The new rules for consumer engagementInterviews
Now more than ever, at a time when the search for meaning is a mainstream trend, brands need to prioritize consumer engagement and avoid bland marketing (“blanding”). Vincent Grégoire, Consumer Trends and Insights Director at NellyRodi, tells us more about this new key to entry.
- What does the lifestyle landscape today tell us about societal change?
Well, there’s been a major breakdown in consumer trust that has produced doubts and a feeling of insecurity about others, oneself, institutions, consumption and progress. In other words, there is a need for a paradigm shift in society.
In tackling this subject, NellyRodi has focused on three main areas of enquiry, i.e. economic, environmental and identity-related challenges.
Not only must brands integrate the paradoxes arising in the workplace (e.g. due to the “robolution”, automation, artificial intelligence and the acceleration in deepfake technology), but they must also account for the new environmental matrix with new food, energy, biodiversity issues as well as emerging public health challenges, among others.
Moreover, identity-related factors have been associated with various upheavals, including the rise of powerhouses like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Alibaba and Huwei accompanied by the specter of an Orwellian society.
Phenomena in these three areas, combined with a lack of visibility into the future, have made it necessary for brands to make more than marginal changes by making a solid, lasting commitment to help rebalance society.
- What solutions can brands use to help bring about a paradigm shift?
This general feeling of dissonance calls for an intuitive response and that is where engagement comes into play. There are four key approaches – interaction, innovation, inclusion and inspiration – that brands can use to formulate their engagement strategy.
Restore the centrality of relational events in society. The idea is to focus on connection, joint undertakings and “coollaboration” in the brand-consumer relationship as well as within the company itself, for there is a need for reconciliation on multiple fronts. To address this need, brands can deploy less vertical organizations and develop new approaches to consumer education based on more humanistic values.
Reinterpret innovation.Sometimes perceived as having an aggressive connotation, innovation should contribute to the idea of socially conscious consumption. The accent should be on its social utility and/or benevolence while suggesting the idea of pleasure and agility. In addition, innovation should inspire a new practical intelligence enabling it to (re)become a key element for building consumer trust.
Celebrate inclusion and tolerance.Passivity is not an option. Each sector will have to develop its own stance on matters relative to gender, differences and imperfections. Brands are expected to fight for their ideas, take a stand and serve as whistle-blower, despite adverse reactions. Moving in this direction, will help them intensify their efforts to promote fairness, fair pricing, positive synergies and artisan crafting… the latter being like David to the Goliath of industrial manufacturing!
This is a major theme this year. The idea is to re-engage creativity by injecting new elements of fantasy, intuition, drama and surprise.As influencers, brands are expected to speak up, defend freedom and advocate transgression. By doing these things while incorporating new elements of fancy, they can inspire consumer enthusiasm and engagement.
- How does a rationale based on social purpose redefine brands’ ability to succeed?
These approaches all focus on the human element, i.e.the one thing thatcannot be controlled and allows brands to create dialogue.
Thinking, observing and making empty claims are not enough; brands need to take action and provide concrete proof. Consumers expect them to do more than sell products by speaking out on major issues and helping bring about change, thereby encouraging their community to follow suit.
I often tell brands that the first step is to “know thyself”! They need to do a brand audit, see where improvements can be made and be willing to challenge past choices. This is the most pragmatic way to prepare for subsequent decision-making, for instance, whether to develop existing sources of engagement or take the “total disruption” route. In any event, the main thing is to “do something”! To lay the groundwork for their future, brands need to “do things” with sincerity and humanity, even champion radical projects, while infusing their actions with life and zest to ensure engagement.
For further details, consult NellyRodi’s “Life & Style 2021” report.