3 New Ways Brands Can Reach Today’s Consumer

The changing tides of culture shift how brands connect to consumers. Here are three insights on the matter from Wolff Olins.

Culture is always changing, but in the age of apps, Kickstarter, and 3-D printing, the definition of a consumer is shifting, and so the definition of a brand must shift along with it. Recently, international brand consultancy Wolff Olins and Flamingo published a report explaining how to navigate this complicated near-future. Here are the three ways consumers are changing, and the lessons Wolff Olins offers in response.


Trend 1: Everyone Questions The Status Quo

Lesson: Flank The Status Quo With More For Less

You don’t need to look beyond the comments on this very article to spot this trend for yourself: Everyone is skeptical. But Wolff Olins stresses that we don’t just complain about the status quo, we “sidestep” it. Sidestepping led us to Skype instead of paying the phone company for long distance, or to use Kickstarter instead of leaving the success of a product in the hands of venture capitalists. Sidestepping mixes more capability with lower costs and wraps it in a more authentic message.

For brands to compete, Wolff Olins recommends “thinking less about selling people, and more about enlisting them.” They say it’s not just enough to create a better, cheaper product–like a new pair of shoes–but to share a brand’s own sense of purpose and bring consumers along for the ride–like Tom’s Shoes.

Trend 2: People Want to Make And Sell

Lesson: Empower People To Make And Sell


We’ve all heard about the maker movement, but Wolff Olins probably classifies it a bit differently than you have in the past. Makers, to them, are people who post on social media, writers who self-publish on Amazon, knitters who sew on Etsy, entrepreneurs who sell on Square, and, surely, the folks who do all that 3-D printing stuff, too. So how do you make money off of the makers, you may ask?

Wolff Olins says that the money here is in the infrastructure behind creation. “Give people ingredients, rather than the finished article. When technologists pursue the ‘minimum viable product’, consider also building a ‘minimum viable brand’ that people can adopt, adapt and improve,” they write. Wolff Olins also recommend providing the skills to get involved, or even providing the whole marketplace itself. Their takeaway is not to sell makers on a final product, but to sell makers what they need in order for them to make more. They suggest brands do something as simple as building an online course.

Trend 3: People Curate Their Time More Than Ever

Lesson: Offer Several Temporal Entry Points To Your Brand

Fewer people are watching live broadcasts, but more people are viewing television programming than ever–through alternative services like on-demand, TiVo, YouTube, and Hulu. They may watch a show in five-second GIFs, or they may binge a whole season on Netflix. Either way, Wolff Olins stresses that we’re a culture of people who aggressively claim and personalize the way they consume information.

In response, Wolff Olins recommends brands offer customers the ability to choose their time engagement level–streamlined experiences that minimize engagement when wanted but also offer rich, deeper-dive experiences for when a customer can invest more attention. Wolf Olins uses the examples of Target offering quicker retail purchase options, but Starbucks offering a wine tasting menu. They’re flip sides of the same coin, and they’re both valuable because they acknowledge a consumer’s concern over how they spend their time.


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[Image: Dressmaker via Shutterstock]


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.