Generalization of the Market Maven's Information Provision Tendency ACRoss Product Categories

Mark E. Slama, Utah State University
Terrell G. Williams, California State University, Northridge
ABSTRACT - Market mavens are individuals who are thought to possess and provide information about the marketplace to other consumers. Previous research has demonstrated that market mavens provide information to other consumers on nondurables. The current study shows that market mavens provide information on a broad variety of goods, services and marketplace characteristics. The potential use of market mavens as promotional targets is explored and research implications are considered.
[ to cite ]:
Mark E. Slama and Terrell G. Williams (1990) ,"Generalization of the Market Maven's Information Provision Tendency ACRoss Product Categories", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 17, eds. Marvin E. Goldberg, Gerald Gorn, and Richard W. Pollay, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 48-52.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 17, 1990     Pages 48-52

GENERALIZATION OF THE MARKET MAVEN'S INFORMATION PROVISION TENDENCY ACROSS PRODUCT CATEGORIES

Mark E. Slama, Utah State University

Terrell G. Williams, California State University, Northridge

ABSTRACT -

Market mavens are individuals who are thought to possess and provide information about the marketplace to other consumers. Previous research has demonstrated that market mavens provide information to other consumers on nondurables. The current study shows that market mavens provide information on a broad variety of goods, services and marketplace characteristics. The potential use of market mavens as promotional targets is explored and research implications are considered.

Market maven is a term introduced to the marketing literature by Feick and Price in 1987. They state that market mavens are, "individuals who have information about many kinds of products, places to shop, and other facets of markets, and initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests from consumers for market information." The market maven concept describes a person who has an active interest in the marketplace. The concept is consistent with previous research which has identified certain types of consumers who seem to be more generally interested in the market than average consumers.

For example, Bellenger and Krogaonker (1978) describe "recreational shoppers" as enjoying shopping and engaging in active shopping as a means of obtaining market information. Thorelli and Engledow (1980) identify "information seekers" as making up ten to twenty percent of the population and being opinion leaders, innovators and market vigilantes. Raju (1980) has shown that consumers who have high optimal stimulation levels engage in more exploratory behaviors in the marketplace than other consumers including: information seeking, interpersonal communication and innovation. In addition, Slama and Tashchian (1983; 1985) have demonstrated that certain consumers are more generally "involved" in the marketplace than others. They distinguish this type of marketplace involvement from product involvement and show that it leads to greater shopping effort. Finally, Lesser and Hughes (1986) have identified "active" information seeking consumers as being one of the most commonly appearing groups in psychographic market segmentation studies.

Thus, there is ample support for the notion of active, information seeking consumers. One type of these is the market maven. In fact, being a "smart shopper" seems to be a role played by the market maven along with the information provision role. Support for this comes from findings that market mavens are more likely than other consumers to: use shopping lists, plan grocery shopping with advertisements, budget for groceries, and use coupons (Price, Feick and Guskey-Federouch 1988).

Some of the other- characteristics of market mavens which have been documented relate to possession and provision of market place information, search activities and enjoyment of shopping. Market mavens have been shown to be more aware of new products and brands in the food and drug product categories than other consumers. They are also active providers of information on these product categories to other consumers. With regard to search activities mavens place more importance on all advertising media than other consumers and can be effectively reached through direct mail advertising, and local direct mail classified papers. The tendency to be a market maven is also significantly correlated with the enjoyment of shopping (Feick and Price 1987; Higie, Feick and Price 1987).

What makes market mavens particularly interesting to marketers is their impact on other consumers through innovation and interpersonal communication. In this respect market mavens are similar to both early purchasers of products and opinion leaders, however, their influence is more general. Marketers have traditionally been interested in opinion leaders as information providers who seek information from the media and provide it to the public. An opinion leader's interest in a specific product category appears to be a major motivation for their opinion leadership (Bloch 1986; Jacoby and Hoyer 1981) and therefore opinion leadership is thought to be product specific as opposed to the market maven's information provision tendency which is thought to span many product categories. Early purchasers also provide information to the public by using and talking about new products, however, their expertise arises from early purchase of a specific product and their influence pertains primarily to that product as opposed to the more general influence of market mavens. In validating their market maven scale, Feick and Price (1987) were able to show that the tendency to be a maven, the tendency to be an opinion leader and the tendency to be an early purchaser are three related but distinct concepts.

