Feature

International Business Media: Europe's media tribes unmasked

Alex Benady puts flesh on the bones of an attitudinal study of Europeans united only by their consumption of international business media. And then has a good old British sneer.

The archetypal image of the international business man is of a chisel-jawed male model type striding purposefully through an airport's VIP lounge dressed in an expensive hand-made suit, with a stunning array of incredibly expensive pens, phones and laptops in his Mulberry leather briefcase. He earns more than £150,000 a year, drives a Mercedes and his fingernails are always immaculate.

But the truth is less glamorous. According to the European Media Survey, the average business person in Europe earns closer to EUR55,000. While he does wash his hands regularly, he probably flies easyJet, and he certainly won't spend more than EUR40,000 on a car. So it's a case of goodbye Merc and hello Mondeo.

But, of course, averages are a misrepresentation, too: they conceal variation. The only thing that European consumers of international business media have in common (well, most of them anyway) is that they need to know about the wider world for business reasons.

Beyond that, there is an almost infinite variety of types, attitudes, incomes and outcomes. So how do you make sense of them as a market? EMS Synovate has subjected its 2006 survey of the top 20 per cent of pan-Euro TV viewers to statistical analysis, which was designed to organise responses into six clusters and emphasise the main attitudinal differences between them. So here, with a little licence, are the business tribes of Europe.

The Tech Head

Some people like flash brands for grown-up reasons. For instance, a Porsche 911 will definitely help you to get your leg over. Others simply retain a childlike sense of wonder at the truly amazing things that products can do these days. They just want to toggle the switches and see all the cool functions at work. They are the tech heads whose neomania is evident in everything they do.

It will come as no surprise to learn that this neomane is the country manager of IT in an international corporation. And you will be slightly more amazed to learn that he is far more likely to live in Portugal than anywhere else in Europe.

Despite having a young family, his home is decorated in a minimalist style and is crammed full of the very latest kit. Plasma and LCD screens adorn nearly every room. He even wants to install one in the bathroom, but his wife won't let him. Even when he's driving to places he knows well, he fiddles endlessly with the bloody satnav in the Saab.

But for all his geeky tendencies, he is not lacking in social awareness. He is conscious of the importance of image, and likes to project an aura of affluence and success. He wears a bottom-of-the-range Rolex and spends money on fashionable clothes, favouring the Armani international "creative" executive look: black suits worn with black rollneck jumpers.

Mind you, it takes a lot of hard work to be a successful early adopter, so his media sources are vital. He reads a wide range of papers and magazines; he particularly likes Fortune and Business Week for the new product sections. And, of course, he is an avid internet user.

Our man in black travels a lot, and he always hassles his PA to find the most hip, most zen hotel in whatever town he is visiting. The thing he likes most is that moment in the hotel room when he unpacks all the technology from his overnight bag. The clunking metal-and-black leather pouches make him feel a bit more like James Bond and a bit less like the time-serving corporate functionary he really is.

His interest in new devices translates into a keen involvement in international culture and affairs. After all, technology knows no frontiers. But, really, he doesn't like TV much - in his view it is still essentially an analogue medium. Mind you, if there was a gadget channel, he would definitely watch it.

The New Yuppie

The yuppies of the 80s never really went away. They simply hid out in obscure trading floors in the City of London, like Japanese soldiers in the jungle, and waited for the tide of history to sweep them back on to the beach, where a magnum of Bolly was ready on ice.

Just like the old yuppie, the new yuppie has two obsessions: work and "things". Still in his thirties, he's earning well north of £85k. Despite the recent arrival of a baby daughter (whom he only ever really sees on Sundays), he's still brand mad.

From his wholly unnecessary TAG Heuer Carrera Tachymetre Automatic Chronograph (a watch to you) down to his £300 Tricker's brogues, he is the most acutely aware of all the business types of the joys of shopping and the awesome power of the right products to say the right things about him.

He finds talk of the environment tedious and is a dedicated follower of fashion. So you might think he's a shallow, parochial philistine. But then you don't own a brand new BMW Z4 Coupe with 17-inch alloys, colour-coded door handles, sills, bumpers, mirrors and rear park assist, do you?

He's certainly not very interested in the rest of the world - other than in how it affects derivative prices. He reads The Economist and the FT in a desultory sort of way - in truth, he's a Daily Mail man at heart. He prefers to gather his information about what's going on from the TV - CNBC and Bloomberg, obviously.

But perhaps the most transparent windows to his soul are his technologies of choice. He truly adores his BlackBerry 8820. It means he can work anywhere - during the downtime of the sermon at a friend's funeral, for example. When he's not on the BlackBerry, he spends more time than is perhaps decent for a grown man on his Nintendo Wii, honing his golf skills.

The great thing about him is that, despite believing that he is an independent, free-thinking force of nature and so on, he is actually pathetically dependent upon others for validation. This makes him possibly the most malleable and easy to advertise to of all the business types. And it's not stretching the truth too far to say that you can sell him any old crap, as long as the ads are in exclusive, glossily packaged media and you charge way over the odds.

The Pragmatic

Can you imagine someone who sees a car as a way of getting from A to B, rather than a roving extension of his penis? Well, meet the pragmatics, the oldest and least affluent of the European business tribes.

This purchasing manager at a Swedish paper mill takes a heavily functional view of products and fancies himself as someone who can see straight through the flim-flammery of branding. He says he's not really interested in new products, not particularly interested in other countries and not particularly interested in technology.

When it comes to consumption, pragmatics are on the horns of a dilemma. They are keen to get a product that works well. But they're also keen to pay as little as possible. When there's a conflict, it's quality that gives.

