A Bird In The Hand:
Apparently we no longer need to own things to be fulfilled…
The age-old saying that encouraged us to place more value
in what we actually have than what we can potentially experience
has died hard over recent decades. The scarcity and obsessive
acquisition of the 80’s and the commercial optimism of the 90’s
led to a series of subsequent ups and downs that taught us that
nothing is certain. As a result, somewhere along the line, access
and experience became more valuable than ownership.
Fast forward to 2015 and changes in technology, social culture,
lifestyle and entertainment media have conspired to create
a perfect storm which has seen us shift from an ‘acquisition’
culture to a true ‘consumption’ culture.
We only have to look at the fierce rise in popularity of music
streaming services such as Spotify, which comfortably boasts
a 20M+ paid subscription base, or the explosive rise of premium
SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) services such as Netflix
for evidence that mass culture has shifted beyond recognition.
It’s not just the entertainment industry that is experiencing
a massive shift in values, having to adapt accordingly. ‘Generation
rent’ have also dictated that the upfront investment and effort
of buying property just isn’t worth it, with nearly half of UK 25-
to 34-year-olds renting their home, a percentage that has
doubled in a decade. Even on the high street, low cost fashion
is being purchased with a limited number of ‘wears’ in mind,
and with an average item retail price of £3.84 at stores such
as Primark, the consumer can hardly be blamed for ‘consuming’.
All of this points to the fact that our attribution of value has
So the question is, what role can our products and brands
possibly play in a world where ownership is secondary to
access and experience?
First of all, we need to look at how the things we create can
enhance life experience. In the same way the perfect playlist
can make breakfast on a rainy Sunday morning into a rich
experience, we need to change our language from “must have”
to “must experience” when talking about the goals we have for
the status of our products and brands. This prime position in the
mindset of the consumer allows us to retain relevance, regardless
of how trends shift.
Secondly, we need to tell rich stories of brand values, product
experience, and holistic user benefits, rather than leading with
functionality and attributes. Products themselves have a distinct,
marked value benchmarked by the competitor set and hence
will always be limited by the old measures of “have” or “have
not”. Experiences are priceless, and as long as we’re adding
value, communicating it with context and authenticity the
notional comparative cost will always be secondary.
The generations before us used to talk about “building a life”,
essentially positioning product ownership as central to that
pursuit. If we’re going to make meaningful connections and
continue to build brand loyalty we need to tell clear, credible
stories for a consumer who now prioritises “living one”.