Posted June 21, 2010 8:18 am by with 7 comments

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In the Internet marketing world we talk about how to reach consumers. We talk about reaching them in online advertising like display ads. We talk about generating content that they will be interested in. We talk about search marketing and how targeted it can be when done correctly. And of course, when we can stop talking about ourselves, we talk about social media and its impact on the buy cycle both online and offline.

While not all encompassing, the list above covers a lot of what the Internet marketing practitioner has to keep an eye on on a day-to-day basis. What is interesting is that what we keep an eye on has a lot to do with the ‘tools of the trade’ and how we get products in front of consumers at the right time with the right message. There seems to be precious little discussion about the actual consumer. A study done by Euro RSCG Worldwide, appropriately titled “The New Consumer”, looks at what could be a fundamental shift that will determine just how we use the tools we talk about every day. It’s a long quote but one worth considering.

It is the firmly held view of Euro RSCG Worldwide that what we are seeing is a shift historic in scope and with lasting implications. In the mature markets of the western world especially, we are witnessing a broad and fundamental movement away from mindless hyperconsumerism and toward an approach that is at once more conscious and more satisfying—and certainly more sustainable. To ascertain the extent to which this shift has taken hold around the world, we undertook a major global study at the end of 2009 that included an in-depth survey of 5,700 adults in seven countries: Brazil, China, France, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. What we found is that, to one degree or another, people in mature markets have grown sick of excess, tired of the constant push to accumulate more. The purveyors of hyperconsumerism promised happiness and ease; instead we are seeing record levels of stress and anxiety. Large numbers of people are dissatisfied with the direction in which society is headed and with their own personal lifestyles. They still want MORE, but now they are defining that differently. Not more shiny trifles and mountains of disposable consumer goods, but, rather, more meaning, more deeply felt connections, more substance, and more of a sense of purpose. People are looking to live life in a way that offers longer-lasting satisfactions and pleasures than can be found at the mall.

The study addresses four paradigms that are emerging that are important to how consumers see that act of consuming and their willingness to consume for consumption’s sake. They are embracing substance, rightsizing, growing up and seeking purposeful pleasure. In other words, people want less BS in their lives and as marketing professionals should take note.

We always seem to want to push just how ‘social’ people are but what does that really mean to businesses? If people are more interested in interaction and less in acquiring more stuff does a brand running ads in the social space run the risk of being viewed as intrusive? Wouldn’t that be interesting if people actually would rather just connect while being on Facebook and not see an ad at all. I know I would personally but then how do these social media mechanisms like Facebook and Twitter survive?

One of the study’s major takeaways for brands reads as follows:

People Feel Isolated and Crave Connections:

Smart brands will promote and facilitate interconnectivity between consumer and brand, consumer and consumer, consumer and the broader community, consumer and vital causes, and consumer and the natural world. It is essential to help build connections that give people a sense of community and shared purpose.

Doesn’t sound like there is a lot of call for advertised to or being yelled at to buy something, does it? If this truly is the case, how will this impact your marketing efforts?

If you would like to download the PDF of this study you can do so here. It might be a good exercise to begin thinking about the exactly what the consumer is trying to accomplish rather than assuming that the new “social world” is just another place to advertise. Sure that sounds basic but if you look at what is happening I don’t think many marketers are giving this idea much more lip service than real consideration.

Just some food for thought on this Monday morning. What’s your take?

  • I think the new online consumer is more cautious then ever when it comes to making a buying decision

  • This should be a wake-up call for all marketers out there. We all need to rethink how we approach marketing to today’s consumer. They (myself included) want more meaning in life and less clutter! It all starts by brands and companies checking their own motives internally and recognizing this change, and then putting it into action. Great report – I’d highly recommend all marketers downloading this report Thanks!

  • Conceptually, this is what you need to know: People Feel Isolated and Crave Connections

    This implies that there is a need… a problem to be solved, not just a product to be sold. Companies focusing on solving problems for customers are going to help people feel like they’re not alone.

  • Frank, good post….

    It should be a wake up call for all of us involved in marketing one way or another.

    Based on my experience, I also believe the economy is playing a hugh role in consumer buying patterns. As the economy tends to rebound, people get a little more liberal with their buying. This staement is nothing new, but I have seen it happen over and over again.

    The key is not to get complacent or to panic. Thanks again

  • Great writeup, Frank. I think most of us are tired of being yelled at to buy! For anyone interested in learning more about Euro RSCG’s New Consumer study and how smart brands are already responding to the four paradigms, please check out Consumed: Rethinking Business in the Era of Mindful Spending. The book is based on the Euro RSCG study and written by myself and Andrew Benett, CEO of Arnold Worldwide (both agencies are owned by Havas). It will be in bookstores the first week in July and is available for preorder on Amazon: It traces the rise of our consumerist–and now hyperconsumerist–culture, the building backlash against it as people grow increasingly dissatisfied with the perceived lack of substance and interconnectedness in their lives, and our view of the role marketers and companies can play in helping people achieve a more meaningful and satisfying way of living. At the same time, we think it offers marketers and business executives a more meaning and satisfying way of working!

  • I’ve really enjoyed reading your articles. You obviously know what you are talking about! Your site is so easy to navigate too, I’ve bookmarked it in my favourites

  • Packers and Movers

    Good work on this article! I really like how you presented your facts and how you made it interesting and easy to understand. Thank you.