Profiling Self-Designated Opinion Leaders and Self-Designated Innovators Through Life Style Research


Douglas J. Tigert and Stephen J. Arnold (1971) ,"Profiling Self-Designated Opinion Leaders and Self-Designated Innovators Through Life Style Research", in SV - Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research, eds. David M. Gardner, College Park, MD : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 425-445.

Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research, 1971     Pages 425-445


Douglas J. Tigert, University of Toronto

Stephen J. Arnold, University of Toronto

[The authors wish to thank Burke Marketing Research, Cincinnati, for release of the Canadian data for academic research, and William D. Wells, School of Business, University of Chicago, for his valuable assistance in the analysis of the U.S. data.]

[Douglas J. Tigert is Associate Professor of Marketing, School of Business, University of Toronto. Stephen J. Arnold is a doctoral student in Marketing in the School of Business University of Toronto.]


This paper is about opinion leadership and innovation and the life style profiles that describe homemakers who possess one or both of these characteristics. The frame of reference is shopping behaviour for a host of convenience foods, durables, drugs, personal cosmetics and grooming aids. The paper attempts to answer several questions.

1. What are the life style and demographic characteristics of the self-designated opinion leader (SDOL) and the self-designated innovator (SDI)?

2. What is the overlap between the SDOL and the SDI?

3. How can the SDOL and the SDI be reached through a media selection strategy?

Wherever possible, comparisons are made between the results obtained in this research and the results obtained by previous researchers. In addition, comparisons are drawn between the results of the U.S. study of 1967 and the Canadian study of 1970. The reader should, however, bear in mind two factors. First, the samples reported here were national in scope compared to the more limited samples used in the majority of earlier studies. Second, the dependent variables, self-designated opinion leadership and innovation, differ in nature from those of other studies. These differences will become more apparent in the later sections on methodology and analysis.


What is Life Style Research

Lazor (4) presents a description of life style:

"Life style is a systems concept. It refers to the distinctive or characteristic mode of living, in its aggregative and broadest sense, of a whole society or segment thereof. It is concerned with those unique ingredients or qualities which describe the style of life of some culture or group, and distinguish it from others. It embodies the patterns that develop and emerge from the dynamics of living in a society."

To a certain extent, life style research, variously called "psychographics" and even (incorrectly) "attitude" research, resembles motivation research in that its major objective is to draw recognizably human portraits of consumers. Life style research, however, has several advantages over typical motivation research. These include:

1) Large sample sizes,

2) Conclusions that do not rely heavily on interviewer interpretation or unstructured response, and

3) Data that are easily analyzed by a variety of well-understood statistical methods.

Life style research attempts to identify and profile consumer groups in a manner clearly understandable to the copywriter and to the media selection strategist. The underlying premise is: "the more we know about our target market, the more likely we will be able to design effective copy and to select effective media to reach and communicate with that target market." Pessemier and Hustad (6) and Wells and Tigert (9) provide summaries of the research to date in this area.

Typically life style questionnaires possess the following characteristics:

1) They contain many questions with some recent surveys running over 70 pages.

2) They are self-administered with the life style section consisting of a series of statements to be answered on a Likert scale (see Exhibit I).

3) The life style questions are either general, covering 40-50 hypothesized dimensions, or product specific, with a large number of questions covering three or four product categories.

4) They are usually designed to profile market segments, i.e. heavy users, heavy readers, heavy viewers, users of Brand "A" etc., although they are not limited to these areas. Life style research can be used to profile political affiliation, culture differences, and in the case of this paper, opinion leadership and innovativeness.

In summary, life style research attempts to address man as a system, and to understand him as a consumer. It seeks to quantify activities, interests, opinions and behaviour by systematically searching through a relevant set of dimensions specific to the problem at hand.

To the extent that demographic characteristics may themselves be related to both life styles and behavioural patterns, they play an integral part in any analysis. However, in some instances, particularly in the research described here, demographics may provide little or no discriminatory power. When this phenomenon occurs, life style can play its strongest role.



Canadian data. In May and June, 1970, a self-administered life style questionnaire was completed by 4,100 male and female Canadians over the age of 18. This questionnaire was part of a larger study (Trendtape III) conducted similar to the Simmons studies in the U.S. This larger national area probability sample of 7000 was originally contacted via an in-home interview for purposes of measuring media exposure patterns (print and broadcast), product consumption habits and demographic characteristics. The life style questionnaire was left behind for completion and was returned by 4,100 respondents. From this sample the subset of 1859 English-speaking female household heads were selected for the analysis reported here. In addition to responding on 300 general life style statements, respondents also answered questions on media exposure (TV-Q), product consumption, and use of services.

