Direct, October 1999
Tank Consumers of the Future
to the Future
As the pace
of everyday life speeds up in the race for the 21st century, how can
marketers grab the attention of their customers
have long been charged with the task of looking into the future and
making predictions- about consumer likes and dislikes, brand image,
product requirements and many other aspects of business.
our Think Tank panel peers into the next few decades and asks what will
consumers look like, act like and shop like. And how marketers will have
to adapt their thinking and strategies to meet the needs of Millennium
Orr, sales and marketing director, Claritas
Johnson, marketing manager interactive advertising, Two-Way
Cooper, joint CEO and managing partner, The Brand Futures
Payne, strategic projects director, Through the Loop
Jones, consultant, editor of Planning for Consumer Change, The
our panelists all agree on is that we are all time poor these days, and
that those with the cash to spend will spend it on time-saving devices
and services. Martin Payne, strategic projects director of research
company Through the Loop says: "The availability of time for
individuals seems to be polarizing, with people either working very long
hours or not working at all, or people working on a contract basis.
There are also more things to do in leisure time, more options with more
to fit in. So everything is squeezed."
Jones, consultant at the Henley Centre and editor of the report Planning
for Consumer Change, adds: "We are certainly time-poor. Sixty-three
percent of people now agree that they donít have enough time to get
things done. The word Ďstressí has spread out through society;
itís something that everybody has. Thereís even an aspirational
aspect to stress because it goes with having responsibility and
"People are really willing to spend money to get their time back We
can see this in the increased spend on things like fast food, child
care, etc. We want to outsource chores like cooking, cleaning- the
things we donít really enjoy. We did research about five years ago
with First Direct, and one of the questions we asked about was queuing.
At the time, respondents werenít so bothered, now people are willing
to pay a premium to move to the head of the queue- itís their
the example of a retailer in Holland that uses LED price tags under each
item which can be changed depending on what time of day it is. There are
different prices for peak and off-peak grocery shopping.
already witnessing a surge in popularity of home delivery services like
those offered by Iceland. One other implication of time-poor consumers
is that more companies will offer people better ways of filling what
time they do have.
providing the solution to all this isnít simply streamlining or
fast-tracking," says Jones. "What you are aiming for is that
people want the time they do spend for themselves to be deepened and
enriched. For example, more people want to become connoisseurs in areas
such as wines and vintage cars. Value for time is becoming as important
as value for money."
So much choice,
so little time
The array of
choice now on offer to consumers can be overwhelming. Clive Cooper,
joint CEO and managing partner of the Brand Futures Consultancy, says:
"Consumers have so many choices now. If someone could edit the
choices, I think that would be a really useful service. For example, in
financial services you could pay someone to read through all the
literature and find the right product for you."
As well as
becoming increasingly pressed for time, consumers are now more marketing
literate than ever before- and growing more cynical about what
organisations tell them. At the same time, new media and technologies
are enabling marketers to get closer to their customers.
The consumer is no longer a passive receiver of advertising messages.
With two-way communications it is possible to build relationships with
customers. It is important now not to think of them as consumers, but as
members of your company or wider community."
that these closer relationships will have to be handled carefully:
"I think consumers will still want to have relationships with
companies, but fewer of them. Instead of 101 loyalty cards and 101
relationships, you may only have five loyalty cards and much richer
relationships with those five companies. Fewer companies will offer
broader services, foe example Centrica could supply gas through British
Gas as well as electricity and financial services.
a personal touch
example of the way technology is already affecting the way companies
talk to consumers is interactive advertising. Ian Johnson, marketing
manager of specialist Two Way TV, says: "There is smartcard
technology in the set-top box which relates to the subscriber management
technology of the channel. This smartcard can store the name and address
of the subscriber. This means that with interactive ads you can insert
the viewerís name into the ad on the screen. You can also supply
details of the nearest stockist of your product or nearest dealer. The
most impressive things really is that you can tailor your message. It
also means that marketers can send tailored information to consumers,
depending on what particular products they have shown an interest
that the new media require a subtle approach: "Itís not a
question of who shouts the loudest by buying slots on ITV. Maybe itís
about who shouts in a different way, or who comes and taps you on the
back while youíre not looking by tuning out the big brand hard sell
Payne points out that marketers should be aware that not all consumers
will have access to these technologies. "Polarisation in society is
not just about money. Itís about access to devices and information.
Ultimately, it may be that everybody may be able to have Internet access
in the high street, with those people paying more on a by-the-minute
basis than those who have permanent access at home."
that allows consumers and companies to build closer relationships is
generating greater amounts of information for marketers to deal with.
