The Sovereign Consumer


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Exploring the intersection of consumerism, marketing, product design, technology, media and culture.

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The Sovereign Consumer

  1. 1. The Sovereign Consumer
  2. 2. The Great Recession has made an indelible dent on the consumer psyche
  3. 3. Are you feeling better about your economic situation (adults 18+)? Yes 28% No 71% Are you starting to spend more on discretionary items (adults 18+)? Yes 17% No 82% Source: BIGresearch
  4. 4. The brand value equation has been re- thought by all socio-economic classes Authentic Value Discretionary Essential Spending Spending Perceived Value
  5. 5. Frugal-shifting is on Stay-cations Share-swaps Declaring Barter bankruptcy In-home Eating at entertainment home Coupon clipping Store brands Piracy Doing without Under-employment
  6. 6. Marketers have been put on notice Empathy for the consumer is now intrinsic to the brand-value formula “Consumers are not walking wallets” Mo Morales, Provocateur
  7. 7. Even luxury brands are taking notice “Coach has begun to “It has definitely rebalance its collections made us all reconsider so that at least 50 what we’re doing, how percent of handbag we’re doing it, and choices will fall into who we are trying to the $200 to $300 range, reach as a customer. compared with 30 percent In a way, it has been previously” a reality check for all of us.” Lew Frankfurt, CEO Coach Vera Wang
  8. 8. Culture Environment Technology Health Leisure Communications We need to tune-in meta-factors that influence behavior and confer context Education Nationality Religion Politics Economy Sexuality Energy
  9. 9. “Only those who are grounded in the reality of their consumers’ lives will understand their priorities. The consumers themselves may not have the ability to articulate their needs.” Idris Mootee, CEO, Idea Couture
  10. 10. Meet The Sovereign Consumer: a first world archetype that eludes demography and exudes psychography Extremely Cynical of media and brands Commercially Engaged defined by brands selects/rejects Network Enabled on-demand influence Privacy Disabled personal data out of control Needs Community Seeks sharing with peers Needs Anti-Community defined by what isn’t Owns Self- Determination Suffers Status defines value on own terms Anxiety aware of place in society Promotes New Social Contract Ethically expects responsible pursuit of Ambivalent profit Selective application of values
  11. 11. “The ideological market has become equivalent to a self- service restaurant where individuals can provide themselves with single pieces to put together their own cosmology and have the feeling of thinking for themselves.” Marc Auge, Anthropologist
  12. 12. The Sovereign Consumer desires a role in the innovation journey – commercially, politically, culturally – and will compulsively syndicate their experience
  13. 13. “Consumers are so acutely aware of how media narratives themselves operate, and of how their own behavior fits into these narratives, that their awareness feeds back almost immediately into their consumption itself.” Bill Wasik, Senior Editor, Harper’s Magazine
  14. 14. The Sovereign Consumer doesn’t necessarily think digital connectivity = engagement Meaningful relationships require an investment of time, care and ability to go analog sometimes
  15. 15. “I've long believed that printed matter will gain new value in a digital world as everyone begins to crave the more physical / tactile / emotional nature of printed stuff.” Tim Milne, Creator Artomatic and Matterbox
  16. 16. The Sovereign Consumer harbors ambivalence towards open-source culture because it requires the surrender of privacy “We have democratized voyeurism on a global scale.”” Paul Virilio, Cultural Theorist
  17. 17. The Sovereign Consumer lives life on a spatial continuum that provides joy rides into a remixed past, an augmented now and a future that’s been forwarded-by-a-friend “It doesn’t matter who you say you are. Meaning = process of discovery.” Tim Stock, Managing Director, ScenarioDNA Pic by Benjamin Reed
  18. 18. “Many of us will begin to feel naked and somewhat stupid out in public without the web, the way we’d feel out in public without our clothes today.“ John Smart, Founder, Acceleration Studies Foundation
  19. 19. “Privacy is expensive and publicity is cheap.” Sam Lessin, CEO, Pic: Dan Outram Sovereign Consumers decide the degree to which they allow themselves to become an ad-unit
  20. 20. “Understanding and appreciating the public’s increased awareness of its own value to the marketer is the first step to formulating a marketing strategy.” KEMO, Brand Revoltants
