We seem to have reached a real changing point.    In every conference, news site and in every company boardroom there is a discussion about the change that is happening.  New markets, new competitors, new audiences, new data, new everything in fact. Everything is moving so fast. Today, consumers can do almost everything on their mobile phone, as that never leaves them.

They can do all their important buying and playing, including entertaining themselves by playing games at a Springbok mobile. Customer expectations are changing swiftly and there is a huge growth in competition.

It can be difficult to know where to put the focus. At this time, it is those brands that are deemed to be more emotionally relevant that are more highly valued.   Customers today have most of the power. It is they who decide what is relevant. It is now more complicated to find the right avenues to reach the mass market. And to maintain momentum once there.

Brands represent us and our wishes and who we are aiming to be. However, today that has become quite a complicated task. Today’s world is all about “You”. Everyone is involved in creating their own special image and unique characteristics.   Brands that don’t move and remain static will lose relevance very quickly. There is no slow down, our world is constantly in ‘on mode’. The questions to ask are as follows:

What are the things that your customers want today, and what might they want tomorrow?

How do you use this information to weigh up the rewards and risks of your decisions and plans?

Getting to what is important

Really understanding customers is no easy task. Everyone is really quite unique.  Consumers really do think differently from the people who produce things. Businesses need and want to know how to increase sales, build more, interact more and list more.

The actual managing of a corporate company is very functional. On the other hand, consumers are interested in how they will look and feel, what they will receive and what others will think about them.  Consumers are generally emotional.

Alternatively, look at it a different way.  When a good friend says “Wow, you look great in those pants”, that’s the truth you want to hear.  The way a customer feels is way more important than how the product got to the store, how clean the shop was or how long they had to wait on line to purchase it.

These functional assets of brands and the functional details are pretty simple for companies to figure out and even easier to alter or fix and regularly manage.  And the truth is that this is easy for every business to deal with. So being on top of the functional aspects of the business doesn’t equal any competitive lead.   This isn’t what makes a business shine brighter than others.

These functional aspects are not in fact your brand.   When your customer’s needs and expectations have been met, it is at this moment that your brand is made.   To become really significant to your customers it is crucial to truly understand their language and their desires and values. And these are constantly shifting.

The co-founder of Brandless, Tina Sharkey, says “I’ve watched the rejection of government. People are losing trust in industry, the numbers speak for themselves: most millennials are saying, “Wait a second, I don’t want to buy the stuff that my parents bought”. And most people say they want to do business with brands that reflect their values”.

Everywhere in the world consumers are changing the way they do things.  From buying, eating, driving, working, observing and managing things. Their values and beliefs, their hopes, fears and dreams.  All the things that determine their ultimate behavior.

As people’s values and beliefs are changing, we see that so too are the basic principles of consumerism changing and this impacts everything from soap powder to avocados, to politics and environmentalism too.  This change has real commercial consequences.

According to a top brand tracking agency, 90 of the best 100 CPG brands market share was down and that sales were also down.   The big brand narrative is no longer acceptable to the consumer. Customers are moving away from the usually accepted principles of the big market brands.  Those traditionally accepted and around which the brands were developed.

The two major contributing factors causing this change

No one is the same

Today, it is totally up to you to how you wish to portray yourself. With the help of the internet you can locate others just like you.

Traditionally we associated with our families, friends and those people that lived in our immediate surroundings. The way we purchased things and the way we lived generally was subject to what we saw around us, what we could experience.

Most of our values were formed by our immediate environment.  Things are different now. The internet has changed everything. So many different ideas are now able to circulate freely and have a captive audience.  T

oday the opinions of your immediate physical neighbors are not so important, you can plug into your online community for validation.   It is now more acceptable to be different. Access to these different communities and ways of thinking give people different options of being in the world.

These changes don’t necessarily have to be extreme.   Consumers are just more informed, more aware of new ways of being and new ideas. For instance, that goat’s milk might be healthier than cow’s milk or that men can also use and enjoy beautifying products. Today it is more acceptable to be yourself and few will pass judgement.

Keeping up with the Joneses

As we know this is all about keeping ahead of the game, having it first and the knowledge that no-one else has it.   It’s all about social status. Brands have forever used the concept of “New”. But things are not the same as they were. Society, with the help of the media and now the internet, has changed the kind of influences and the kind of people we need to impress have changed and the methods brands use must change too.

The construct of Keeping up with the Joneses is fairly simple. On some level it helps us see where we fit into our world.  With the internet this is not the case. We don’t see a complete picture. The content has been carefully selected.

Today we are keeping up with someone, or something else, and it is not the Joneses.    The pressures are great, from keto dieters, to fashion bloggers, to political analysts or butterfly enthusiasts or wherever your interest lies, the emotional currency is now much greater.   On social media, via pictures and other messages, the pressure is on to spend more money and to go one step further than the next guy.

A mass market brand

A mass market brand would need to be suitable for the masses.   But how is that possible when everyone today wants to be unique? New ways need to be found to designing brand, revamping operational models and new ways of designing that will speak to a multitude of people.

In the ‘old days’ efficiencies in manufacturing, distribution, logistics and supply chains were enough to give a company a competitive edge.  We operated in an indirect brand economy. Brands came to be known through ad shops and through publishers.

Today the top and successful brands function like a magnet, drawing in customers to the business. Businesses need to have a thorough understanding of the reasons of how and why they create relevance.  The world is moving so fast and consumers’ expectations shift rapidly all the time.

The competitive edge lies in having immense customer data that will help to develop relevance and create attention.   It will be useful to know the particular places and indicators of consumer change, check new ways of interacting, new plans and products and deeply connect with them in order to drive action.

In this new world, consumers want a deeper connection. We have to offer more dynamism. More personality instead of attributes, relationship rather than promise, mass becomes personalized and meaning instead of awareness.  Today your brand must be in line and step with what the customer wants and believes you are able to deliver.

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