurants, shopping and nightlife, takes some of the legwork out of planning a get-together by offering registered visitors what it calls "Party Aid," a free service to help find a place to host a do! And Colette, a world-renowned Paris boutique known as a mecca for the truly fashionable, hosts a regular "dance class" night, co-sponsored by Nike Women, putting people of like minds together in the off-line world.

New Payoffs
Consumers view maintaining social connections not only as a worthy way to spend their downtime, but also as a way for them to maintain their good health. Maintaining and cultivating good relationships ranked third among a list of ways to maintain good health, even edging out staying active. According to the Yankelovich Preventative Health Care and Wellness in America Report from 2005, just over two-thirds of those surveyed said that maintaining personal hygiene and cleanliness was the No. 1 way to maintain good health. Maintaining a positive attitude was second, a few ticks behind. Then came good family relationships. In fourth place was "staying active," with half naming it as one of their top 10 ways. That tied with managing stress.

And while concerns exist about whether technology is an alienating force, the killer app for technology today is fostering stronger relationships and greater collaboration. For example, a recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed that 31 percent of online consumers found the Internet increased the number of significant ties to other people in their lives. The same study found that the Internet created a "social environment based on networked individualism, (and) the Internet's capacity to help maintain and cultivate social networks has real payoffs."

The report continues: "People draw on their network capital when they need help. The Internet and other communication technologies play an important supporting role in maintaining or cultivating social networks so that they can be called upon when needed."

Implications and Opportunities

>> It's all about ambiance and aficionados: While MySpace is the belle of the ball as far as creating social connections online, don't dismiss the value of niche players that connect people of niche interests and perspectives.
>> Enable your customers to share their smarts with others. Create communities that let them download and link to outside resources to share with others.

Running with It
Poddater is a "portable" dating site that allows busy singles (or not) to download profiles of potential mates to their video iPod and see them tell their stories from their own mouths. The technology also enables users to communicate their personal creativity in a way that a paragraph in an online profile simply can't. While clearly limited to the lucky few who have video iPods, if you're an early adopter looking for a techie soul mate, then you're drawing from a pretty strong talent pool. And Edmunds has launched advertiser-supported, CarSpace, a place where people can talk about their cars, share their photos, and offer advice and tips. The website offers video road tests of the latest car models as well as automotive care tips.

Bottom Line
The new focus on social engagement and social nourishment means that not only can you not get in the way of people trying to get together, but that you have to be a catalyst for making it happen. Don't limit your focus to online communities either; help put people of like needs and passions get in the same room to help foster energy behind your brand.

© Copyright Yankelovich Inc., 2006

Yankelovich ( is a public opinion research company founded in 1958 that researches consumer attitude and marketing futures. The company claims to have coined the term "Baby Boomers," and its founder Dan Yankelovich was once introduced by Bill Moyers on his public television show as "the founding father of public opinion research."



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