June 2, 2010
The power of consumer confidence is often addressed in economic forecasts by the various charter banks and government agencies. For many the impact is not appreciated or realized...but make no mistake it is a powerful mass dynamic.
In their book, SWITCH, the Heath Brothers talk about the impact of "peer perspective" rather than "peer pressure". It seems that people will respond to any given dynamic based on what others around them are doing. In research it has been observed that an individual in a room with smoke coming through the vents will respond differently than one sitting with others in a room with smoke coming through the vents. The individual will immediately leave to look for assistance, while those sitting together will wait and see what the others do. That same response is often seen in an audience watching a film, or play. People will laugh or applaud based in part on what they see their peers doing.
Recently I succumbed to the power of peer perspective when a young paperboy came to my door. I didn't have any intention of signing up for paper delivery until he casually mentioned that "all of your neighbours are chosing the pre-payment plan via cheque". Before I realized what I was doing, I had my cheque book out.
Consumer confidence has the same power as peer perspective but on a larger scale. Mass media has used their influence in steering consumers. This was displayed recently in Canada when, despite the fact that we were not directly part of the American mortgage meltdown, the housing market dropped for a number of months. It was only after restoring the confidence of the consumer that the market came back in any signicant way.
The Bank of Canada recently signalled an upward move in the prime lending rate...and the Bank of Montreal responded by lowering their 5 yr mortgage rate. Both acting in different directions in an attempt to address the consumer in Canada. Like it or not, we work as a group...and part of our actions and responses are due to peer perspective. People see, people do...
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