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MODULE 7.7: OPINION LEDERSHIP
LESSON – 38
FAQS (FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS): Ques 1 Discuss the Motives behind the Opinion Leadership Process. Ans 1 Both Opinion Leaders and Opinion Receivers/seekers have their own reasons for providing information and receiving/seeking product information and advice. Opinion
Leaders give product related information and advice sometimes voluntarily on their own
and sometimes when are approached and asked for. Similarly Opinion
Receivers/Seekers request for information or listen with listen with patience to all that the
Opinion Leader has to say. There are various reasons as to why such communication
exchange takes place between Opinion Leaders and Opinion Receivers/Seekers, be
they relatives, friends, acquaintances or even strangers. Some of the reasons why
Opinion Leaders provide information and why Opinion Receivers/Seekers receive or
seek information and advice are discussed below. These explain the motives behind the
Opinion Leadership process.
Opinion Leaders provide information because of the following reasons:
- Opinion Leaders like to give product news, provide expert advice and also love to
share their experiences with others. This is because they are involved and interested in
a product or service category, and love to talk about it (product involvement).
- WOM communication gives them an opportunity to talk about their interests to others.
Further they may feel so positively and favorably or negatively and unfavorably about a
product and/or brand that they feel like telling about it to others (product involvement,
self involvement and social involvement)
- As they possess knowledge, expertise and experience with a product category, they
feel important and powerful when people approach them for information and advice. It
confers upon them a sense of superiority or special status over others. They take pride
in providing information and advice (self gratification, power and pride). They also feel
that others to whom they have given information and advice on new products or services
have bought them because of them.
- They may be genuinely be benevolent and generous, and out of altruistic concerns
may like to help others, especially family, friends, relatives and neighbours (selfless
motive: social involvement).
- Opinion Leaders may be also trying to reduce their own level of post-purcahse
cognitive dissonance (self-interest).
- Interestingly true, many provide information as a) they may be wanting to try out a new
product or service offering after someone else buys and uses it first; or b); or c) they may
themselves be trying to reassure themselves of their own purchase decision by
recommending it to others; and d) they may be dissatisfied with a purchase and like to
complain about the purchase of the product and service and/or brand and/or company
and/store from where it has been purchased
ii) Opinion Receiver/Seekers request for information because of the following
- Opinion Receivers/Seekers gather information so that they can make the right
purchase decision, with respect to the right product and service offering, the right brand,
at the right price, from the right store and at the right time. Especially in cases of high
involvement products, a person may be less knowledgeable and less involved and can
take advice from someone who is more experienced and knowledgeable for that product
- They obtain information about new-product or new-usage.
- It reduces the physical and cognitive effort that the Opinion Receivers/Seekers has to
take to gather information, evaluate alternatives and take the right decision. They also
save on time required to gain information about product and the varying brands.
- Product knowledge and advice reduces the level of uncertainty associated with a
purchase. It helps them reduce the perceived risk as they are able to gain product and/or
brand knowledge from experts, who are also many a times innovators and first-time
users of the product (Opinion Leaders are innovative by nature and this has been
discussed in the previous lesson).
- They prefer word-of-mouth communication over other marketing communication as
they believe that while the latter have an ulterior interest in making sales, the former is
more credible with no ulterior motives.
- People also turn to Opinion Leaders so as to confirm their purchase decisions. This is
particularly true for high involvement products, as also for products that need social
approval and/or match social class and social status.
Ques 2 Critically assess the various techniques used to measure Opini on Leadership. Ans 2 Marketers are interested in identifying, measuring and analyzing the impact of the opinion leadership process on consumption patterns and consumption behavior.
Researchers make use of various methods to measure Opinion Ledaership. According
to Rogers, there are four basic techniques for measuring Opinion Leadership, viz., i) the
self-designating method; ii) the sociometric method; iii) the key informant method; and iv)
the objective method. Each of these is explained and critically assessed as follows:
i) The self-designating method: A marketing survey is conducted and people are
asked a series of questions to determine the degree to which they behave as Opinion
Leaders. Questions pertain to:
a) the extent to which they have given information and advice about a product/service
category and/or brands to others in the social system
b) how often they have been able to influence the purchase decisions about others.
c) how often they have been approached by others for information and advice about that
particular product/service category
Advantages: It is easy to include and apply in market research questionnaires. It helps
measure an individual’s perception and assessment about his/her actual Opinion
Leadership and related capacities.
