My first childhood friendship was formed by a fellowship honoring He-Man, a pairing picked to propel the power of Grayskull. Like any super-hero, I needed a sidekick, a role routinely revived by a friend in my neighborhood; eventually he moved, and I was left to stave off Skeletor solo.
But should the separation have been a surprise? Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst would suggest no.
Research released earlier this week, entitled ‘Contexts, Contacts, Consequences’, investigates how the context in which we meet people influences our social network. One of his conclusions: you lose about half of your close network every seven years.
The survey, conducted among people aged between 18 and 65 years, asked questions such as: Who do you talk with, regarding important personal issues? Who helps you with DIY in your home? Who do you pop by to see? Where did you get to know that person? And where do you meet that person now? Seven years later the respondents were contacted again and re-interviewed.
With his research Mollenhorst confirmed that personal networks are not formed solely on the basis of personal choices; these choices are limited by opportunities to meet. Another strong indication for this came from the fact people often choose friends from a familiar context.
The study suggests relationships endure as long as the context in which they were created continues. Knowing relationships form and fizzle with such regularity, is it enough for brands to target a specific demographic or would they be better served by examining the context in which potential consumers live, thrive and survive?