U.S. data. In October, 1967, a similar mail questionnaire was administered to one of the national panels maintained by Market Facts, Incorporated. Each panel was constructed to parallel up-dated U.S. census data with respect to geographic divisions, total household income, population density, and age of panel member. Of the 1,000 life style questionnaires mailed out, 787 useable returns formed the data base for the U.S. analysis.




Defining the dependent variables. The dependent variables were formulated in the following manner:

1) Among the 300 questions on life style there were fifteen questions specifically designed to measure opinion leadership, innovation and interpersonal communication. These fifteen questions were factor analyzed using principal components and varimax rotation. Two of the resulting four factors were defined as "opinion leadership" and "innovation" (see Table 1).



2) To ensure stability of the factors these same fifteen questions were included in a later factor analysis of a larger set of 125 life style statements. The same two factors (SDOL and SDI) emerged with almost identical factor loadings. In addition, the data were submitted to split-half reliability analysis and subsample [Sub-sample analysis involves selection of random samples of the original sample, e.g. for 30 percent, 50 percent, and 75 percent of the original sample. The analysis is then carried out on each of the sub-samples.] analysis. Identical results were obtained. Thus, the two dependent variables exhibited a high degree of stability across counties, across time, with different mixes of questions, and when submitted to reliability analysis.

3) For each of the two dependent variables, simple sum scores were computed for each respondent by summing over the three questions loading on the factor. The use of varimax rotated factor scores was rejected since this procedure would have produced a zero correlation between SDOL and SDI. One of the original objectives of the paper was to examine the degree of overlap between SDOL and SDI. An alternative to the use of simple sum scores would have been the development of obliquely rotated factor scores.

4) Summing over three questions, each of which was coded on a six-point scale from "definitely disagree" to "definitely agree" (6), produced a scale from 3-18 for each dependent variable. For purposes of regression analysis, the scores were left in their raw form. For cross-tabulation analysis the scores were collapsed into the following distributions: (Canadian data only).


Thus for the Canadian data, 14 percent of the sample was defined as scoring high on SDOL and 21 percent of the sample was defined as scoring high on SDI. On average, respondents in this range generally or definitely agreed to the three questions comprising the sum score. In the U.S. study, the sum score was artificially divided into thirds, so that one-third of the sample was defined as high on S W L and one-third was defined as scoring high on SDI. However, based on more recent reports in the literature, the Canadian data was collapsed to both provide a more realistic definition of the S W L and the SDI and to conform to the other published studies.

Developing the life style and demographic profiles. The three statistical analyses of cross-tabulation, stepwise regression, and automatic interaction detection (AID analysis) were utilized in profiling the SDOL and the SDI.

For both Canadian and U.S. data, the 300 life style questions were individually cross-tabulated against the collapsed SDOL and SDI sum scores. Next, each of the significant life style variables (i.e. chi-square sig. at .01 level or better), were factor analyzed to identify the underlying life style dimensions related to either SDOL or SDI

In the case of the Canadian data, these underlying dimensions, in the form of simple sum scores for each respondent, formed the data input to stepwise regression analysis where either the S W L score or the SDI score was the dependent variable. The regression analyses also included demographics as independent variables.

In the case of the U.S. data, similar sum scores were developed for the significant underlying life style dimensions and the data was submitted to AID analyses, a backward segmentation procedure used to identify the most relevant characteristics of respondent segments. Again, the demographic variables were included in the analysis. In the case of AID analysis where all variables are constrained to split on a high-low basis, the procedure is similar to stepwise regression analysis.

The results and interpretation of the analyses are discussed in Section IV of the paper. In Section V, the results are related to other published literature in this field. In the final section, the implications for marketing strategy are discussed.


Self-Designated Opinion Leadership and Innovativeness

It is not the purpose of this paper to debate the merits of using the self-designating method to identify opinion leaders or innovators. That debate has been treated by King and Summers (2) and the issue has been further treated by other papers at this conference. For the reader who rejects the notion of generalized self-designated opinion leadership or innovation, this paper has little to offer. However, it is clear that researchers are split on the notion of whether opinion leadership and/or innovative behaviour is monomorphic or polymorphic. In addition, researchers seem unsure whether or not the self-designated method has predictive validity. One paper, by Pessemier, Burger and Tigert (5), did indicate support for predictive validity of self-designated innovator scores.

