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The last decades companies have lived in isolation. They were to big and technology was not ready to create dialogue with your favourite people(customers). Many research firms helped companies to interpret the needs of their customers. Ad agencies tried to help you reach these customers(brands, mass marketing). As a company you defined yourself through the difference between input(ingredients) and output(product, brand). Those were the only real tangible elements of the company. These elements defined WHAT kind of machine you are: I make phones, I sell coffee, I advice. The goal of these companies was to grow. A very logical goal for an isolated company(come back on this later).
Now that companies are connected some fundamental things are changing…
As you feel part of a bigger tangible network your focus of WHAT changes to WHY. This is the same for customers asfor companies. Next to individual growth a new need is being developed: the need to contribute. When you are in a network growth is less important than contribution. Think about sport: which question is a soccer player concerned with? How can I contribute to the team or how can I become faster/stronger(input-output). In individual sports people are focusing on input/output.
We feel responsible for the group. This is in human nature. The networked internet provides the fundament for the development of contribution. It is the fact that we are connected that we are able to start contributing. Our identity will be a less important item to focus on. Our role in the bigger picture will become the major question. It is the “why” question that will be big. Brands have always focussed on the “who” question..
I believe tha this change has the following consequences for companies. It is the customer who will ask you(Mr. company): “how you will contribute to a better life and a better planet?” Fulfilling his/her need by doing so and pushing you to do some hard thinking. As a company you will have to ask yourself what you contribute in this network of People, Companies and NGO’s. Do not focus on input and output only. Ask how you can contribute to a better place. Customers will drop brands like hot potatoes. They are not loyal to you as you have not been loyal to them.
Another consequence is the irrelevance of lifestyle marketing(see part one). Products will not be used to buy identities(excluding teenagers?). Just as companies, consumers are less focussing who they are. Collaboration and contribution will be the key words in this networked life(style). So forget about these aspiring lifestyles.
Some industries which will be hugely impacted through this new thinking are: automotive, cosmetics, fashion and gadgets. Typical products based on aspiration marketing: Selling you the lifestyle. Here is my prediction: we will ask the brands in these sectors to tell us how their products contribute to a better planet. “So Mr. Tommy Hilfiger how does your lifestyle help us?” “So Mercedes how do these cars help us?” Shouldn’t these brands be focussed on facilitating us? Facilitating(contributing) the lives we want, and do this in dialogue.
For clothing for example what is important is that you as a company do everything to let me feel the way i want to feel. Next to that the product needs to contribute(not talking about RED initiative, good start). I am talking about good materials, good design, economic, clean and green. Now this doesn’t look revolutionary does it? Well it is.. Because companies don’t sell brands(symbols of aspirational lifestyles) but are facilitating me in my life. Next to that the company will be judged by it’s reputation and not it’s created image(by marketing). Transparancy is the key attribute to make this succsful transition.
I am happy that I don’t work at an ad agency…;-)
Well this is a great example how my below post(end of brands) works in practice. I finally understand why I don’t like Apple…
A big part of rich western world(let’s remember we are a small part of the total world) is now getting connected through internet. Social networks and blogs are the perfect examples. Next to that we are connected we are getting empowered. Brands start to listen to “us”: cocreation and corporate blogs are the first signs. What I am wondering is, how does this development influence the selecting and buying process of products? This is the first post in a row. It will focus on the shifting of product values.
So here are my thoughts on that. Well more than thoughts. These are my beliefs.
The last decades we were isolated. We were passive. We listened. Brands addressed our fears and personal value. A complete divide and conquer market from the producers side. We were consumption machines. This isolation (or individualism, how it is sold to us) created an excellent platform for brands to address each indivual on their individual needs. Many companies still think that this is what people want. But this is incorrect. We want to be connected again. Just like thousands of years ago.
