The rise of the technophile

European markets demonstrate similar attitudes and behaviour, but marketers need to address subtle differences if they are to succeed

The second annual Target Group Index (TGI) Europa survey from BMRB looks at differences in product use, brand loyalty and spending attitudes across Europe. The survey, based on a sample of 65,000 adults living in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, highlights some of the emerging trends in the technology, packaged goods and financial markets.

The new technology markets measured on the TGI Europa continue unabated in their dramatic development. Not only do more people have access to the Internet, there is a huge rise in the number of people who own a personal computer (PC). This is particularly so in France and the UK. The level of PC ownership in the UK is ten per cent higher than in any other European market, with 44 per cent of all adults owning a PC.

Those with a home PC in Germany and Spain are more likely to have bought them over two years ago. This fact has contributed to the slowdown in the recent growth rates of PC purchases in these markets.

Most people use PCs to play games, but in Germany, Spain and the UK the use of a PC for educational purposes is also prevalent. Using PCs to support the growing “homeworking” culture is especially noticeable in the UK, although the data indicate that Britons spend less time on their PCs than elsewhere in Europe.

In terms of time spent at a PC, the UK average is 20 per cent below that of France, Germany or Spain.

The mobile phone market continues its relentless rise across the whole of Europe. According to TGI, penetration in Spain and the UK has grown particularly fast – with mobile phone ownership in these countries increasing by 64 per cent and 93 per cent respectively since 1999.

Overall penetration rates for mobile phones are now so high that ownership bias between the sexes has diminished significantly.

However, in Germany, which has the lowest level of mobile phone ownership, the market is split 60 per cent men and 40 per cent women. This underlines the fact that less mature markets display greater bias in demographic distribution.

The Italian mobile phone market was similarly male-dominated in 1999 – 64 per cent of the market. However, this fell to 56 per cent in 2000 on the back of a 36 per cent growth in mobile phone ownership that was largely led by women.

In most technology-led markets, “early adopters” of new products are commonly thought to be young and male. The TGI data shows that while in Germany and the UK, this male bias appears to be true, interest in technology is far more evenly distributed between the sexes in France, Italy and Spain, where ratios of male to female early adopters are about 60 per cent to 40 per cent.

Most of these technophiles are between 15 and 34 years old except in Germany, where the largest proportion of early adopters is the 35to 44-year-old age group.

Campaigns for technological products that assume consistent, European-wide, young male target markets, therefore, are likely to be missing a significant portion of their early-adopter markets by not broadening their target base.

Packaged goods are covered in some detail in the TGI Europa database, at both product and brand levels. Looking generally at brand loyalty, using the attitude statements applied throughout the five countries, a telling picture of the way we consume emerges.

Italians are the least likely of all the major European countries to want to try out new brands – only 16 per cent agree with the statement: “When I see a new brand I often buy it to see what it’s like.”

The British, French and Germans have higher scores, indicating a willingness to experiment in contrast with the Italians.

The British and the French are the most likely to respond to special offers with 58 per cent and 44 per cent saying they would be tempted by sales promotions compared with 29 per cent of Italians.

Attitudes towards financial matters vary considerably between the different countries. The more northerly Europeans have a more relaxed attitude towards spending money, whereas southern Europeans are more frugal and circumspect in their spending.

The Spanish and Italian respondents were more likely to disagree with the statement, “I tend to spend money without thinking” than their northern European counterparts.

Of the northern Europeans, it is the British who are the most likely to agree that they spend money without thinking – but only the younger ones. Looking at the under-45s, about a quarter of British and German adults claim they lack caution in their spending habits – a much higher proportion than in Italy.

But when it comes to the over-45s, the British are more cautious than both the Germans and Spanish, and not far behind the Italians in their fiscal prudence.

To understand the pan-European financial market it is necessary to unravel the subtle combination of age and national culture of the various target audiences.

Factfile is edited by Ã…se Hedberg. Richard Bedwell, a TGI BMRB consultant, contributed

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