Overlap of Opinion Leadership and Innovativeness

One of the emerging generalizations from the diffusion literature suggests that there is considerable overlap between opinion leadership and innovativeness. In Table 2, the results of cross-tabulation of the SDOL score against the SDI score are portrayed for both the U.S. and Canadian data. Although the absolute percentages for the two countries cannot be compared, the trends from Low to Medium to High scores are comparable across the two countries. In both cases, the relationship is highly significant and consistent across countries. Among those scoring high on opinion leadership a much higher percent also score high on innovativeness compared to those scoring low on opinion leadership. For the Canadian data, the ratio is 3:1 and for the U.S. data, the ratio is 2 1 The lower ratio for the U.S. simply reflects a more artificial way of collapsing the SDOL and SDI scores into thirds rather than collapsing on the basis of strong disagreement, neutrality and strong agreement on the two scores. Thus, the analysis supports the generalizations of Rogers and Stanfield (7) regarding the correlation between opinion leadership and innovativeness.



Life Style and Demographic Profile of Opinion Leaders

The results of the cross-tabulation of the life style variables against the SDOL sum score are reported in Table 3. In the first part of the table, those questions that were significantly related and which formed dimensions when factor analyzed, are listed by factor and in order of importance in terms of explaining variance in the SDOL score in the later regression analysis. The reader may wish to refer to Tables 3 and 4 simultaneously in order to compare the cross-tabulation and regression analysis. The latter part of Table 3 lists a set of miscellaneous questions that were significantly related to the SDOL score but which did not form dimensions when factor analyzed with the total set of questions contained in Table 3. Finally, the right hand column of Table 3 indicates the factor loading for each question on its relevant factor.

The answer to three often asked questions about opinion leaders are evident in Table 3. First, what are the sources of the opinion leader's information? It is clear that she depends upon the interpersonal channels of communication and obtains information from a network of friends and acquaintances. Although she is more likely than the non-opinion leader to read books from the best seller lists, and although she is more likely than the non-opinion leader to look at the advertising in magazines, there is no real evidence of above average exposure to non-personal media sources. There is, however, strong indication of many interpersonal relationships as a result of her filled calendar of community and social engagements. She is more likely to work on community projects, to seek an active, exciting life, to attend ballet, concerts and art galleries, and to do more things socially than most of her friends.

Second, the opinion leader is an information exchanger, both seeking out and transmitting information. And she is a dynamic person, possessing much above average levels of self-confidence and independence. She not only wants to be considered a leader, but she also wants to be considered creative, daring and imaginative by her friends, much more so than the non-opinion leader. In general, this radiating display of self_confidence and personality ability may answer the second question .. what makes the opinion leader influential? Certainly, on balance respondents scoring high on SDOL tend to influence others more than they influence her. That is, although the SDOL agrees more than the non-opinion leader that she seeks out the advice of others, the percentage level of agreement to the information exchanger questions run only from 18 to 36 percent.

The SDOL's concern for style, fashion and personal appearance might also contribute to her influence. That is, she might be more likely to be perceived as an influential. Others might think of her as aware and up-to-date because of her fashionable dress and style consciousness.

In addition, the SDOL appears to be more price conscious, more innovative (confirmed earlier in Table 2), more interested in the arts and cooking, more affectionate and generous, more sociable, more interested in travel and more optimistic.

Many of the above life style dimensions might suggest that the SDOL is an upscale respondent, i.e. in higher socio-economic classes than the non-opinion leader. However, such is not the case. SDOL is not correlated significantly with any of the demographic characteristics used in this analysis, such as age, education, occupation of husband, or total family income. Although there was a slight tendency for the lowest occupation class to score lower on the SDOL score, the differences were not statistically significant. (Only 10 percent of the labour, service occupation group were in the high range on SDOL compared to 14 percent overall for the total sample).










Many of the life style dimensions illustrated in Table 3 seem to represent a desire for creativity on the part of the SDOL. These dimensions range over the interests of the arts, cooking (serve unusual dinners), travel, and fashion. It may well be that this desire for creativity is the most important underlying dimension, crossing, as it does several of the most important life style factors reported in Table 3.

In the stepwise regression analysis, two dimensions dominate the resulting R2 of .27; dynamic leader and information exchanger. The problem with the stepwise regression analysis lies in the high degree of multi-collinearity between the independent variables, i.e. the sum scores on the life style dimensions. For example, fashion consciousness, although explaining less than one percent of the variance in the SDOL score in the regression, was correlated .22 with the SDOL score. Unfortunately, fashion consciousness was also correlated .32 with the dynamic leader score and its power was reduced by the earlier entry into the regression by the dynamic leader score.

Thus in total, the regression analysis was only able to explain 27 percent of the variance in opinion leadership. Although there is still much to be learned about opinion leaders, the 27 percent explanation represents a substantial improvement over the total failure of demographic characteristics to explain this phenomenon.