The general influence of market mavens makes them particularly attractive promotional targets for retailers who carry many products and wish to convey information to the public about sales, low prices, product variety and other aspects of store operations in addition to information on specific products. It is unlikely that early purchasers and opinion leaders would provide much promotional leverage in delivering such a broad range of information to the public. Research has shown that market mavens are valuable in transmitting information about retailers. Mavens talk significantly more than other consumers about the attributes of grocery stores, department stores and discount stores than do other consumers. The attributes most discussed include: special sales, usual prices, product quality and product variety (Higie, Feick and Price 1987).

The purpose of the current research is to extend on the notion that the market maven is a general provider of marketplace information by examining the market maven's tendency to provide information to other consumers for a variety of products and marketplace characteristics. Feick and Price (1987) have shown that mavens provide more information than average consumers on nondurable products (food and drug items) but it is not known how much mavens talk about an array of products including durables. In the Feick and Price (1987) study opinion leadership (operationalized as product knowledge and influence over others) was correlated with the market maven scores for nondurable goods, but, not for durable goods. This suggests that the information provision of the maven may not be even across product categories. The present study examines the market maven's information provision for: Durables, nondurables, services, and market characteristics in order to extend on previous research findings and determine the extent to which the market maven is a "general" marketplace information provider.

METHODOLOGY

In order to determine how information provision varies with a person's tendency to be a market maven a survey was conducted. The respondents in this survey were married couples chosen randomly from the telephone directory of a western city. The interviewing procedure involved the personal delivery and collection of self-administered questionnaires. This technique is a variation of the "drop off' method described by Sudman, Greeley, and Pinto (1965). The difference between this procedure and the drop-off method is that the interviewer waits for the respondent to complete the questionnaire rather than returning to pick it up at a later date.

Lovelock, et al. (1976) recommend the use of lightly trained interviewers as an effective and cost-efficient method for the personal delivery of self-administered questionnaires. The interviewers used in this research were undergraduate marketing students who underwent a two-hour training session regarding the method of data collection.

The interviewers were given a list of randomly selected respondents and asked to contact each household marked on the list. If the selected households could not or would not participate, interviewers were instructed to contact the next person on the list until a quota was obtained. Only households where both the husband and wife agreed to participate were included in the survey. If husband and wife were not both home during the initial call, the interviewer would make an appointment to return and have the couple complete the questionnaire during the return visit. A sample of 306 couples was obtained from the sampling process. A demographic profile of the sample is presented in Table 1. The questionnaire for the survey included the market maven scale, measures of information provision and other psychographic and demographic questions.

The Market Maven Scale

The market maven scale measures a person's tendency to be a general provider of many types of market information to others on an informal basis. It is a six item, seven point, Likert Scale developed by Feick and Price (1987). In validating the scale they obtained a Cronbach's alpha of .82. They also demonstrated the nomological validity of the scale by obtaining significant correlations between its scores and measures of opinion leadership, innovativeness, possession of market information, provision of market information, and information seeking.

Measures of Information Provision

In order to determine how often respondents provide market related information to other people, five point scales were used. The stem of the scales said, "Please rate the indicated items on how often you tell others about them." The responses were rated from one (never) to five (very often). Intermediate response categories were almost never, not very often, and somewhat often. There were twenty one items including: prices, sales, product quality, store personnel, store location, new products, food products and items relating to fourteen product categories (Table 2). This method of assessing information provision is similar to that used by Feick and Price (1987). It differs from the market maven scale in that the questions address specific products, services and market characteristics while the maven scale items do not.

Design

Following the practice of Feick and Price (1987) respondents were divided into three categories based on their scores on the market maven scale. The top scoring one third of respondents were designated as market mavens or the high scoring group, the next two thirds were the medium and low scoring groups. MANOVA was used to determine whether the information provision scores differed between the low, medium and high scoring groups. Univariate F-tests were also examined. Separate analyses were made for men and women because the market maven tendency is more common among women and may have a different impact depending on gender.