So what happens when we are connected again…
For one thing your individual needs will change and the needs of the community will start to influence you aswell. The last decade many of the individual needs were based on a certain level of aspiration. Products provided in aspired identities. For example they made you fashionable, luxurious, beautful, hip, new(technology), but also classic. The complete car, fashion and FMCG industry are based on this model. The million dollar question is why to we aspire these identities? My belief is because we don’t feel connected. It is the isolation that makes us incomplete. It is the isolation that makes us want to communicate about ourselves through products. How relevant is this mechanism if you are not isolated but part of a global family(your home)? Compare it for example with the clothing you wear when visiting your closest family compared to visiting absolute strangers. In this connected world you will be searching for true value not symbolised value(through marketing). Real value like: design, product quality, creativity, emotionally triggering products, environmental friendly production, good working conditions and healthy products. Next to these product attributes also the whole existence of the company needs to be contributing to a better planet. These are all intrinsic values compared to symbolic(aspirational) values. So basically the created image(brand) through aspirational messages is not valued. Also it is very hard to create a sustainable deep fanbase for your product when it is hold together through aspiration fulfillment. Instead it is the REAL behaviour and reputation of a company which determines the value. This is a core I repeat a core difference… In this “post marketing era” where we understand the real motivation of every marketing campaign we need to change the way of working and the way of communicating. Companies need to redefine the value of the product/company. They need to find ways to contribute to intrinsic values.
Little side step:
Have a look at Nokia’s segmentation found on Ringnokia
On the right side you see the aspirational lifestyles. Nokia’s fashion, music, techy, active phone are positioned there. This is exactly where Nokia(Connecting people!!) in Western Developed countries have difficulties to create a good marketshare. . In these categories Nokia wants to sell aspirational products. Well is that a match? connecting people <–> be who you want to be. This is dangerous road.. The products which do fly(8800, 7370, 6111) just have great design and/or good materials. So the aspirational values are not not the reason to buy it but the intrinsic values are. This is something which I consider to be a flaw in Nokia’s approach to the segments.
These are my maybe still unstructured thoughts on the changing way consumers will value products. Maybe it is wishful thinking..
Remember this only applies to the developed western world. Feedback on this subject is very welcome as the thoughts evolve every day.
Here a slide of the change:
Now that customers are getting out of isolation so do companies. In Part Two I will talk about the effect it has on companies not being isolated( from customers, suppliers, competition) anymore.
Something is changing.. It is big…
Our relationship with the BIG brands and Multi Multinationals is changing. We know them, they know us..
They know we are not interested anymore in the BS marketing. We want more. The days of mass consumption/mass marketing are about to be ended. We want value! Value in consumption but also value in production. Cultural Creatives are clustering. Their power is growing.
Be prepared to answer some difficult questions in the near future..
“So Mr. Big Brand what are you contributing to this world? I am not talking about charity initiatives(2% of turnover). I am talking about your true reason of being. How is your existence on this planet helping us all in making this a better place? Why are you here? Why are you producing?”
If we keep networking in the pace we are doing now. Customers will become the next biggest Multinational/Political Movement around.
It is time…
Just opened shop on Spreadshirt.. 😉 Already ordered one for myself. I will be wearing it friday at Brightlive. See you there??
Thanks to the people at Spreadshirt for sponsoring(express sending) the shirt.
More and more I am drawn to initiatives which mix the online world with the real world. When a community force is involved in such an iniative it really wakes me right up. Things like the Freehugscampaign and OneWorld. These initiatives start to spread all over the world. Makes me even wonder if we all would hold hands we could create world peace 😉
Well I am drifting.. Ji Lee started a project where he started sticking empty cartoon balloons(30.000 pieces) on ads in New York. He waited what people would write on them and posted those on his internetpage.
Well why are the bubbleproject and the hug campaign such strong tools? Here are my thoughts:
Communication: it provokes communication
Community: everybody is part of one project
Creativity: it facilitates creativity
More and more I think that these 3 elements are the key to many social products we now see on the internet(social sharing, networks). Do we see examples of initiatives containing these magic three elements in the “real life”? Stich and Bitch: the knitting groups which are popping up all over the world. Looks like the magic three are contained there.
Is it possible that the creative power and sense of community which is created through the internet now spins off in real life. So we basically freed ourselves from passive consumption(TV) and formed the tools we (deeply)wanted(community, creativity and communication) on internet and now we are ready and confident to build these tools back in real life?
Example: Will we see more dance contests on the schoolground?