The only technology products that come even close to the European norm of ownership are games consoles and DVD players, on which he indexes 99 and 92 respectively.

He favours cheapo brands - from the Hungarian white goods producer Beko, for instance. His car is a Hyundai - he got a bloody good deal on last year's model with a few miles on it from a dealer in Malmo. He almost certainly got his watch free with ten litres of engine oil at a garage promo.

You might think all this makes him a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. But our pragmatic will be too busy scouring local markets for cheap French cheeses past their sell-by date to care.

Frau CC

What is German for "Daily Telegraph reader"? These surely are the people for whom the term "bourgeoise" was coined.

Despite being more likely than any other group to be female, our complacent conservative strongly believes that a woman's first concern should be the family. But that could be simply because she cares so little for anybody else - certainly not foreigners and foreign culture. So don't go playing the "exotic provenance" card when you are trying to flog stuff to her.

She lives comfortably in a dinky village outside Vienna and leads the orderly small-town existence those of her ilk see as the morally superior way to live. Respected in the community, she's near the peak of her career as a manager of a private hospital. Last year, she earned precisely EUR51,851.

Frau CC was brought up in the aftermath of the Second World War, and that experience of making do has coloured her attitudes to consumption. She doesn't travel much, just a couple of times a year, and she doesn't do "flash". She buys good-quality, good-value traditional brands - and only when she needs to.

Her watch is a Tissot, her white goods are Siemens and her clothes are likely to be of decent quality, but not exactly cutting edge, from the Austrian equivalent of Jaeger. Last year, she and her husband forked out for a new Opel Vectra automatic.

She reads widely and watches a lot of television, preferring local media to international, although at a stretch she might watch Deutsche Welle for its strong business coverage. As you might have guessed, she's a late adopter, so the internet plays a purely functional role in her life. Her embrace of the world of technology is limited to possession of a PVR, a DVD in the car and a Polaroid camera, so that she can take pictures of the family she freely admits is not her first concern.

The True Internationalist

No-one likes those people who value the life of the mind over, say, the life of the body or the life of the wallet. It doesn't happen in the UK or the US, but the sad fact is that within European business culture there is a discernibly cerebral streak.

Our true internationalist had a successful career in an international drinks company, and now, in the last decade of his career, makes his living as a lecturer at a well-regarded business school in Francophone Europe.

He's not particularly interested in clothes - he buys reasonable-quality, mid-market suits and shirts, and wears them until they fray. Similarly, he's not really interested in cars. He drives a four-year-old BMW and won't replace it until it either falls apart or looks so shameful that his teenage daughters refuse to ride in it.

And, of course, it's the same thing with technology. He's more likely than most to have a fax machine at home. And, yes, he does have a mobile phone, although he tends to lose it a lot. He even has a laptop so he can work on the hoof. Plus, he's a relatively heavy internet user. (Even academics use Google for research these days.)

It's not that he's a Luddite, he just doesn't feel the need to buy all the flat screens, PVRs, satnavs and other gadgets that everybody else gets so excited about these days.

You may be wondering, what then is the point of this latter-day ascetic who so conspicuously fails to engage with the fruits of the good life? Well, first up, he's a heavy consumer of media, especially magazines and newspapers, which he scans assiduously. Naturally, Harvard Business Review is his top read. And although he doesn't watch much TV, he favours the BBC for its impartiality and accuracy. He even occasionally dips into Al Jazeera for another view.

But he does have his pleasures. For instance, he likes to travel. He avoids chain hotels wherever possible and favours local authenticity over international blandness.

And the high spot of every day is the tumbler full of single-malt whisky he pours himself when he gets home from work. Here, brands do matter - but he would argue it is product quality and not branding that he goes for. Laphroaig is his tipple. The weird thing is that late at night, when he's a bit pissed, he doesn't drift off fantasising about driving an Aston Martin Volante.

Monsieur Average

You can't help wondering what floats this guy's boat? He disagrees that spending time with family and friends is important, and that he is committed to his job. And he doesn't much care if he is fashionably dressed or not. But he's happy with his lot. What a loser.

He puts the lie to the idea that all business people are ruthless "masters of the universe" in expensive suits. Truth is, he's an average sort, without great ambition or aspiration, who holds his middle-of-the-road views quite mildly. In short, he's normal.

One hallmark of the "normal" person is that they don't wet themselves with excitement at the mention of new photocopier technology. He's in his early thirties and doesn't exactly enjoy his job as a middle manager in a global FMCG company in Finland. But then he wouldn't know what to do without it.

That's not to say he has no desires. He'll buy things for the sheer pleasure. For instance, he recently spent more than EUR30 on a Casio DB7 timepiece that shows him the days of the week in Spanish, French, German and ten other languages. Now he can watch as his life slides by, in any tongue he fancies.

His greatest desire, though, is to be entertained, so he's a big TV viewer. While he's not interested in learning about other cultures, he does like watching foreign TV channels. If you've ever watched European TV, you'll know that these two statements are not incompatible. He dips into CNN and Sky as long as they don't challenge his lazy world view. And he reads a lot, but again more for entertainment than information.

His brand preferences tend towards those offering quality at middling prices, especially in the area of technology. He enjoys making short films on the Samsung camcorder he bought last year, and he has moved into stills photography recently, too. He drives a new Mondeo, which he replaces religiously every three years.

Monsieur Average is up for most things, in a gentle sort of way. Just don't expect him to buy anything too fancy, and don't challenge him with edgy sales messages.

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