on Consumerism

How many times have you said or heard ‘a brand is what people think of you, not what you say to them?’ I’ve been thinking about the evolution of CRM. And the definition of a brand, and ‘branding’.

What people think of your brand is becoming even more pivotal as we become ever more isolated, but connected in this weird 21st century world. But how connected do we really want to be? And isn’t isolation, well, nice sometimes? How much do we care, and what do we care about?

Hold on, what?
Isn’t there a tipping point coming where people become less consumers – i.e. classified by their purchasing choices – and more commercial citizens. A clunky term, but I choose ‘Commercial Citizens’ (CCs) mainly because that’s all it can be surely? – A citizen that makes value-based choices about their purchases that are driven by other CCs and not directly by corporates.

Taking this from another view point, this tipping point takes place when consumer views – their values, judgments – not just their purchase decisions, become visible to anyone who’s interested and (importantly) buys into connectivity.

Let’s call it a consumer enlightenment. I know this already happens, but I don’t think the ubiquity (and therefore the impact) is quite there yet.

Let’s expand this little knot of thought
The threads of this point focus on connectivity (and are on top of the societal changes like everyone’s becoming global 24/7 business people):

  1. more and more consumers research their purchase decisions online;
  2. trust in corporates and their supply chains continues to erode (just look at how far Starbucks is going to counteract this in the UK); and
  3. the rise in mobile connectivity.

These points collide at a point where theoretically consumers can, in a moment, research every purchase they make ( ‘I wonder what twitter’s saying about #McDonald’s at the moment?). But this is madness, clearly. Who cares that much? Are we that connected?

Where is the new level of trust?

We are becoming more connected, and therefore more questioning, but as ever, it all boils down to trust. Because frankly, making decisions about what you buy is boring – best to let the routine kick in. So, maintaining the routine is the new loyalty. But when a routine becomes disrupted, how do you get people back into the routine? This is where we need to go beyond ‘knowing’ your consumer – you need to engage your CC in a conversation to bring them back. You’ve got to say sorry, not just ‘S-O-R-R-Y’  like a petulant teenager – you’ve got to mean it.

So, relationships must surely become more continuous and direct like those in the B2B world and less like a good old-fashioned B2C transaction? Or perhaps something more like a shareholder/corporate relationship?


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