Planning for 2015: 3 Macro Trends You Should Embrace

Posted by Ryann Malone - November, 17 2014

"When the wind of change rises, some people build walls. Others build windmills."
– Chinese proverb

It's that time of year again when analysts and futurists release their predictions of where consumer trends are going. We've sorted through the reports and separated the technological innovations that may be trending (but are still far from mainstream consumer lifestyles) and narrowed a list to those cultural and consumer trends that are likely to have the most impact on our clients' businesses.

Here are our top 3 macro trends in 2015:

1. Consumer Power: The Rise of the Masses

For several years now, consumers have had unprecedented influence when it comes to product reviews and customer service—taking to the internet to praise or criticize. And, since a vast percentage of consumers trust personal recommendations over advertising, citizen-generated commentary has power to affect the bottom line.

In 2014, the consumer has found the power to affect corporate behavior through boycotts, viral videos, and other actions fueled by social media. The fact that consumers can register their protests with the click of a button means these movements can quickly inflame, regardless of their basis in fact (or not). "Clicktivism" has been felt around issues as varied as marriage equality, fair wages, the humane treatment of animals, GMO foods, and even corporate tax inversions.

According to the global marketing intelligence agency, Mintel, "consumers are no longer just enlivened by the ability to protest, they are also coming to expect that even social media campaigns will force their desired outcome." So what does an activist's stance on fair wages have to do with your business? Consumers now expect companies to be more transparent and authentic in their business dealings. According to futurist Anne Lise Kjaer, "Businesses and governments must have an attractive ethical dimension and practice a 'genuine caring attitude'. Tomorrow's citizen wants fair trade and traceability – he wants more meaning."

Why not turn this expectation for social responsibility and transparency into a smart business strategy? Mintel suggests that marketers consult with consumers on products, promotions, and corporate policies even before initiatives are launched. By getting them involved earlier, you can turn your consumers into champions, not critics.

2. Gender Equality

Gender equality has been on the cultural agenda for decades, but has yet to be realized in every facet of society. Today, however, women are better educated than men, and there are more female entrepreneurs than male. People’s quests for individualization and rejection of gender-based stereotypes can no longer be ignored. We've already seen a rejection of gender stereotypes in campaigns like Always #LIKEAGIRL and Cheerio’s #HOWTODAD campaign. According to Mintel, "now is the time for marketers to show they understand consumers' modern perceptions of gender, namely that consumers are much more complex than the social constraints build around them." What this means for businesses is to ditch gender (and all other) stereotypes and embrace the consumers' need to be seen as the complex, unique individuals they are.

3. Don’t Push Product, Make Life Better

This isn't the 1960s. Businesses can no longer expect to achieve success by touting the functional attributes of its products or services. Tomorrow's consumer wants to know how a product can benefit and empower them, not promote your business or enrich your profit margin.

Ms. Kjaer puts tomorrow's consumer into two camps—the hunters and the gatherers. The gatherers (the We people) are inclined toward behaviors that benefit the group. They look for original, authentic, and ethical products and services. The hunters (the Me people) are self-oriented and inclined toward products and services that enhance their personal lives and experiences.

All people make emotional decisions first, then rationalize their decision with functions and benefits. So, skip the product pitch and instead tell a story about your higher purpose. For the We tribe, give a purpose narrative that appeals to their need for ethical behavior and uncomplicated solutions: "we make the world better by...": saving wildlife (Dawn); donating new shoes to the impoverished (Toms); or, empowering women (Dove).

For the Me tribe, tell a benefit story that appeals to their need for self-actualization: "we make your life better by… so you can…" We make sturdy outdoor gear so you can go rock climbing (REI); we save you time so you can spend more time doing the things you love (Method Daily Shower Cleaner); or, we save you money so you can live better (Walmart).

If any marketing message comes through, it should be authentic to your brand and focused on your higher purpose. Not making money; making life better.

 

Laura Neitzel is the Director of Content and Planning at Alchemy at AMS. She has a black belt in English Literature and a PhD in Chardonnay.

Sources:
Mintel Consumer Trends 2015: http://www.mintel.com/en/us-consumer-trends-2015/
Anna Lise Kjaer: http://www.kjaer-global.com/, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIYx3ejQtNM,
http://global-influences.com/scientific/emergent-technologies/kjaer-global-trends-2015/, http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/forget-products-sell-hope-0

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