RESULTS

For both men and women the overall MANOVA results indicated a statistically significant difference between the information provision score centroids for low, medium and high scorers on the market maven scale. In almost all cases the respondents who scored higher on the market maven scale also scored higher on the information provision variables. The only exception was for medical services in the men's sample. For medical services the medium scorers on the market maven scale reported the most information provision, but the differences between groups were insignificant.

TABLE 1

DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE SAMPLE

TABLE 2

INFORMATION PROVISION SCORES FOR MEN SCORING LOW, MEDIUM AND HIGH ON THE MARKET MAVEN SCALE

TABLE 3

INFORMATION PROVISION SCORES FOR WOMEN SCORING LOW, MEDIUM AND HIGH ON THE MARKET MAVEN SCALE

In the women's sample the most talked about aspects of the market place for market mavens were (in order from most to least talked about): sales, restaurants, product quality, clothing, prices, new products, and food products. For each of these items the mean score was above 3.5 meaning that the market mavens tended more toward talking about these "somewhat often" (coded 4) than "not very often" (coded 3).

In the men's sample the most talked about items for market mavens were (in order): product quality, restaurants, auto repairs, automobiles, prices and sales. These items all had mean scores above 3.5. The next three items were stereo & TV, new products, and food products. The new products and food products scores were relatively high on information provision in both the men's and women's samples.

The notion that information provision for durable goods and nondurable goods would be differentially related to the market maven tendency is not implied by the results. In Table 2 significant differences are reported between the male market maven groups for food products, automobiles, personal grooming aids and furniture.

These products represent a mix of durables and nondurables. In fact, in the men's sample the only insignificant differences are for medical services. This may be.due to a lack of interest, infrequency of use or knowledge. In the women's sample (Table 3) the market maven tendency is also associated with significant differences in information provision for a mix of durable and nondurable goods. For example, significant differences occur for food products, clothing, furniture and personal grooming aids.

DISCUSSION

Some of the findings of this study are remarkably consistent with the findings of previous maven studies. Feick and Price (1987) found that mavens provide greater amounts of information concerning food products to consumers other than nonmavens. Mavens were also found to possess greater amounts of information about new products. The current findings that mavens provide more information than nonmavens about new products and food products coincide with the previous findings. Higie, Feick and Price (1987) found that mavens provide more information on store prices, sales and product quality than nonmavens. These findings also emerge in the current study. Thus, the high absolute amount of information provision and the relatively large differences between mavens and nonmavens for information provision on prices, sales, product quality, food products and new products are reassuringly similar to the findings of previous studies.

The current study extends on the findings of previous studies, however, by showing the generalizability of the information provision tendency of the market maven across product classes. In the men's sample twenty out of twenty one of the information provision variables were significantly different across the high, medium and low scoring market maven groups. For the women seventeen out of twenty one were significantly different. Clearly the market maven provides information on a variety of product offerings to other consumers.

Previous research by Feick and Price (1987) left some doubt as to whether market mavens would provide information for durable goods as well as nondurable goods to other consumers. The current findings show that mavens provide information for durables, nondurables, and services.

The few insignificant differences in information provision among the market maven groups occur for products which are not often discussed including medical services for men and banks, real estate, and investments for women. The one exception to this is restaurants which are discussed a substantial amount by all of the groups of women. Given the general nature of the market maven's influence, future research should consider the interaction among market mavens, early purchasers and opinion leaders as suggested by Feick and Price (1987). It would seem that, because of their general knowledge, mavens would be more regularly sought out by information seekers than either early purchasers or opinion leaders. Perhaps for inexpensive purchases only a maven would be consulted. For more expensive purchases the maven may play an information gatekeeping role, referring others to the appropriate opinion leaders and early purchasers with more specific information.

Finally, little is known about whether market mavens provide negative as well as positive information about the marketplace. Future research should also examine the impact of market mavens on negative word of mouth advertising and complaining behavior.

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