How to use the new consumer math to your advantage
Any accountant will tell you that running a successful business is a series of math equations. And the same could be said for the way customers interact with your business. These days, the ‘consumer calculus’ that plays into developing relationships has changed dramatically due to the pandemic.
Over the last 18 months, it seems the entire populace has reexamined life priorities. The disruption to the way things had been gave people a chance to reassess what mattered most to them — and across every aspect of their life.
With this, people are more likely to scrutinise the products, services, and brands that they interact with. And more and more (and especially as certain aspects of life have spun out of control), people want to feel like they’re in command and are increasingly conscious about their spending choices.
Finding the balance
At the same time, unfortunately, the political and social divisions that have been steadily increasing for several years have reached new levels of intensity. People have become more polarised in their thinking, less forgiving, and tend to apply a more ‘us-versus-them’ view on issues.
The middle ground has seemingly disappeared. This forces brands to walk on a tightrope, with big chances for missteps in how they might reflect on issues (social, political, ethical, etc.) outside of their core business.
There has been a contradictory convergence of consumers feeling more empowered than ever, right as many are feeling like society is spinning out of control around them. In times like these, fear and anxiety increase — and so does the desire for control and the defiance against those who might impose perceived limits on that control.
With all of this, it’s crucial for brands to not just be attuned to what’s happening in society at large, but also to be sure they’re doing their best to know their own consumers on an individual level.
Anything a brand can do to empower consumers to easily state their personal preferences and then deliver on those preferences with absolute relevancy will deepen (or at least maintain) a brand-consumer relationship. This is true even in the most turbulent times.
The key is to balance making that process simple and seamless while also being specific in a way that makes the consumer feel like the brand truly knows and values them. So even though the digital clutter of our world makes it easy for a brand’s message to get lost amid all the other information that’s constantly flying at a consumer, the very technologies that got us here also give brands the opportunity to cut through and connect.
Meet and exceed
For brands and marketers that want to successfully navigate this shifting consumer calculus and create deeper relationships, there are a handful of places to start. Especially as we continue to move toward greater restrictions on personal data and tracking as well as more consumer empowerment to limit these things, brands would be wise to first shore up their preference centres and encourage consumers to shape communications more to their own liking.
With that, brands will need to have the ability to create and deliver highly dynamic, modular messaging streams that will deliver the increased personalisation and relevance that consumers demand. Additionally, brands need to keep in mind the value that they’re bringing to their consumers with each touch (and not just through their product or service).
More than ever, it will be crucial for a brand to be able to properly set a consumer’s expectations about an experience and then manage those expectations over the long haul. If brands can routinely exceed expectations through surprise and delight, they’ll be able to keep customers as loyal fans. And eventually, they’ll become staunch brand advocates.
In order to do so effectively, brands need to go a little bit outside of their comfort zones. Content continues to be king, and consumers’ voracious appetite for it shows no signs of slowing down. Brands have the chance to create content that’s about more than just their products and services — to tell compelling stories in the form of original branded content with high production value that can truly help lift sentiment about the brand.
In some situations, it might also make sense to adopt the “throwback” models of sponsored content, just like brands did in the early days of TV (where a brand might sponsor a show and really be the only advertiser on that show).
We’re already seeing this in a less overt form in the way over-the-top streaming channels will often serve up just one or two brands’ ads during an entire episode. It’s easy to see how brands might take the next step and get in on the ground floor of sponsoring all kinds of content: traditional narrative shows, reality TV, documentaries, and even YouTube content.
Reverting to form
At the same time, the more that digital noise becomes ubiquitous, the more brands have the chance to stand out through old-school channels such as direct mail. These days, a beautifully designed and well-targeted mail package might have a better chance of making a connection with a consumer than 100 different retargeted ads online.
In actuality, the best mix would be to do both.
Hamish McCollester, SVP, Group Creative Director, RAPP LA, is best known for solving creative problems… and creatively solving problems. He started his ad adventure 25 years ago in a rogue New York agency, writing mind-...