Dawn Orr, sales and marketing director of consumer information
specialist Claritas, says: "What marketers are building their
communications with is far more advanced than it has been before. And it
has an impact throughout the company." The problem of data deluge
is one faced by all marketers, but Orr points out that they are becoming
more expert at dealing with it.
are core traits going through any kind of consumer information which can
be identified before you do any kind of segmentation work. Most of this
is built around consumersí behaviour- what theyíre doing at a
transactional level. You find out what they are doing and work from
there. There are no more than about ten pieces of information about
consumers that a marketer can really cope with. I think that as
consumers we are becoming more individualistic, but we are all still
human and have basic human needs so there is that underlying data."
companies are already using the data they have gathered through loyalty
schemes to extend their brands- supermarkets now offer banking services
and credit cards; banks can arrange holidays; Virgin offers just about
everything you can think of.
conventional brand model dead?
"Is the concept of a brand as a mark of distinction passť? In the
end itís becoming less relevant. The new companies in the market are
crossing borders. They take brand values and stretch them so far. Is the
conventional brand model dead?
says the idea of brand is certainly changing: "We have reached the
level where the brand is a communications vehicle. Take the Disney
store. You canít go to a DisneyWorld every week, but you can go to the
store and itís free. The Disney Store is less about retailing and more
about enhancing the Disney image. Cadbury World is another example. But
thatís just based in Birmingham so perhaps they could do more, say in
There is a
small caveat to building products or extending brands on the back of
collected consumer data. Some of the best business ideas (the Sony
Walkman, Post It Notes and microwaves) werenít the result of market
research. Jones says: "Some people says that asking the consumer if
they will like a product can be like looking in a rear-view mirror
because their imagination may be limited by whatís already out
that marketers should be relying on data collection or traditional
research methods in developing new products or brand extensions:
"You have to spot the gaps that consumers cannot yet articulate.
Observational research is now the thing to do. People go into homes and
observe how consumers behave. They can spot the opportunities that
people canít see themselves because they have learned to work around
increasingly knowledgeable consumers will shape the way companies can
communicate their brand values. They wonít be able to get away with
much, according to Jones: "The traditional job of marketers was to
create a story about a product. They werenít necessarily meant to be
based on hard facts, so they were selling dreams that werenít
necessarily borne out. More and more companies will get Ďfound outí
on this level. There will be realization in the internal corporate
culture that creation has to be a seamless whole. You shouldnít sell
something thatís not there."
agrees: "If there is something wrong in your production processes,
for example, youíre using child labour in the third world, you are
going to be found out much more quickly. Business is much more
transparent - if youíre telling less than the truth , youíre going
to be found out."
"Everything you do will communicate something to the consumer. When
companies talk to their staff it goes through to the consumer. When
banks makes staff redundant, the ones who are left are not going to be
very motivated. Or how your companyís van drivers behave in traffic-
all these make an impact on your consumers."
will have to ensure that the brands they create will remain flexible.
Payne comments: "Brands have to age well. Nescafť is one brand
that has lasted a long time by retaining its core values while updating
its image. Madonna is another example.
brands canít afford to rest on their laurels: "Itís getting
harder to maintain the position of the brand. Look at how Marks &
Spencer changed. People are saying now that itís not as good as it
used to be."
cited as the prime example of companies that remained unchanged for
decades. Customers didnít leave, and the banks assumed that they were
content with the products and services on offer. When First Direct came
along it was hailed as a revolution in banking- although the products it
offered were standard, itís delivery system was so different. But even
First Direct will have to move with the times- telephone banking
services are now offered by all the high street banks so it is no longer
as great a point of difference as it once was.
painted of the future by this monthís panel is one in which marketers
have more knowledge in their hands than ever before. Database marketing
has given marketers real information, not just speculation. Markets will
move faster, product development will be quicker, but products and
brands must renew themselves constantly to retain market position.
marketers are well placed to deal with future consumers. Understanding
them, delivering what they want and communicating regularly are all
grist to the mill of those involved today.
But the flow
of information will be two-way. Marketers will know customers but 21st
century consumers will be more marketing aware than previous
generations- wary of advertising whitewash and quick to abandon those
products and brands that donít deliver.
says, maybe this is the free market working as it should. But he adds:
"When these brands fall, itís the perfect way of the market
sending a message. Consumers are saying, " ĎWe like your
products, but your status is temporary if you donít keep upí."