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Consumer Behavior Driver: The Value of Individualism

Last year, BLS Research conducted qualitative research about parental attitudes toward the HPV vaccine. We found that high levels of distrust in medical institutions/professionals drove parents toward vaccine alternatives, including teaching their children about safe sex and encouraging abstinence. To these parents, only they were truly equipped to protect their own children from HPV and other diseases. This strong sense of individualism influenced parents to delay the HPV vaccine or refuse it for their children.

 In a totally unrelated study we just completed, we observed the ideology of individualism influencing behavior in a different category. A client interested in developing water filtration devices asked us to conduct research about consumers’ relationships with water and why they might invest in water filtration solutions. One of the key findings was that many consumers do not trust their local municipalities (governments) to provide clean drinking water and would rather take matters into their own hands by investing in water filtration so they can be assured their water is clean. These consumers believe local governments are not transparent about what’s in the water or what chemicals are used to treat it and that decisions local officials make about water are likely not in the best interest of the consumer. Water filtration devices make consumers feel in control and empowered to protect their families from the bad water provided by local municipalities.

While the value of individualism has always significantly influenced American culture, we are seeing it affect more and more behavior and decisions than ever. We believe this is partly related to the political climate and the Administration’s messages that discourage reliance on anyone or anything other than one’s self. The idea that we should doubt and distrust established medical institutions, professionals, and municipalities is also symptomatic of the current political climate. Coupled together, distrust breeds extreme individualism and encourages consumers to seek solutions they themselves can control.

 Political climates change, but for now the value of individualism is strong and is likely to continue to drive consumer behavior and decision-making across a variety of categories.

Brittany Stalsburg