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Northstar's empowerment framework


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Empowerment is the new dialogue! This is about how your brand story should seek to activate your consumers to be your strongest agents of influence....

Empowerment is the new dialogue! This is about how your brand story should seek to activate your consumers to be your strongest agents of influence....

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  • 2. FROM INFLUENCE TO EMPOWERMENT August 17, 2012 OVERVIEW   In   the   last   century,   we   have   seen   a   rapid   succession   in   the   developed   world   from   economies   driven   by   produc8on   to   those   driven  by  knowledge  where  ul8mately  we  will   migrate   to   an   “idea”   economy   coined   as   the   “conceptual”   age   in   Daniel   Pink’s   Book,   A   Whole   New   Mind,     As   the   “conceptual   age”   takes  root,  increasingly  those  with  a  proclivity   for  crea8vity  will  lead  the  way  and  succeed  in   this   new   and   emerging   economy.     That   development   will   in   turn   lead   to   a   new   emerging  mainstream  consumer  …  one  who  is   naturally  more  crea8ve  in  all  aspects  of  their   lives  (see  Richard  Florida’s  Rise  of  The  Crea=ve   Class).     These   emerging   mainstream   consumers   will   exhibit   that   crea8vity   in   the   brands,   products,   social   and   poli8cal   movements   and   agenda   of   their   8me.     Harnessing   that   collec8ve   crea8vity   and   ac8va8ng   it   in   your   favor   will   separate   successful   brands   ambi8ous   to   grow   from   those  just  plodding  along  or  losing  steam.    This   paper   seeks   to   provide   a   framework   for   understanding   how   to   direct   the   collec8ve   crea8vity  of  these  new  emerging  consumers  in   your  direc8on.         In   the   new   mainstream   crea8ve   consumer   culture,  if  influencing  behavior  and  thought  is   the   goal,   standing   alone   or   simply   having   a   louder   voice   with   wider   reach   is   no   longer   enough.    The  discourse  has  changed.    In  our   modern   era   of   fluid   lifestyles,   where   we   engage   as   individuals   interac8ng   with   the   collec8ve   in   an   ongoing,   hyper-­‐connected   world,  those  who  are  changing  the  game  and   seHng   the   standards   for   relevance   are   the   ones  who  encourage  more  people  to  play.         If  you  have  read  Daniel  Pink’s  book,  A  Whole   New   Mind,   or   Richard   Florida’s   Rise   of   The   Crea8ve   Class,   you   will   learn   about   how   we   are   entering   a   conceptual   age   where   economies  are  increasingly  driven  by  crea8on   of   new   ideas,   systems   and   business   models.     The  skills  required  for  innova8ve  thinking  and   maintaining  sustainable  economic  growth  are   rooted  in  the  ability  to  tap  in  to  both  right  and   leS-­‐brain  oriented  skills…and  the  people  who   have   and   are   applying   those   skills   professionally  are  growing  in  numbers  globally   (at   about   40-­‐50%   of   the   workforce   in   14   developed  na8ons*)  are  not  just  workers,  but   social   networkers   and   social   creatures   who   seek  human  connec8ons,  are  ac8ve  in  causes   they  believe  in  and  are  mo8vated  to  get  things   done!     In  a  world  where  advancements  in  technology   have   revolu8onized   our   ability   to   connect,   network,   share   ideas,   collaborate   and   mobilize,   “influence”   has   become   rooted   in   the   ability   to   conceive   of   new   ideas   or   expressions,   ac8vely   promote,   persuade   and   ac8vate   others   to   create   and   collaborate   alongside  them.    
