Brands that understand the “paradox of possessions” – will smartly and strategically connect their products and services to EXPERIENCES. Turns out that experiences make us much happier than things. The results of a 20-year study by Dr. Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University are conclusive and straightforward. Check out the article in Forbes from last week.
And what can marketers do to remain relevant?
As I walk outside my New York City office near Broadway and Prince, I see few indications of a change in the consumption habits taking place around the world. The sidewalks in every direction are packed with shoppers carrying such a collection of bags they are quite literally creating pedestrian gridlock. But this is Soho, home to the “one percent” as well as those pretending to be for a few days. But marketers don’t be mislead. Throughout most of the world’s economies there is a major shift in consumption underway that I believe is about to establish a new normal of more conscious consumption.
Gen Y and Z form the point of the conscious consumption spear, but this movement is broadening across other age cohorts as well. Businesses and brands across almost every category should expect to feel the impact – from automotive, home furniture & appliances to food & dining and fashion to travel, finance and banking, energy and more.
The beginning of the shift.
The 2008 – 2012 economic downturn was devastating for many individuals and families around the world. The realities of unemployment and lower discretionary income with no end in sight created a psychology that gave birth to the necessity of doing with less. At first we all felt anger and resentment at the changes in buying power that upended entrenched shopping and consumption habits across a huge swath of our global economy. After all, we had expectations of certain “needs” that were cultivated over the previous 20, 30, 40, 50 years or so. But like many other aspects of real life – once faced with this change, we adapted to it, learned from it and are now beginning a new normal of consumption. One where we not only get along with less, but consciously desire less and understand the myriad reasons why the new normal is a better solution.
According to a recent Euromonitor International report, “The protracted nature of the global economy’s recovery from the financial crisis provides the backdrop to the New Consumerism. In the years following on from the crisis, stagnant incomes, high unemployment and weak consumer confidence helped to fundamentally alter attitudes to consumption.”
As early as 2012 articles appeared about desperate automakers trying to understand the decline among young people in driving overall, let alone buying new cars. In a 2012 Atlantic Monthly article, Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissman wrote that, “The fact is, today’s young people simply don’t drive like their predecessors did. In 2010, adults between the ages of 21 and 34 bought just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, down from the peak of 38 percent in 1985. Miles driven are down, too. Even the proportion of teenagers with a license fell, by 28 percent, between 1998 and 2008.”
While the crashing economy provided the initial chinks in the armor of old school consumption patterns, three other primary forces arose to help carry this trend forward and complete the new normal for consumption.
According to the UN already more than half the world lives in urban areas – with a trend that will add approximately 2.5 billion more inhabitants to cities for total of 66% of the world’s population by 2050. Increasing proximity of large populations of humans will come with both costs and benefits. As relates to the trend toward a new normal of conscious consumption, urbanization creates new opportunities for collaboration and sharing … everything. From ideas to automobiles. From homes to food. There is a growing realization that not everyone needs their own power drill, for example. What they really need is a hole, and borrowing or renting a drill becomes much easier with higher concentrations of people living closely together.
When diverse groups of people come together physically, something else happens on an emotional level. These personal connections inspire music, art, dance, film, food and many other components of a creative class that drive cultural and lifestyle experiences. It’s no wonder research shows more millennials are seeking experiences over goods. A Harris Group study discovered that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend more on experiences than on material items. And millennials are serving as cultural ambassadors for other generational cohorts – older and younger.
Along with growing urbanization around the world comes more visibility and knowledge of the real limits to our natural resources. Across many touch points, people clearly see that water, food, oil, energy and even fresh air are not limitless. Whether through greater access to the Internet or more direct human conversation spreading the word – the result is higher visibility and understanding of the world’s depleting natural resources. And guess what? Consumers actually care. They are slowly shifting their habits to accommodate this understanding.
Looking just at water for a moment, more and more people are taking notice of the amount of water used to make the things we buy. The website PeakProsperity.com reports some startling facts about water. For example, “roughly 40,000 gallons of water are used to build a single car; the process of producing a single latte — from growing the sugarcane and coffee to constructing the paper cup and sleeve — demands 53 gallons of water. Each plastic water bottle, which holds a couple cups of water, takes 1.85 gallons to produce.”
Smart brands know that their consumers know this (or will know this) and have been taking action to support water conservation in their operations. One of the most notable is probably Levi’s who began rethinking water usage earlier this decade. Since launching the Water<Less™ processes in 2011, Levi’s has saved more than 1 billion liters of water in the manufacturing of their products. And they’ve also saved 30 million liters of fresh water through the industry’s first Water Recycling and Reuse Standard, which they piloted with a Chinese vendor partner. These are the type of initiatives by global brands that will help insure strong and relevant connections with consumers as the world transitions to the new normal.
The third – and perhaps most important – component enabling the expansion of this new normal for conscious consumption is technology. While technology as a factor in this trend is multifaceted to say the least, I see the combination of global smartphone penetration (putting computers and the Internet in everyone’s pockets) coupled with transparency and networking that eliminates middle men as having the greatest impact. First of all, information is power and consumers have more of it than ever. At their finger tips. The ability to compare prices, order personalized products and services from companies anywhere in the world – or, perhaps most importantly, from each other – is unprecedented.
