Unique but Integrated: The Role of Individuation and Assimilation Processes in Teen Opinion Leadership

E. Gentina, R. Butori, T. B. HEATH

Journal of Business Research

February 2014, vol. 67, n°2, pp.83-91

Departments: Marketing

Keywords: Opinion leadership, Adolescent consumers, Social network, Need for uniqueness, Peer influence

Opinion leaders propel the diffusion of innovation and exert a significant influence on the marketplace. This influence is especially pronounced during adolescence, a period marked by increasing reliance on peers and the emergence of a tension between two countervailing needs: assimilation and individuation. A survey of 1142 adolescents reveals that these developmental needs affect adolescent opinion leadership in the critical clothing market. Adolescent opinion leadership relies on a balance between desires for assimilation (i.e., centrality within the peer network) and individuation (i.e., need for uniqueness); adolescents' susceptibility to peers' normative influence and gender moderate these relationships. Adolescents who occupy central positions within their peer network tend to be opinion leaders, though only if they are not susceptible to normative influence. Position within the peer network is a key for girls, whereas need for uniqueness is a key for boys. These differences implicate different approaches for managers targeting adolescent males and females.