Disadvantages: As the technique is based on self assessment and evaluation, it could
be to lead to over-estimation of self and thus, suffer from bias. People could portray
themselves as being “knowledgeable and important advisors” to others when it comes to
making purchase decisions. It is also difficult to assess the outcome of the informal
communication in terms of knowledge and advice. While a person may report that he
provides information and advice, and helps people make purchase decisions, it may not
be essential that the receivers may be actually using this information and advice. Thus,
success of the technique would depend on the objectivity with which a respondent can
identify, assess and report his personal influence.
The final assessment needs to be made by the marketer. The marketer must
understand the degree of relevance the Opinion Receivers/Seekers attach to the
information and advice that they receive from the various so called Opinion Leaders.
This assessment would help the marketer identify who among the many are Opinion
Leaders and who are not.
ii) The sociometric method: The sociometric method of measuring Opinion Leadership
basis itself on the study of the social system, and particularly the communication
patterns and flows to identify those to give information and advice as act as Opinion
Leaders. Researchers examine complete patterns of informal information flows among
consumers of a particular product/service category, and identify those who provide
information to others as Opinion Leaders.
While the technique makes use of the analysis of the communication flow, it also
uses questionnaires that are administered to people in a social system. People in a
social system are asked to identify:
a) those people to whom they have given information and advice about a product/service
category. In case the respondent identifies one or many people to whom he has
provided information and advice, he is regarded as an Opinion Leader. Researchers
could cross-examine by contacting and questioning the Receiver/Seekers of information
and confirming from them.
b) those people to whom they have gone for information and advice about a product or
service category and/or brand. Her again, researchers could cross-examine by
contacting and questioning the Opinion Leaders and confirming from them.
Advantages: The technique can meet tests of validity and reliability. Chances of
misconception and bias are less.
Disadvantages: It is a costly in terms of both money and time. In order to obtain results
that are valid and reliable, it requires intensive and extensive data, i.e. a large amount of
information from a large sample of respondents. This could be expensive and time
consuming. The analysis could also be complex and would require experts in the area.
iii) The key informant method: Based on careful observation and analysis of social
communication, key informants in a social system are identified. These key informants
are asked to identify and/or designate individuals in the social group who are Opinion
Leaders or who are most likely to be Opinion Leaders.
The key informants are those who are aware about the communication patterns
in a social environment and able to provide a fair and impartial assessment of these
patterns. They may or may not be a member of such group(s); they may be active
participants or passive observers. In this way (where an expert is asked to identify
Opinion Leaders), the technique is better than the self-designating method (where a
person is asked to assess himself as an Opinion Leader).
Advantages: This is relatively less expensive and time consuming, as compared to the
sociometric method. The study is based on a chosen few rather than large samples in
the self-designating and sociometric methods.
Disadvantages: If informants are not carefully chosen, they may provide wrong
iv) The objective method: The objective method is based on simulation. It identifies and
measures Opinion Leadership by placing people in controlled environments (just as
controlled experiments). People are chosen, given information about new products and
service categories, and the asked to act out as Opinion Leaders. The resulting “web”
and “patterns” of informal interpersonal communication regarding the relevant product or
service category are traced and analyzed. The technique thus measures the results of
their efforts and assesses how successful their impact is on consumption behavior.
Advantages: It measures people’s abilities to provide news and advice and influence
purchase decisions in controlled environments.
Disadvantages: It is time consuming as it requires setting up of experimental designs. It
is a complex process and requires subject experts and trained psychologists.
Ques 3 Discuss the traits and characteristics of Opinion Leaders. Ans 3 Consumer researchers and market practitioners have successfully identified traits and characteristics of Opinion Leaders, and developed their profile. Such traits and
characteristics are discussed as follows:
i) Opinion leaders possess high levels of involvement and interest in a specific product
or service category. They gather information from various sources (print, electronic and
audio visual, internet and websites etc.) about product development, and are updated
ii) They are subject experts and have tremendous knowledge about the specific product
or service category. They are well-informed about product attributes and features,
benefits and utility, knowledge about brands, price and availability.
iii) They are product or service category specific; a person who is an opinion leader in a
particular product/service category would be an Opinion Receiver/Seeker for another.
