How Customers are becoming Brand-Polygamous

 

Is society undergoing a silent overhaul? One by one, you see everyone jumping into one hot steaming bowl of social interactions and emotional drama. The result of all this virtual proximity is far reaching than anyone can expect. From objectifying our feelings using a few emoticons on WhatsApp to shaping our self-confidence through the number of likes on FB, it has changed us in ways that we did not imagine.

 

Most of us are just plain baffled by the total disregard displayed by the younger populace towards privacy. In my opinion, privacy has expired and it has been removed from the equation by the consumer. The sweet poison of mass approval (likes, comments, etc) has re-aligned her priorities. And the value systems are being twisted and warped to suit her newfound lifestyles. Societal rules as we know it are being changed.

 

Let me explain. Friends with Benefits as a concept has become mainstream now. It based on a very simple premise that, if I cannot cheat on my girlfriend/boyfriend discreetly then I will make it socially acceptable behaviour. What’s more fascinating is that value systems are also being crowd sourced now. The young & the connected are creating social standards without even being aware of it. Think about it, how many times have you liked something and went THAT IS SO TRUE! The platform that is successfully doing this is of course 9GAG. It is a beautiful thing really. You see people creating posts about how they want to see the world. Standards are being set with a single line description and a picture/gif which fits with their feelings towards the issue. So tell me, is privacy relevant any longer?

 

Marketing to the GenZ consumer is a nightmare. Because, if you are lame they sniff it right out and educate the whole world in a matter of few hours. But here’s the fun part for brands. They also get to hop on-board for this journey of self-realisation with the consumer, as she struggles to find balance in this changing environment. However, some brands just refuse to wake up and smell the coffee. Observe the responses that most advertisements elicit from the teens today and you will understand what I am talking about. It is quite synonymous with the efforts of grandparents who try too hard.

 

Unfaithfulness is the order of the day and the shame associated has been negated. Poke around the internet for a little bit and you will read one thing repeatedly. Customers are switching without guilt. With so much clamour for their attention, the average consumer has become complacent. When I interned for Chennai Super Kings (Franchise of the Indian Premier League) I had devised an index called the ‘fan elasticity’ index to show the impact of fan loyalty. But now, I realise that ‘love elasticity’ index is more appropriate. Because, as a brand I should not settle for Friends with Benefits, I will only be happy with Unconditional Love.

So how do you convert the polygamist to a monogamist?

You come of age only when your consumer starts using you as a badge to express their own identity. This is what we learn as the fit between the personality of the brand and the personality of the person using it. Consumer Behaviour 101. Interestingly, research shows that this need for self-expression is satiated with handful of “Things”. Brands are just a subset of these Things. A Thing can be anything that the consumer uses to advertise to the world about himself. Like being a vegan or listening to Pink Floyd. This means that if you are trying to sell to me, then you probably have to compete with Stanley Kubrick’s movies and P.G. Wodehouse’s books. Pretty tough fight if you ask me. The best way to tackle this is to use a two prong positioning strategy. Position brands in the marketplace with traditional techniques with respect to your reference category AND also position it within the mind of the consumer.

Yes, I know that the answer lies with big data, but cleverness lies in exploiting learnings when you are structuring value around your product. This is the reason for my strong liking for lifestyle marketing practices. When you make it part of the person’s identity then the social risk of switching is much greater. Tesla Motors does this really well. The other day I was reading a report on Euromonitor about what millennials want and the following definition really struck a chord with me. “The Undaunted Striver is close to the millennial archetype: a high achieving, confident, ambitious individual who is nonetheless principled and caring, and is very tech/internet orientated”. Isn’t that exactly what Tesla offers its customer? An opportunity to display style responsibly? Tesla has understood who the consumer is and has successfully become part of his identity. And the man and the car lived happily ever after.

If I were the brand manager… I would make sure that co-creation for the purpose of identity is a two-way street. I would aid the consumer in her attempts to advertise her self-identity. This can be mixed well with recognition based loyalty programs. Take a super market like Carre-four for example. I would set up a large digital leader-board in the store and display the names of consumers who buy green products. Based on their position on the leaderboard I would reward them. This way the consumer gains visibility for “who he is” and you get to promote the high margin categories.

See how I successfully intellectualized my quarter-life crisis with 1000 something words and made it about something else. All this because my 18-year old brother called me uncool. Me. Uncool. #Hmpf.

Digital Trends: 

  • Co-creation: It is when customers involve themselves in one or many stages of value creation along with an organization. Example: My Starbucks Idea campaign.
  • Big Data Analytics: Extracting actionable insights from the large and complex sets of data that is collected about the consumers using various channels.

Crowd Sourcing: A large group of people pool in their resources together to create something.

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