Finally, in Exhibit II, automatic interaction detection analysis is used to portray the life style characteristics of the SDOL for the U.S. data. The reader will note that the first two dimensions on which the SDOL score split were self-confidence and information exchanger, the same two dimensions that entered the regression first in the analysis of the Canadian data. In addition, the remaining dimensions reported in Exhibit II were all significant in the Canadian analysis and all are reported in Table 3. Combining the results from the two countries leads to the following conclusions:

1) SDOL is positively associated with self-confidence and leadership.

2) SDOL is positively associated with interest in fashion, cooking and the arts.

3) SDOL's are information exchanges, both seeking out and transmitting information.

4) SDOL's are sociable, active in the community, weight conscious and concerned with personal appearance.

5) SDOL's have a need for excitement in their lives, are active and have a strong need for creativity.

6) SDOL's are optimistic, concerned with cleanliness, price conscious and like to travel.

Life Style and Demographic Profile of Innovators

The strongest single characteristic of self-designated innovators is opinion leadership. Although this phenomenon has already been made evident from Tables 2 and 4, the relationship is amplified at the beginning of Table 5 where all life style dimensions, significantly related to SDI are listed.

Similar to the SDOL, the SDI seems to want a stimulating, creative, active life. However, compared to the SDOL, the SDI seeks her role in a greater social interaction with her friends. Compared to the non-innovator, the SDI agrees more to questions like, "I like to think I'm a bit of a swinger", and "I like to go to parties where there is lots of music and talk". These questions did not discriminate between the non-opinion leader and the SDOL. These questions did, however, group with other questions that were related to SDOL. In this case, however, the dimension is labelled Vivacious-Avant-Garde rather than dynamic leader. What is missing in the profile of the SDI is the leadership, self-confidence component, although the SDI does indicate some degree of independence and personal ability (see Table 5).



Many of the other dimensions reported in Table 5 were also reported in Table 3 as descriptive of the SDOL. The SDI, as expected, is not brand loyal. She is an information exchanger, a bargain seeker, and a traveller.

She is fashion conscious, interested in fancy cooking, oriented in general towards the kitchen, weight conscious, progressive, concerned about home cleanliness and reasonably satisfied with her life. On all these dimensions, the SDI possesses the characteristic more than the non-innovator.

Compared to the SDOL, the SDI appears to enjoy a wider media exposure pattern. More than the SDOL and more than the non-SDI, the SDI says she watches more TV than she should, likes to read, and thinks magazines are more interesting than television. Her choice of brands for many products is influenced by advertising, and she disagrees more that advertising leads to wasteful buying. Thus the SDI appears to be more positive towards the value of advertising and to be more exposed to it, compared to both non-SDI's and to SDOL's.

In the regression analysis, reported earlier in Table 4, one or two variables did not dominate the explained variance as they did in the analysis of the SDOL. However, multicollinearity was just as evident. Fashion consciousness, with the third highest simple correlation with the dependent variable, did not even enter the regression because it was collinear with opinion leadership and vivacious, the first two variables that entered the regression.

Again the R2 was quite low, with 25 percent of the variance in SDOL being explained by 10 entering independent variables.

Again, however, that 25 percent explanation represents a substantial improvement over the traditional demographic characteristics. As in the analysis of the SDOL, the demographic variables were not significantly related to the SDI score. They did not enter the regression analysis and they were of significant in the cross-tabulation analysis.

The U.S. data on SDI was submitted to AID analysis and again, the variables entering the analysis tended to be the same ones significant in the regression analysis of the Canadian data. The two most important variables (not shown here) were opinion leadership and brand loyalty (negative), followed by interest in cooking, information exchange, and personal grooming and fashion consciousness. Once more, the results were consistent across the two countries.

To summarize the findings concerning SDI characteristics:

1) SDI is positively associated with opinion leadership.

2) SDI's are vivacious and avant-garde, but not as self-confident and independent as SDOL's.

3) SDI's are information exchanges and tend to be more sociable and gregarious than SDOL's.

4) SDI's are fashion and personal appearance conscious.

5) SDI's are positive towards the value of advertising and more likely than non-SDI's and SDOL's to be exposed to all media sources.

6) SDI's are more positive towards print than broadcast media and more likely to say they watch more TV than they should.

7) SDI's are interested in exotic cooking, and have a strong orientation towards the kitchen.

8) SDI's are bargain and price conscious.


A number of recent articles and books report emerging generalizations from the literature concerning the characteristics of opinion leaders and innovators. Below are listed a series of these generalizations and for each one an indication of whether the research reported here supports or is inconsistent with those findings. The generalizations are from Rogers and Stanfield (8), King and Summers (3), and Engel, Kollat and Blackwell (1).