However, Opinion Leadership could tend to overlap across certain combinations of
interest areas, i.e., Opinion leaders in one product category can often be Opinion
Leaders in related areas, like kitchen ware and household goods, fashion apparel and
cosmetics, computers and mobiles, tourism and travel.
iv) In most cases, Opinion Leaders are also consumer innovators. Because of their
interest in a product or service category, they have a tendency to purchase a new
product offering as soon as it is launched in the market. They act as trend setters and
are in a better position to give advice and convince others to make a purchase.
v) Opinion Leaders also possess certain personal characteristics; by nature, they are
self-confident and gregarious. Because of the knowledge and experience that they
possess, they are self-confident. They are extroverts and sociable by nature, who enjoy
being in company of others, love talking to others and provide them with product news
and advice and share their experiences.
vi) As far as characteristics related to social class and social standing are concerned,
Opinion leaders generally belong to the same socioeconomicgroup as Opinion
Receivers/Seekers. The reasons for this are quite logical. First, Opinion Leaders indulge
in informal communication, and the Receivers/Seekers would in most cases be their own
friends, neighbours, peers and colleagues. It is with them and other members of their
social class that a regular exchange of information takes place, and it is to them that
they would give information and advice and share their experiences. Secondly, it is only
when there is a match of economic class, that Opinion Receivers/Seekers would
approach an Opinion Leader. This is because there would be a better level of comfort
and understanding between the two. Opinion Leaders would recommend a product
and/or brand that he has been able to monetarily afford and use and it would also be
something that the Receivers/ Seekers can also afford. Thirdly, the Receivers/Seekers
desire social approval and social approval and acceptance, and thus all the more reason
that he approaches someone from his socio-economic class.
SELF EVALUATION TESTS/QUIZZES:Section A True/false: 1. Opinion Leaders are specific to a product or service category.
2. Opinion Leaders provide only negative information about a product/service
3. Sometimes a person may become an Opinion Receiver/Seeker for the same
4. In most cases, Opinion Leaders are also consumer innovators.
5. Opinion leaders generally belong to the same socioeconomicgroup as Opinion
Section B Fill up the blanks: 1. ___________________act as a vital link between the marketer and consumers.
2. Opinion Leaders are said to be performing the ________________roleas they
act as experts and authorities for a particular product category.
3. There are some people who seem to know about everything about the market
and offer their advice about anything and everything. Such people are called
4. The _____________method is based on simulation. It identifies and measures
Opinion Leadership by placing people in controlled environments.
Section C Multiple choice questions: 1. A marketing survey is conducted and people are asked a series of questions to
determine the degree to which they behave as Opinion Leaders. This is called the
________________ of measuring Opinion Leadership.
a) discussion method
b) interview method
c) self designating method
d) objective method
2 Which of the following statements about the sociometric method of measuring
opinion leadership is false?
a) It basis itself on the study of the social system, and particularly the communication
patterns and flows.
b) It also makes use of questionnaires that are administered to people in a social
c) The technique lacks validity and reliability.
d) It is a costly in terms of both money and time.
3. ______________ WOM information about a product category has a deeper and
profound effect on consumers.
d) All of the above
Section D Short answers: 1. Define Opinion Leadership.
2. Mention the three roles played by Opinion Leaders.
3. Explain briefly the key informant method of measuring Opinion Leadership.
4. Give instances how marketers can encourage Opinion Leadership through their
KEYSection A True/false: 1. True 2. False 3. True 4. True
Section B Fill up the blanks: 1. Opinion Leaders 2. Authority figure 3. Market mavens
Section C Multiple choice questions: 1. c 2. c 3. b
Section D Short answers:
1. Opinion Leadership is defined as “the process by which one person (the opinion
leader) informally influences the actions or attitudes of others, who may be opinion
seekers or merely opinion recipients” (Schiffman).
2. The three roles are, i) authority figure; ii) trend setter; and iii) local opinion leader.
3. Based on careful observation and analysis of social communication, key
informants in a social system are identified. These key informants are those who are
aware about the communication patterns in a social environment and able to provide a
fair and impartial assessment of these patterns. These key informants are asked to
identify and/or designate individuals in the social group who are Opinion Leaders or who
are most likely to be Opinion Leaders. As a technique, it is relatively less expensive and
time consuming. However, iIf informants are not carefully chosen, they may provide
4. Marketers can encourage Opinion Leadership through their marketing strategies.
- through schemes like “share you experiences”, “tell others that you like our brand”, etc.,
marketers encourage consumers to discuss their experiences with others (eg. Electronic
- through showing advertisements that portray product/service informal discussions
about products/services amongst people (eg. health drinks, skin and hair care products