Do Birds of a Feather Flock Together?

Birds of a feather flock together, or so they say. People with the same tastes, opinions, beliefs, interest, preferences and wants tend to stick together and help each other out. The “birds of a feather” principle is at the core of what makes referral marketing so successful. People trust their kindred spirits and are much more likely to make a purchase or join an organization if they see how much it has benefited a friend or family member with similar needs or desires.

Recently, we published a few blogs in our demographics and referral behavior series. In general, the results indicated that birds of a feather do indeed stick together. Our series was based off the results of some Google Consumer surveys we ran. For example, we asked a couple of questions about purchases made because of referrals or recommendations from friends or family members:

  1. Have you ever referred a friend to a product or service that they have subsequently purchased?
  2. Have you ever purchased something based on the recommendation of a friend or family member?


More than half of those surveyed said that a person they know made a purchase due to their recommendation:

Pic 1


On the other side of the equation, almost three quarters of those surveyed said that they had made a purchase because of a recommendation:

Pic 2


We can assume that the figure for the first question would be higher and even more in favor of referrals if everyone surveyed was in the know about all of their friend’s purchases. Regardless, the results confirm that people trust friends and family members – people likely very similar to them – and that the birds of a feather idiom speaks the truth.


With an effective referral program, marketing to you highest value members is likely to yield high-value prospects.



Are Some People More Influential Than Others?


In general, people tend to successfully refer people in the same social groups. Our survey didn’t require respondents to declare the social or economic background of the people they referred, but if we look at the answer to the following two questions and examine the results by income bracket, we can infer that people from any given socio-economic background are more likely to make a purchase if it is suggested by someone living within the same means.

  1. Have you ever referred a friend to a product or service that they’ve subsequently purchased?
  1. Have you ever purchased something based on the recommendation of a friend or family member?


Again, while not directly answering whether someone is more likely to accept a referral from someone with in the same income bracket than not, the similarity in response to question one and two suggests that they are:


pIC 4Pic 3

Question 1                                                                                            Question 2


We can infer from the data that a correlating amount of people from each income group are making and acting on referrals.  The results show that people from a higher bracket are more likely to participate in referral activity. We can also see that the two actions necessary for a successful referral – giving and accepting- are pretty balanced within income groups.



It could be easy for brands and marketers to brush off lower incomes as lower spenders who do not generate significant sales. However, a great marketer would never assume that just because someone has a lower income that they are any less valuable as a customer or brand ambassador. People from all socio-economic backgrounds have the potential to be influential within their cohort. They may not respond to the same offer or incentives but when it comes to referral marketing a brand should not ignore any demographic or target specific income brackets. As they say, birds of a feather flock together and if you have a great product or service, your well-off customers and your lower earners will all be willing to refer.



Brand Ambassadors In Other Demographic


Our recent referral marketing and demographics series didn’t just focus on the role socio-economics plays in determining referral behavior. We also looked at referral activity by:


  • Age group
  • Geography
  • Gender


Our surveys found that all age groups are likely to refer their friends and pay attention to what their peers have to say about products or services. Our surveys also highlighted that one age group is more likely than others to be influenced by the recommendations of others within their age bracket. That age group is Millennials. Peer to peer influence is especially important to Millennials and survey responses from Millennials indicated that almost three quarters had made a purchase decision because of referrals from friends and more than half had influenced a friend to make a purchase.


When we split our respondents into urban, suburban and rural groupings, we found that all groups were likely to partake in referral activities. However, the sense of community and “sticking together” was most evident amongst rural dwellers. It is possible that people in rural communities stick together out of necessity – smaller societies with fewer resources or options must rely on each other to get by in some situations. This attitude appears to cross over to their recommendation and referral behavior too. While urbanites also display some birds of a feather behavior, it seems to come more organically for ruralites and is an infused part of their everyday rural life.




The final groups we looked at were gender groupings. People who identified as female were more likely to have made referrals and more likely to have bought something because of a referral or recommendation than people who identified as males. There are a couple of reasons why this may be the case:


  1. women are more socially conscious and socially generous than men
  2. women are often in charge of household purchasing decisions and value the opinions of others when making a purchase


Regardless of the reasons why, this is another example of a group sticking together and influencing each other.



Why Do Birds of a Feather Stick Together?


Even though “birds of a feather” behavior is demonstrated across various cohorts, there appears to be a common thread amongst the groups most likely to stick together. Groups that have historically been marginalized or disenfranchised tend to rely on each other more than other groups:


  • Young people
  • Women
  • Rural dwellers


In many areas of everyday life, these groups have or continue to be underrepresented or misunderstood by others, including by brands and marketers. This is why these groups are much more likely to be influenced by their peers than by traditional marketing or advertising. Who knows the needs of a woman, a 20-something or a person living in the countryside better than someone else in the same position or situation?


All this clearly highlights just how valuable referral marketing is as a customer acquisition tool. People trust each other and people in specific demographic groupings respect the word of their peers and coequals more than anything else. No matter the industry, any business or organization that wants to attract more customers from any demographic should leverage their existing customers to grow their customer or member base.


Buyapowa’s marketing solution was designed with the birds of a feather principle in mind. If you are interested in targeting a specific demographic or just in generally growing your customer base, get in touch to see what we can do for you!


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