  21. 21. Raised on a steady diet of samples, schwag, loyalty points and file sharing ; The Sovereign Consumer is pushing business into freemium models Infinite Components = Attention Scarce Components = $$$
  22. 22. “The reason monetization is a dirty word is simple. It blinds us to value creation, at the expense of value capture.” Umair Haque, Director, Havas Media Lab
  23. 23. On the shelf or in a landfill, The Sovereign Consumer’s impression of a brand is holistically defined
  24. 24. “Let’s be honest. Design, like marketing, is about driving mass consumption, and anything produced on a mass scale contributes to pollution and global warming.” Hartmut Esllinger Founder, frog design
  25. 25. Opening doors of unknown consequence, The Sovereign Consumer invites symbiosis with myth and machine Designer Lifestyle Augmented Living Brand as Semaphore Brand as Prosthetic
  26. 26. “Evolution, including genetic progress in human nature and human capacity, will be from now on increasingly the domain of science and technology tempered by ethics and political choice.” Edward O. Wilson Biologist
  27. 27. The Sovereign Consumer is no anarchist, as government provided security and regulation are thought necessary for a reasonably prosperous and peaceful co-existence
  28. 28. “You’ll have lower prices under deregulation than you will through regulation” Kenneth Lay, Former CEO, Enron
  29. 29. “If it's a choice between listening to a teacher lecture about what's happening in Darfur or playing Darfur is Dying, the serious game wins hands down.” Anastasia, YPulse Blogger Through virtualization, The Sovereign Consumer gains awareness, but becomes desensitized to harsh realities
  30. 30. “I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf.” Baroness Greenfield, Oxford Neuroscientist
  31. 31. So how can we stay in-tune with Sovereign Consumers?
  32. 32. Think with the box People can exist independent of brands – respect the current ecology of your audience before you mess with it
  33. 33. “Suppliers can no longer just compete by providing the best product or best solution to a defined requirement. They must enter the customer’s world, and understand it as a context-of- use that conditions the nature of the demands that the customer makes.” Philip Boxer Systems Researcher, Carnegie Mellon University
  34. 34. Connection planning, over media planning It should be the goal of every company to wane themselves off of paid-media and re-direct those funds into product innovation, customer service and dialogue-intended outreach
  35. 35. “I'm convinced fat media budgets help make people lazy, and we've thought about [whether we] should cut media budgets on some specific projects in order to force people to come up with ideas." Simon Clift, CMO Unilever
  36. 36. Interpret the never ending trail of consumer-generated artifacts Decode the stream of photos, videos, songs, projections, gestures, presentations, drawings etc. – to have the broadest understanding of how your brand is trafficked
  37. 37. “The right to use copyrighted materials freely without payment or permission for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research” Copyright Act of 1976, Section 107
  38. 38. Don’t think that just because someone bought your product that they are part of your community People cohort around mutual interests, not brands – utilize permission-based social graphs as intelligence filters to deliver increasingly relevant value to your customers
  39. 39. “The community begins to take on its own branding power: it begins to assume the “certification” aspects of branding that reassure buyers that their purchase is likely to be one they will be satisfied with.” John Hagel III, Co-Chairman, Deloitte Center for the Edge
  40. 40. When employing graphic design, provoke sensation exploration
  41. 41. “It’s only if your willing to be completely fucked up that you’re going to do anything important.” Dan Wieden, Co-Founder Wieden & Kennedy
  42. 42. Don’t perpetuate hype unless your company truly believes it to be true Is it really “new and improved”? Is the product really “the choice of a new generation?” Are you really powering “the human network”? Are brands really ushering in an idyllic tomorrow?
  43. 43. “Today’s new technologies are hardly more destabilizing than the railroad, the automobile, the airplane, steamships, electricity, telephones, mass production, antibiotics and radio were in their day.” Matthew Stuart, Author
  44. 44. Take privacy seriously There’s a fine line between market research and surveillance: always get permission to collect data, always provide co-ownership/access to personal data, set reasonable expiration dates on personal data
  45. 45. “The Sovereign Consumer is quickly morphing into the Evasive Consumer.” Keith Gerr, Author of this presentation
  46. 46. Thanks Keith Gerr, Principal