  • 3. FROM INFLUENCE TO EMPOWERMENT August 17, 2012 And   with   this   importance   of   “ideas”   as   influence,   it   is   important   to   note   that   the   nature  of  idea  genera8on  has  also  changed.    It   is   a   crowd-­‐sourced,   collec8ve-­‐inspired   experience.   Ac8vators   are   masters   at   mobilizing  and  ul8mately  con8nually  cura8ng   crea8ve   execu8ons   and   innova8ons   that   inspire  the  new  behaviors  and  mindset  needed   to  succeed  in  the  conceptual  age.       What   this   means   for   brands   is   that   we   are   quickly   moving   from   an   influencer-­‐driven   economy  to  one  that  is  ac8va8on-­‐driven.    The   graphic   below   captures   the   sen8ment   of   the   framework  by  looking  at  individual  responses   or   ac8ons   as   they   relate   to   idea   genera8on   versus  collec8ve  responses  or  ac8ons.    It  also   takes  into  account  the  nature  of  that  response   as  being  either  ac8ve  or  passive.    Ul8mately,   the  model  reflects  the  evolu8on  of  influence  in   our   8me   and   how   that   logic   can   then   be   applied  to  brand  strategy.     Let’s  first  define  each  of  the  key  terms  in  the  model,  then  look   at   the   history   of   how   brands   have   gone   about   the   task   of   seeding  relevance  and  gaining  “share  of  wallet”:       SPECTATE:       “armchair”   selec8on   of   aspira8onal  ideas  by  voyeurism.        Choosing  a  lifestyle  by  “flipping   through”  media.       ASSOCIATE: low-­‐effort,   passive   agreement   with  the  pervading  mainstream  ethos       AGITATE: seeking   ways   to   shake   up     /   disconnect  from  the  status-­‐quo  and      adopt  new  ideas       ACTIVATE: par8cipate   in   a   movement   of   change  by  connec8ng  with  others       and   proac8vely   crea8ng   and   passing  on  ideas       The  task  in  the  earliest  of  days,  when  “tradi8onal”  media  was   king,  was  simply  to  find  ways  to  engage  the  passive  collec=ve   who   had   both   new-­‐found   prosperity   and   idle   8me   as   the   emerging  American  middle  class.    Brands,  in  par8cular,  were   signifiers   of   trusted   quality   and   sheer   breadth   of   reach   was   enough   to   influence   the   masses   to   consume   more   masses.     Brands  invited  consumers  to  iden=fy  with  the  upward  mobility   of  the  middle  class  by  consump8on  of  products.     Then,  in  the  70s  and  80s  and  90ʹ′s,  the  epicenter  of  influence   began   to   lie   in   celebrity:   athletes,   actors   and   public   figures   whose   charisma,   market   appeal   media   reach   afforded   marketers  and  consumer  product  companies  access  to  legions   of   adoring   fans   who   would   follow   them   into   the   brand-­‐o-­‐ sphere.     It   was   a   culture   where   influence   was   the   result   of   individuals   inspiring   a   passive   audience   through   media.     Consumers  were  asked  to  spectate,  observing  the  aspira8onal   lifestyles  of  others  and  looking  to  brands  as  status  symbols  in   order  to  emulate  the  celebrity  cultures  they  admired.     Then  the  nature  of  “influence”  changed  in  the  last  decade  or   so  as  the  world  became  increasingly  wired  and  celebrity  could   be  created  with  a  leS-­‐click,  a  blog  and  a  social  network.  These   charisma8c  and  connected  individuals  and  consumers  were/ are   creators   of   culture,   trendsegers   and   early-­‐adopters;   ahead-­‐of-­‐the-­‐curve,  vociferous  and  able  to  wield  the  power  of   persuasion   over   their   social   networks.     Influence   therefore   became   about   individuals   who   agitate   the   status   quo,   recrui8ng  followers  in  a  more  proac=ve  manner.     Brands   became   badges   that   helped   consumers   curate   their   own  personal  brand  iden88es.  In  a  sea  of  op8ons  consumers   had  to  ac8vely  wade  through  the  water  and  find  the  hidden   treasures   that   helped   them   connect   to   products   and   make   personal  choices.      
  • 4. FROM INFLUENCE TO EMPOWERMENT August 17, 2012 Let’s  first  define  each  of  the  key  terms  in  the  model,  then  look  at  the  history  of  how  brands  have   gone  about  the  task  of  seeding  relevance  and  gaining  “share  of  wallet”:       SPECTATE:      “armchair”  selec8on  of  aspira8onal  ideas  by  voyeurism.        Choosing  a  lifestyle  by  “flipping  through”  media.       ASSOCIATE: low-­‐effort,  passive  agreement  with  the  pervading  mainstream  ethos       AGITATE: seeking  ways  to  shake  up    /  disconnect  from  the  status-­‐quo  and      adopt  new  ideas       ACTIVATE: par8cipate  in  a  movement  of  change  by  connec8ng  with  others      and  proac8vely  crea8ng  and  passing  on  ideas       The  task  in  the  earliest  of  days,  when  “tradi8onal”  media  was  king,  was  simply  to  find  ways  to   engage  the  passive  collec=ve  who  had  both  new-­‐found  prosperity  and  idle  8me  as  the  emerging   American  middle  class.    Brands,  in  par8cular,  were  signifiers  of  trusted  quality  and  sheer  breadth   of   reach   was   enough   to   influence   the   masses   to   consume   more   masses.     Brands   invited   consumers  to  iden=fy  with  the  upward  mobility  of  the  middle  class  by  consump8on  of  products.     Then,  in  the  70s  and  80s  and  90ʹ′s,  the  epicenter  of  influence  began  to  lie  in  celebrity:  athletes,   actors  and  public  figures  whose  charisma,  market  appeal  media  reach  afforded  marketers  and   consumer  product  companies  access  to  legions  of  adoring  fans  who  would  follow  them  into  the   brand-­‐o-­‐sphere.    It  was  a  culture  where  influence  was  the  result  of  individuals  inspiring  a  passive   audience  through  media.    Consumers  were  asked  to  spectate,  observing  the  aspira8onal  lifestyles   of  others  and  looking  to  brands  as  status  symbols  in  order  to  emulate  the  celebrity  cultures  they   admired.     Then  the  nature  of  “influence”  changed  in  the  last  decade  or  so  as  the  world  became  increasingly   wired   and   celebrity   could   be   created   with   a   leS-­‐click,   a   blog   and   a   social   network.   These   charisma8c   and   connected   individuals   and   consumers   were/are   creators   of   culture,   trendsegers  and  early-­‐adopters;  ahead-­‐of-­‐the-­‐curve,  vociferous  and  able  to  wield  the  power  of   persuasion  over  their  social  networks.    Influence  therefore  became  about  individuals  who  agitate   the  status  quo,  recrui8ng  followers  in  a  more  proac=ve  manner.     Brands  became  badges  that  helped  consumers  curate  their  own  personal  brand  iden88es.  In  a   sea  of  op8ons  consumers  had  to  ac8vely  wade  through  the  water  and  find  the  hidden  treasures   that  helped  them  connect  to  products  and  make  personal  choices.      
