Adapt or die. Never has this statement been more true. Consumer brands are dealing with an overnight change in attitudes and values that is unprecedented in modern consumerism. From travel to jeans to soap to museums – no product or service or experience will survive this tumultuous period without re-examining their value proposition and the role they play in their consumer’s life.
Between the economic crisis lead by Wall Street and AIG, the environmental crisis and now adding insult to injury – the AIG bonus payout – consumers are retreating and rethinking every single dollar that leaves their pocket and who it will go to. In fact, the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that U.S. consumer confidence is even lower than it was after the dot.com bust and the Enron scandal. Things aren’t much better internationally, 62% of respondents across 20 countries included in this same survey report less trust in business than a year ago.
The result is that the brand relationship with consumers is about to get very interesting. Current brand equity will still play a critical role in consumer decisions but each and every brand needs to get out there and understand what their new consumer needs are a.s.a.p. There are a plethora of marketing reports coming out on issues of sustainability, moderation behaviors and other factors that will play a role in future consumerism. These reports are valuable but are simply the backdrop for independent research that should be done to understand these trend drivers first hand as they relate to a company’s brand. This shift doesn’t mean that brands need to lose or even change their core brand assets. They simply need to look for new ways to relate and to re-look at how their products communicate with their current audiences and their new behaviors.
For example, the New York Times reported last week that museums across the country are now opening their doors to entirely new audience segments via discounted special events that build on their core offerings. In San Francisco, the Academy of Sciences has debuted Nightlife – a weekly evening event incorporating DJ’s and special science activities that brings together a much different crowd than the kids, parents, tourists and science geeks the Academy usually attracts. Not only are they finding new hours to open their doors but they are attracting new audiences that have traditionally dismissed this type of cultural institution en masse.
It’s this type of re-invention and exploratory relationship building that needs to take place across the spectrum. Simply speaking to green or pricing trends via advertising or promotion will ultimately miss the opportunity to play an important and trusted role throughout the upcoming years of significant value and lifestyle restructuring.