Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

The diffusion of environmental behaviours; the role of influential individuals in social networks - EV0408

In mainstream commercial marketing, the concept of a 'maven' is increasingly well established. A maven is an individual with two key attributes: they have specialist or detailed knowledge about consumer products; and they are perceived as a trusted and reliable source of information by other individuals in their social network. It is hypothesised - and increasingly supported by evidence - that a maven can play a critical role in the success or failure of new products, since their advice carries particular weight with consumers.

Following research into the nature of and drivers for pro-environmental behaviours over the past couple of years, the possible role of mavens has emerged as a concern. Are there, for example, 'green' mavens? If so, where are they, what are their characteristics, and how do they function? In the context of the wider forces shaping pro-environmental behaviour - social norms, mainstream advertising, levels of trust in the government and so forth - an understanding of the present and potential role of mavens would be extremely valuable to all those hoping to promote the rapid take-up of new pro-environmental behaviours among the British population.

The proposed research - from Brook Lyndhurst, Opinion Leader Research and Dr Julie Barnett of the University of Surrey - will investigate the notion of 'green' mavens, with a view to identifying specific opportunities for communications and policy.

The research will comprise four main elements:

- a detailed programme of literature review, aimed at bringing together the present 'state of knowledge' on mavens generally

- a compact programme of interviews with commercial marketing professionals to explore their experience of the role of 'word of mouth' and the significance or otherwise of mavens in the success or failure of new environmental products

- a pilot qualitative research exercise, involving detailed face-to-face interviews with individual mavens, recruited using techniques already developed by OLR and adapted specifically for this project

- producing a detailed synthesis report, pulling together the research elements, setting out our analysis and making recommendations for communications strategy, policy development and further research

Project Documents
• Final Report : Report 1: Key Findings   (445k)
• Other : Report 2: Evidence   (2340k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2008

To: 2008

Cost: £77,800
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Brook Lyndhurst, Dummy for Competitions
Behaviour change              
Social Research              
Fields of Study
Sustainable Consumption and Production