08.01.16

AGE OF THE CONSUMER

CRUSH ORIGINAL

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A Bird In The Hand:

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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.

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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

changed forever.

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.

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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”.

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