Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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As I think about ten “rock my world” changes going on in marketing and media, they fall into three broad themes: changing our approach to media planning; changing our thinking about building brands and understanding the changing consumer and world we live in. This blog is about the third big bucket.  Click here for part one on media planning. Click here for part two on branding in a two-way world.

Marketing is forever changed by the “two-way world” we live in. People are no longer just members of passive audiences they are now also active participants.  They can pull information via search, going to owned media sites, become brand ambassadors (or angry activists) by exchanging ideas with friends in social networks. 

Marketers now need to build their brands in a mental marketplace to connect with people in four ways; functional needs, social attraction, self-expressive value, and offering entertaining and informative content that stimulates curiosity.

Brand building in a two way world means it is more important than ever to understand the changing world and how people are living their lives, which is the final theme within the ten “rock my world” changes. 

8. Multicultural becomes the American mainstream

According to the US Census Bureau, by 2023, minorities will comprise more than half of all children and by 2042, minorities are expected to become the majority. Maximizing brand relevance means that marketers have also made their brand culturally relevant. Two 2009 ARF Ogilvy Award winners who clearly demonstrated this were Honey Nut Cheerios and Allstate. Regarding Allstate, research found that Hispanics’ understanding of insurance products, the motivators and the process by which they go about buying insurance were different from Anglos’ approaches. Allstate re-engineered its owned media and agent environment (both English and Spanish) resulting in dramatic business success. 

9. Staying ahead of changing societal and personal values

As the values of society change, product and service marketers, as well as retailers, must stay in rhythm with society. Trends towards wellness, our aging population, and concern for the environment are examples of drivers of packaging, product ingredients, labeling, messaging and shopping experience. 

10. The new marketing research: commitment to quality and listening to the unprompted voice

As consumer values change, a commitment to insights generation is essential to bring the human into the boardroom. As telephone research gets less practical and less affordable, online surveys become essential for marketers, yet, data have not always appeared reliable. The ARF-led Foundations of Quality research program and Quality Enhancement Process are intended to understand and address the root causes of lack of data reliability. 

The research function in an organization really should do two things; quantify the expected (provides metrics that chart business progress and direct resources) and listen for the unexpected (to fuel new thinking about innovation). Listening gives us a way to tap into naturally occurring conversations and behavioral signals found in social media and search to hear changes in vocabulary and sense the next big thing. Listening is essential for innovating new offerings, media strategies, and having an existing brand adjust course.  Listening also opens a portal to impacting the rest of the organization as it merges insights and learning together with marketing action.  First you listen, then integrate yourself, then hopefully create a community of brand enthusiasts who even become ambassadors. 

The Changing World: The Bottom Line

Marketers must become fast learning organizations in a world where society and technology evolve at accelerating rates and change the consumer landscape. Management intuition based on past behaviors and preferences are becoming increasingly inaccurate predictors of the future, which makes a future-focused marketing research/consumer insights function more important than ever. Marketing research must not only measure but should also use a full range of listening tools to guide the marketing organization based on anticipatory insights.

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One Response to “Ten big marketing trends, part III; the changing consumer”

  1. Hi Joel,
    Great series. For the old-fogey research community, I love your #10.

    However, your #9 bothers me, “Staying ahead of changing societal and personal values.” Sure, a marketer can be more successful by staying on top of trends, though I’m uncomfortable of how you frame values as levers of strategy. Sure, you can embrace values to calculate packaging, product ingredients, labeling, messaging and shopping experience. But that’s a framework of calculation and gamesmanship. In our world, we need fewer marketers pursuing strategy and gamesmanship for the purpose of their own advancement. Instead, we need a greater, genuine alignment of personal values with marketer purpose, intentions, behaviors and outcomes. Greater competitiveness and market success will become a by-product of a purpose-driven existence. That’s the fundamental core missing from so many marketers, the people that work within those organizations and the stakeholders whom they interact in the world with: a misalignment of purpose.