Technology is introducing and enabling new direct networks every day that empower individuals in their work, shopping, sharing, eating, traveling, playing and more. Peer to peer network technologies make sharing our under utilized assets easy, safe, fun and profitable. Primarily because they bring real people together without interference from corporate middlemen. Allowing them to provide real product reviews, opinions and, in essence, holding companies accountable to the truth. This is destabilizing the current commercial infrastructure that has existed for decades (if not longer). This shift is paving the way for “clean slate” brands to emerge often at the expense of legacy brands. Old brands were set up in the era of industrial capitalism, when secrecy was a source of competitive advantage and shareholders encouraged pursuit of profit at all costs. For many conscious consumers these “sins” are often difficult to overcome. In the new normal, tradition equals baggage; heritage equals tired or even tainted.
So what does all this mean for marketers?
The new normal of conscious consumption is nothing less than a total reassessment and re-prioritization of consumers needs and wants. Life has become LIFE! and the millennial generation has taken the lead in rewriting their script to get the most out of it. Importantly, they also understand it’s up to them to make sure there is a life to leave behind for future generations.
The impacts from this new belief system will be sweeping and have unique variations across industries and brands. Understanding the new conscious consumption ethos underway will better help all businesses design products and services as well as design marketing messaging and brand connections that better resonate with the evolving consumer desires. The brands who create a platform of authentic experience will likely form a stronger bond with their consumers and enjoy long term sustainable growth.
The new normal is a good thing for commerce and humankind. By more fully understanding the implications and new rules of conscious consumption being imposed on businesses, brands, governments and each other … the more we can all participate in the fruits of sustainable growth.
A new global travel boom is underway largely due to a collision of 2 trends: #1 – Consumers are increasingly shifting their spending from things to experiences. This is true of millennials and older generations as well. “Millennials and more mature demographics share an appreciation of high-touch, human interactions …” According to an American Express Future of Travel study conducted by The Futures Company. #2 – Travel is also benefitting from the exploding global middle class across emerging markets. And these trends are not going unnoticed. Seems that private equity firms are jumping into the tourism and travel experience business with both feet. The Carlyle Group, Apollo Global Management and KKR among them. #experience #millennials
I read an article recently that got me thinking about the true nature of long term, sustainable growth and the importance of designing experiences that creating real engagement with target stakeholders to achieve optimum success.
Believe it or not the headline of the story I’m referring to was: African Tribesmen Can Talk Birds Into Helping Them Find Honey. A well written article that I highly recommend.
The article detailed how Yao honey-hunters in Mozambique have secured the patronage of a woodpecker-like bird species known as the greater honeyguide to achieve a win-win relationship. For purposes of this post we’ll call these tribesmen the “marketers or brands” … and the tiny birds will represent the target “stakeholders.”
By collaborating in the mutually beneficial experience of procuring wild-harvested honey, they have built a long term, sustainable relationship that has resulted in magnificent growth for the Yao tribe over a very, very long time.
In case you don’t know, honey has been a staple source of calories and energy for millennia – also offering other more subtle micro-nutrients and natural immune system boosters that have contributed to growth of the human species. However, the African honey bee is notoriously aggressive and protective of their valuable liquid gold – mostly hiding their hives in the tops of very tall trees.
Enter the greater honeyguides (the target stakeholder in this story) – a natural ally to the human bee-hunters because not only can they easily soar to explore the tree tops, but they have unusually large olfactory systems that allow them to accurately sniff out the hive locations. If only their was a way for the Yao to engage them.
According to the article, the Yao tribesmen have most success when they “recruit and retain honeyguides with a distinctive vocalization; a firmly trilled ‘brrr’ followed by a grunted ‘hmm.’” This (marketing insight) is significant because the Yao (marketers) who searched while playing recorded messages of the “brrr-hmm” (advertising) were more than twice as likely to create interest in and sustained help from the birds (stakeholders) to find honey (achieve their objective).
But why do these birds want to get involved? What inspires them to complete this circle of engagement with the Yao? The way I see it, this smart, free-willed species is excited by their passion for fine, waxy honeycomb cuisine and they know access to this wonderful delight will improve their lives. They also clearly understand that the Yao are inviting them to collaborate in the experience, and that acquiring honeycomb without the help of the Yao is not easy. The Yao, you see, have demonstrated a powerful benefit to the greater honeyguides. They have technology to smoke out bees, cut down the trees and collect the golden treasure, leaving them to gorge on the delicious, waxy honeycomb.
Because this collaborative experience between humans and birds creates high levels of engagement – the birds (stakeholders) are motivated to share their excitement and quite literally begin tweeting about the opportunity. According to the article’s author, Natalie Angier, “the birds can recruit helpers with a chatter, or be recruited with a trill-grunt. They can show their human companions the right trees with more chatters or a flick of their white-tipped tails.”
