Nectar investigates 'something for nothing' consumers

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on May 31, 2005

What effect do rewards really have on consumers? Most consumers get a long-lasting 'buzz' when they get something for nothing; their pulses race and they release mood enhancing chemicals, according to new research from Nectar in the UK.

The research, conducted in the UK on behalf of Loyalty Management UK (operator of the Nectar coalition loyalty programme), revealed that British consumers get over 16 billion worth of free goods each year. While that may seem to be an average of 340 per person, it's clear that celebrities get the lion's share. Over half of all UK households have a Nectar Card and the average household using Nectar can earn 7.50 or more per month in rewards.

The study of 18,000 people not only investigated the nation's attitude to getting something for nothing, but also the actual physical and emotional reaction to a 'freebie'.

Physiological effects
Nearly four in five people (78%) surveyed said that they get a long lasting 'buzz' when they get something for nothing. Neuro-psychologist, Dr David Lewis, wired volunteers to brain and heart rate monitoring equipment, then offered them a series of gifts from the Nectar range of rewards. According to Dr Lewis, "When volunteers learnt that they were to receive a freebie their pulses began to race and alpha waves in their brains began to increase, releasing mood enhancing chemicals to the brain. This produced a pleasurable combination of relaxed excitement and optimism that exerted a positive and lasting effect on the mood of volunteers, showing the positive power of the freebie."

Passion or prize?
Over half of all women (52%) admit they'd gladly swap a night of passion for a free shopping voucher. Men seemed to attach more value to the passion: only one in three men (33%) said they'd forego it, and then for a free set of power tools.

More than one in five consumers (21%) would tell lies to get the freebie they wanted. More than one in ten (12%) would kiss someone they weren't attracted to in order to get something for nothing. Some 24% have driven miles out of their way to get a freebie and 10% have even queued or camped out overnight.

Of those surveyed, 79% had received free product samples in the last year, 53% had been given free shopping vouchers from a retailer, 47% had received complimentary toiletries or dressing gowns during a hotel stay, 38% had been awarded a free mobile phone upgrade and 29% had received a bottle of wine with a restaurant meal, free of charge. Other top freebies received include meals, tickets to big sporting matches and concerts, and free flight and holiday upgrades.

Public perceptions
There is little doubt that celebrities receive more than their fair share, and that the average consumer is well aware of that. When asked to name who they considered to be the top ten celebrity freeloaders, respondents chose Jodie Marsh (31%), Paris Hilton (23%) and Jade Goody and Victoria Beckham (16% each). Others in the top ten included the Cheeky Girls, Prince Andrew, Liz Hurley and Tony and Cherie Blair. It's interesting to note the preponderance of women.

The public perceives some professions as receiving many freebies and others as receiving few or none. Indeed, 37% of UK consumers think that politicians get the best freebies in their day-to-day employment, followed by stockbrokers (33%), media professionals (29%), models (17%) and interestingly, beauticians (14%). Those perceived to receive the least are farmers (25%), teachers (24%), traffic wardens (21%), nurses (20%), council workers (10%) and factory workers (10%).

Top ten
Top 10 freebies that the average UK consumer receives each year are:
Product samples, shopping vouchers from retailers, toiletries and/or a dressing gown when staying at a hotel, mobile phone upgrades, a bottle of wine with a meal at a restaurant, a muffin when buying the morning coffee, road tax/MOT/service when buying a new car, lunch or dinner, tickets to a big sports match or concert, and flight or holiday upgrades.

According to Richard Campbell, Nectar's marketing director: "The findings from our study reveal that Brits are receiving freebies that were once reserved for the rich and famous, like free holiday upgrades and other luxury items. Since its launch in 2002, Nectar has given back over 450 million worth of rewards to card holders, from money-off vouchers to treats and gifts and travel and leisure experiences."

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