When we look back at 2011, many will remember it as the year of the Occupy Movement, as the representation for the 99% found their voice, aiming to bring about change by influencing the controls of economic wealth and political power.
Meanwhile, earlier in the year, Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard University published a paper in Harvard Business Review entitled "Creating Shared Value." His writing focused on the redefinition of capitalism in order to create a value model where both economic and societal benefit is generated.
What each of these examples potently illustrate is the real power of our cultural values in society and how the foundations of capitalism, democracy, and consumerism are being profoundly redefined.
For brands the challenge goes far beyond the marketing department and demands a complete rethink about the fundamental relationship between the brand and the end user. As purchasing decisions continue to be increasingly driven based on the contribution the brand plays in society and culture, what we are witnessing is a shift from the idea of a relatively simple ever-purchasing consumer, to a more complex, vested species of client.
Emphasizing The Co In Consumer
In order for brands to come to terms with this change, it’s important to understand the three core drivers of consumer demand.
The economic model is shifting, and with it, companies need to rethink the role their brand plays in society. This means reappraising the practices that business will support for the benefit of economic performance, trade, shareholders, employees, and co:sumer end use and societal impact. Think about what your brand stands for, and build its role for the collective benefit of all stakeholders touched by the business. As more co:sumers will continue to expect more from the brands they support, more brands are going to make claims of helping the environment, donating a portion of proceeds, etc. Make sure your co:llective strategy transparently delivers real and genuine tangible benefits that show the commitment you are making for mutual benefit.
Using a co:llaborative model allows brands to engage and enable their co:sumers to produce new platforms that benefit the shared ideals of the business and society. Pepsi understood this when launching the Pepsi Refresh Project, its idea-funding initiative, which in its first year garnered more votes supporting ideas than votes cast in the last presidential election. The focus of co:llaborative initiatives should aim to focus on driving participation by recruiting the most motivated and influential co:sumers and providing them with a platform to curate their ideas by enlisting the broader support of their own social groups.
Co:creative strategy is about providing a shared enterprise platform, which provides co:sumers the opportunity to develop their own initiatives based on the core product or service of the brand. One brand that infuses a co:creative mindset into its offerings is Microsoft. The Kinect for Xbox 360 has evolved beyond a new way to play a video game. Instead, as this recently released commercial, "The Kinect Effect," shows, Kinect is now being used in ways that before could only be imagined. Beyond play, co:sumers are able to explore ways to innovate and develop new uses for the product.
The New Model Youth
Millennials tend to see brands as companies with influence, and they have higher expectations set than previous generations to what these companies should provide. A new consumer model is highly relevant to this younger population. It's well documented that the collectivist ideals of the Millennial generation will be felt now that more members of the generation are of voting age and entering the workforce. As they begin to feel the effects of the relationship between politics and business play, this will have an effect on their outlook of the future. The smart brands, like Starbucks, who are responding to changes faster than others (for example, with its "Create Jobs for USA" initiative), understand this.
2012, The Year Of The New Consumer
Now, as we look forward to 2012 with continued economic uncertainty, and the looming presidential election, we can expect to see an increased pressure on corporations to align with these new consumer ideals. Individuals will increasingly look to the companies they choose to spend their money with to provide solutions for society, even in circumstances where government may have formerly taken the lead.
What you need to ask is, is your brand ready for the new consumer uprising?
[Image: Flickr user majorbonnet]