  • 5. FROM INFLUENCE TO EMPOWERMENT August 17, 2012 And  then  something  started  happening.    Now,  we  find  ourselves  transi8oning  into  a  new  era:    a   renaissance  where  consumers  have  realized  that  they  (we)  have  the  power,  demonstrated  by  the   emerging  consumer  collec8ve  ac8vism.  The  power  of  tradi8onal  media,  the  social  network  or  the   blog  have  not  gone  away,  but  brand  crea8on,  adop8on  and  innova8on  is  no  longer  limited  to  a   monologue  to  the  masses  or  even  a  dialogue  amongst  a  select  few  trend-­‐transmigers.     Rather,  there  is  an  ongoing,  cyclical  conversa8on  between  those  who  create  trends,  products  and   brands  and  those  who  consume  and  them  and  ul8mately  contribute  to  new  what’s  next.     Put  simply,  we  have  evolved  from  a  paradigm  of  influence  to  an  ethos  of  empowerment.    Real   influence   comes   from   the   ability   to   be   proac8ve   and   ac8vate   collec8ve   consumers.     Using   technology,   collabora8on   and   co-­‐crea8on   to   empower   others   to   engage,   create   and   innovate.     Further   in   an   informa8on   age   that   is   rapidly   moving   to   a   conceptual   or   idea   age,   velocity   of   informa8on  or  ideas  will  mager  even  more.    The  framework  reveals  very  clearly  how  ac8va8ng   your  consumers  (i.e.  not  allowing  them  to  spectate  or  just  associate  passively  with  your  ideas  and   not   being   a   lone   voice   seeking   to   agitate   one   consumer   at   a   8me)   yields   significantly   more   velocity  of  informa8on  to  fuel  your  brand’s  growth.         The  implica8on  for  brands  in  this  new  era  of  Empowerment  is  incredibly  profound.    Whilst  being   signifiers   of   quality   and   aspira8on   and   personal   branding   are   s8ll   founda8onal   requirements,   there   is   an   added   pivotal   layer.     Brands   must   also   take   on   the   responsibility   of   empowering   consumers:    ac8va8ng  consumers  under  the  umbrella  of  crea8ng  meaningful  social  change  by   using   the   power   of   their   collec8ve   consumer-­‐bases.     Brands   need   to   create   agitators   and   ac8vators   that   adopt,   co-­‐opt   and   ul8mately   help   co-­‐create   the   brand,   infusing   relevance   and   meaning  using  the  true  “voice  of  customer”.         This   perspec8ve   on   empowerment   is   central   to   the   way   we   operate   at   Northstar   Research   Partners:     why   we   approach   strategic   research   using   the   3   C’s   framework   (Client/   Category,   Culture,   Consumer)   for   examining   context.     Unlocking   the   insights   that   Iden8fy   how   to   make   meaningful  connec8ons  between  brands  and  consumer  is  a  challenge  we  specialize  in.    Focused   rigor  on  how  specific  pockets  of  target  consumers  are  culturally  impacted  by  macro  forces,  their   interac8on  with  media  and  brands  and  iden8fica8on  of  relevant  lifestyle  pagerns  are  essen8al   star8ng  points  to  discovering  how  to  become  an  Ac=vator  brand.         For  more  informa8on  on  how  we  can  help  you  start  your  journey  of  discovery,  please  contact   Jamie  Gordon,  VP  Consumer  Anthropology:    jgordon@nsresearch-­‐,  404-­‐895-­‐9872.