In addition to the above support for emerging generalizations, the research reported here adds significantly to the overall profile of SDOL's and SDI's. This research found dimensions such as fashion consciousness, interest in cooking, price consciousness, interest in the arts, interest in community activities, creativity, concern for home cleanliness, vivaciousness, and concern for personal appearance to be associated with S W L or SDI or both.

These life style dimensions are important from the viewpoint of reaching and communicating with the opinion leader and the innovator. In the next section on implications for marketing strategy, the question of reaching SDOL and SDI individuals is answered.


Can we Reach the Opinion Leader or the Innovator?

The U.S. questionnaire contained questions on readership of 73 national magazines. Analysis of the relationship between readership and scores on SDOL or SDI produced no significant relationships. The conclusion from that analysis: neither opinion leaders nor innovators can effectively be reached through print media, i.e. no more effectively than the average consumer in the population..

The Canadian data produced more positive results for both print media and television. The results are summarized in Table 6.

In the case of television, the Johnny Carson show appears to reach innovators. Forty-one percent of those scoring high on SDI rated the Johnny Carson Show as "Very Good" or "Hate to Miss", the two highest rating categories. In the case of SDOL, three TV shows appeared to offer above average potential (Johnny Carson, The Nature of Things and Man Alive). Thus the Johnny Carson show offers above average potential to reach both innovators and opinion leaders.

There are only 6 national magazines in Canada of significance. Two of those, Chatelaine and Homemaker's Digest, were significantly related to one of the two dependent variables. Chatelaine readership was positively correlated with innovativeness and Homemaker's Digest was positively related to opinion leadership. Both magazines have a predominately female audience.

In summary, certain vehicles exhibited above average potential for reaching either the SDOL or the SDI in Canada. Had television data been available for the U.S. sample, the Canadian results would probably have been supported.

Implications for Marketing Management

Implications for marketing management lie in the area of the product life cycle and in the area of advertising copy. Although not shown in this paper, the life style profile of the brand loyal respondents is dramatically different from the life style profile of the SDI. This finding suggests that copy designed to reach innovators in the early stages of new product introduction should be dramatically different from copy designed to attract laggards and eventually those who will become the hard core of loyal buyers for the brand.

In addition, the media exposure patterns, although relatively weak, suggest that media selection strategy in the early stages of new product introduction might be different than media selection strategy later in the life cycle. Brand loyal consumers are heavy television viewers, but not of the talk shows. Thus specific TV shows, plus a selective print campaign may be called for in the early stages followed by a heavy TV schedule across many of the more popular shows later in the life cycle.


This paper has attempted to report on two large scale national studies of the life style and demographic characteristics of self-designated opinion leaders and self-designated innovators.

The study found support for a number of emerging generalizations in the literature concerning the characteristics of SDOL's and SDI's. It also rejected several findings, especially with regard to demographic characteristics. In addition, the research provided new insight into the life style profile of S W L's and SDI's. One implication is that marketing strategy can best be served by concentration on effective copy design to communicate with opinion leaders and innovators. Media strategy should focus on general media alternatives rather than specific media vehicles. Finally, the study attempted to develop media exposure patterns for the two segments, with some positive results.




Engel, J.F., Kollat, D.T., & Blackwell, R.D., Consumer Behavior, (New York: Holt, Rinehardt & Winston, Inc., 1968).

King, C.W. and Summers, J.O., '"Overlap of Opinion Leadership Across Product Categories," Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. VII, (Feb., 1970), pp. 43-50.

Lazer, W., "Life Style Concepts and Marketing," Toward Scientific Market~E, (Proceedings of the American Marketing Association, December, 1963), pp. 130-39.

Pessemier, E.A., Burger, P.C. and Tigert, D.J., "Can New Product Buyers Be Identified?" Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. IV, (November 1967), pp. 349-55.

Pessemier, E.A., and Hustad, T.P., Segmenting Consumer Markets With Activity and Attitude Measures, (forthcoming monograph, Marketing Science Institute), Working Paper, Purdue University, May 1971.

Rogers, E.M. and Stanfield, J.D., "Adoption and Diffusion of New Products: Emerging Generalizations and Hypotheses," in Application of the Sciences in Marketing Management (F.M. Bass, C.W. King and E.A. Pessemier, ed), (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1968), pp. 227-250.

Wells, W.D. and Tigert, D.J., "Activities, Interests and Opinions," Working Paper, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago (forthcoming, Journal of Advertising Research).


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Douglas J. Tigert, University of Toronto
Stephen J. Arnold, University of Toronto


SV - Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research | 1971

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