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Brodeur research shows Americans put family and friends above all, including self-interest

Study documents generational and other demographic differences on views about family, health, and love

BOSTON, Jan. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Brodeur Partners today released a study that shows that Americans – often depicted as materialistic and self-focused – care more about others in their lives than all other concerns, including their own financial security.

Brodeur provided supporting research today in a new white paper establishing that Americans value three things above all others:

  • Caring for family and friends.
  • Personal health. 
  • Love and relationships.

"Americans care most about the people in their lives. Everything else is secondary, including homes, cars, money, even finding oneself," said Brodeur CEO Andy Coville. "We're not a 'me' culture; we're a 'my family' culture."

The findings emerge from Brodeur Partner's ongoing analysis of data from its late-summer research project, "American Relevance," which included an online national survey of n=1,007 Americans.

An earlier White Paper based on the same "American Relevance" study documented how Americans strongly associate themselves with ideas of "compassion" and "happiness." This portion of the research confirms those findings and extends them to matters of personal value and meaning.

In this research, Brodeur asked Americans to look at 10 different things that many people hold dear and identify those things that were most personally meaningful to them. The items tested were:

Being in a loving relationship

Being financially secure

Being personally & professionally challenged

Being understood

Having fun

Caring for friends and family

Finding meaning

Making a difference

Serving others

Staying healthy

"Caring for friends and family" dominated the results, followed by "staying healthy" and "being in a loving relationship."

These findings affirm the importance of socially oriented variables in the Brodeur Relevance Model, which defines the overall "relevance" of an idea, product, brand, candidate or cause. Brodeur sees the relevance experience as a complex interplay of cognitive and experiential factors (thinking and sensory) and social factors (values and community.) Grounded in well-established social science principles and research, the Relevance Model drives program planning toward marketers' "behavior change," not just "communication," objectives.

In this study we showed people different combinations of choices and asked subjects to select the one in each set that was the MOST important to them and the one that was LEAST important to them. In a method called maximum difference scaling (MaxDiff), survey participants often saw the same items presented with different alternatives for maximum accuracy.  As a result, we collected over 60,000 data points and were able to very precisely assess each option with "value scores."

Other key findings in the new white paper:

  • Boomer exception. "Caring for friends and family" trumps everything... except when it comes to young Baby Boomers aged 55 to 64, who rated their own health above caring for friends and family. 
  • Health beats love. Love and relationships is secondary to personal health. Americans rated "staying healthy" as more important than "being in a loving relationship". 
  • Are the rich different? Yes! Affluent Americans ($125,000-plus) valued "being financially secure" almost as much as caring for family and being healthy. For them, "a loving relationship" came in a distant fourth.
  • Are the rich really different? Yes! Affluent Americans rated themselves as the least introspective yet the most self-centered. They put the least importance on things like "making a difference," "serving others" and "finding meaning." They placed the greatest importance on "having fun" and "being personally challenged."
  • Americans are surprisingly outwardly-focused. While the search for meaning and self-understanding through self-exploration and spirituality may drive a cottage industry of writers and counselors, the Brodeur research suggests that these objectives are actually relatively low on people's ratings of personal importance. 
  • Values change across generations. For young people, "caring for friends and family" is significantly more important than "staying healthy," a gap that narrows with age. Similarly, young people value "being in a loving relationship" significantly more than "being financially secure." For respondents close to retirement age, money and staying healthy trumps love. While it makes sense that these differences reflect the changing priorities brought on by age, it's also possible they reflect a difference in perspective that the younger cohort will sustain into the future.

"Marketers seeking relevance should start by distrusting the conventional wisdom about what makes Americans tick," said Jerry Johnson, Brodeur executive vice president of strategic planning. "What this tells us is that we should never overlook the power of personal and family relationships. A smart phone, for example, is good when it's fast and thin and has lots of apps. But it's much, much more when it connects kids and grandparents across the ocean."

About Brodeur Partners

Brodeur Partners is a strategic communications company that helps organizations become and remain relevant in a complicated world. Headquartered in Boston, the company has five U.S. offices and operates in 33 countries globally. It is differentiated by its focus on relevance, behavioral change and ability to bring a discipline-agnostic approach to its non-profit, consumer and business-to-business clients. www.brodeur.com

Appendix; relevant data tables

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SOURCE Brodeur Partners

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