So, what are the marketing lessons can we take away from this successful story of natural experiential engagement?
SEPARATE BUT NOT DISCONNECTED. The Yao tribesmen and the greater honeyguide birds are two completely different species – about as dissimilar and disconnected as you can imagine. This is in parallel to how brands and their target stakeholders are also thought of as being different “animals.” The birds in this case are free-living creatures in the wild – with their own interests and pursuits. The Yao tribesmen are looking to achieve their objectives in order to grow. Marketers and stakeholders almost always have different needs and wants, but they can form authentic relationships built around mutually beneficial experiences.
- MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL. Finding an authentic and natural commonality is vital for marketing success. In this example, not only was there a mutual benefit in the functional sense of securing food for life, but there seems to also have been an equally important emotional benefit resulting from the unique inter-species communication, friendship and relationship. For every brand seeking to create a relationship with consumer, customer or employee stakeholders – there is ALWAYS a common ground incentive that will naturally connect and inspire engagement.
- EXPERIENCE MATTERS. According to the research presented in the article, Yao hunters found their targeted beehives 54 percent of the time, versus just 17 percent when not assisted with honeyguide collaboration. This amazing, inter-species relationship has achieved results that are three times more successful than when working separately. In nature, just as in marketing, it’s always about the experience. A natural, authentic experience that connects brands with stakeholders through shared passions will most often achieve win-win results.
- LONG TERM SUSTAINABLE GROWTH. According the article, scientists suggest the relationship between Yao tribesmen and the greater honeyguide bird species could be “more than a million years old,” which would absolutely meet anyone’s definition of long term. Growing brands takes time. While rapid acceleration is often required and attempted, creating a sustainable relationship with stakeholders built on mutually beneficial motives will drive steady, incremental growth. When you consider that the oldest brands in the world “only” date back to the 16th and 17th centuries (brands like Cambridge Press, Bushmills and Barclays), this “million year” example of sustainable growth can only highlight the simple elegance and long term approach of nature.
In the end, the article sums up the win-win relationship quite nicely. “Nothing can match the relationship between honeyguide and honey hunter. ‘Honeyguides provide the information and get the wax,’ Dr. Spottiswoode said. ‘Humans provide the skills and get the honey.’” Both groups enjoy the delicious fruits of the partnership – and both groups enjoy long term, sustainable growth.
According to Ad Age CREATIVITY online, the Brazilian office of Ogilvy has come up with a truly functional print advertising. The magazine ad for Glacial beer helps drinkers chill beer bottles in half the time. Simply soak the ad in water, wrap it around a beer bottle. Place the bottle in the freezer and bingo! ice cold in half the time. What’s the secret? Salt particles embedded in the paper help expedite the process.
It’s true. The mobile revolution is here. Smartphone penetration in US households is at 70% and rising. The average American now spends 7 more hours per month on their smartphone than they did in 2013. For many, using mobile phones may have crossed the line from a being a highly functional communication device to an addiction. As of last year, 63% of women and 73% of men ages 18 – 34 say they don’t go an hour without checking their phones. (But we’ll save the FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – conversation for another blog post).
It also may surprise you to realize that making phone calls is now the 5th most used feature – after Internet, social media, music and game play.
Perhaps the most significant smartphone usage increase has been in mobile video consumption. In fact, more than 50% of Verizon’s mobile traffic is now video, with 66% predicted by 2017.
Interestingly, according to Nielsen, while people spend more than 38 hours per month on their phones, mobile comprises only about 4 percent of total advertising spending. Industry executives debate this figure since many online advertisements are actually being consumed via the smartphones of mobile consumers surfing the Internet.
So get ready for more helpful (and potentially annoying) advertisements coming to your smartphone. According to mobile advertising professionals at a recent conference, marketers are now better equipped with mobile measurement tools than ever before, giving them the ability to dive into mobile advertising with higher confidence. Mobile is here to stay, and will dramatically change how we think about engaging with consumers.
A billboard for engineering university UTEC in Peru purifies air up to five blocks away. The campaign is a “do, not say” approach to the importance of an education in engineering and technology. IP address location . Situated within the construction site of UTEC’s new campus, the billboard can filter 100,000 cubic meters of air per day. You can watch a video about the project for more details.
Samsung recently released its first curved UHD television in Europe and is promoting with a brilliant and cinematic TV ad by CHI & Partners . Unlike other electronics commercials, this one perfectly captures the real reason why you NEED this TV. The spot was filmed entirely in 4K (which is to say – four times Full High Definition). CHI & Partners shot this on location in New Zealand with Park Pictures. Check out the awesomeness. Hopefully we’ll be seeing this television and this commercial in the US soon.
The collaboration will create the largest full-service agency in Western North Carolina, Native Marketing and Element Advertising have entered into a strategic business agreement that will bring the branding, marketing, creative and management talents of both agencies under one roof. The partnership unites some of the most respected advertising and marketing executives in the region, including Element founding partners Jack Becker, Rob Young and Matt Levin, and Native Marketing founder Craig McAnsh.
Read official press release here: PressRelease ElementNative.