The 'Market Maven' : a new ally in the diffusion of innovations process
The initial motive for undertaking this research, was a desire to better understand those factors which were said to affect the diffusion of ethnic foods. In attempting to develop the general methodology for this study, the author revisited seminal studies on diffusion of innovations, word-of-mouth, opinion leadership, and innovator/early adopter influence. During this process, the author discovered Feick and Price's (1987), emergent 'Market Maven' theory. Said to be distinctly different from opinion leaders and early adopters, market mavens were not only believed to have a higher awareness of general marketplace information, but also more source credibility than other word- of-mouth influencers. Employing a replication study approach, a telephone survey of 400 households in urban, suburban and rural north Bedfordshire was undertaken. The author found that the market maven construct was not a purely US phenomenon, but was also present in the UK. Developing further Feick and Price's (1987) preliminary investigations, this study confirmed that (in common with related opinion leadership studies), it had not been possible to identify market mavens using demographic/socio-economic variables. Whilst classifying market mavens remained problematic, the author was nonetheless able to confirm Feick and Price's (1987) earlier findings, that market mavens had an inherently increased propensity for general marketplace information gathering. As this behaviour was considered by the author to be unique to market mavens, the construct was employed to test those factors, said to affect ethnic food diffusion, with interesting, if largely inconclusive results. The author concluded, that the potential of the market maven construct in the diffusion of innovations process was significant, particularly as a conduit for internal word-of-mouth information in the business-to-business/industrial marketing context. In that situation, market mavens' heightened awareness of, and active search for, general marketplace information, would make them ideal targets for the type of marketing communication message that innovators and opinion leaders alike, reputedly ignore.