Society's Basic Structure of Influence Is Changing

By Hall, Robert | ABA Bank Marketing, July-August 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Society's Basic Structure of Influence Is Changing

Hall, Robert, ABA Bank Marketing

"Quitting smoking is strongly influenced by friends and spouses. A spouse who quits smoking makes one 67 percent less likely to smoke. A friend's quitting decreases one's chances of smoking by 36 percent ... Over the past 35 years smokers didn't make the decision to quit individually, the study found. Instead, large groups of friends all quit together, like the schooling of fish or the flocking of birds'."

--Keith J. Winstein, The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2008

As marketers, we are in the business of influence, and the way influence works in our society is changing. Immunity to our traditional marketing grows. We all see the signs but that does not mean that we have fully addressed the strategic shift. Perhaps it is a good time to ask the question: How is the basic structure of influence changing in our society?

For starters, institutions are losing their ability to attract and influence. Mike Malone ("The Next American Frontier," The Wall Street Journal May 19, 2008) reports: Half of all new college graduates now believe that self employment is more secure than a full-time job ... 18- to 24-year-olds are starting companies at a faster rate than 35- to 44-year-olds ... 70 percent of today's high schoolers intend to start their own companies ... An upcoming wave of new workers in our society will never work for an established company if they can help it. To them, having a traditional job is one of the biggest career failures they can imagine.

It is not just that they don't believe our corporate messages, including our ads, they are repelled by the whole idea of the corporation--large, distant, unresponsive and self-focused. It is not just corporations, it is also political parties, government entities and religious institutions. Over 80 percent of us believe the country is on the wrong track. An unpopular Republican president and an unpopular Democrat-controlled Congress are in a race to the bottom with the lowest approval ratings in recent history. Since 1987 the proportion of voters who do not identify themselves with either political party is up 50 percent and the number of people who never attend church is at an all time high. No matter how powerful the marketing message, most are turned off by its source--the large institution.

As institutional messages are losing ground, the influence exerted by friends, colleagues and family members--members of our local community--are gaining influence. As Peter Block says ("Community--The Structure of Belonging"): "Small groups are the unit of transformation." Remember the recent study that showed people's weight is heavily influenced by the weight of their friends? Their weight loss or gain is likely to influence yours.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Society's Basic Structure of Influence Is Changing


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?