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ConsumerLoop #1, November 1996

Emerging Consumer Themes

ConsumerLoop is the third Through the Loop publication which will be sent to our customers and partners on a monthly basis. Consumer issues are an integral part of our marketing agenda and we will be covering topics such as the changing shape of health and healthcare, the future pattern of work and emerging regions/countries such as Central and Eastern Europe, but also China and India. Other topics will follow as we build our agenda to cater for the needs of both our client base and to expand our own research and development.

Through the Loop's consumer knowledge derives from our own proprietary research among various target groups, syndicated studies from our various research partners and the ability to tap into diverse cultures around the world. We watch carefully how this knowledge is translated into the consumer relationship with the brand and specifically into consumer power.

The consumer decision process is changing rapidly and only those companies which focus on understanding and empathising with these changes will succeed in creating their own future in mature markets. There is no longer one single pattern to consumer values, rather there are a series of themes which we believe will start to form the base shape of consumer needs, values and attitudes beyond the millennium. Confusingly, for marketers, consumer needs may move into two different directions, needs are no longer uni-dimensional.

In emerging countries, consumer needs still follow a reasonably well defined hierarchy. However, the need pattern will not evolve in a linear way any more. Rather consumers will jump stages of development. For those marketers who fought the concept of the Digital Generation in established markets may be surprised to learn that Through the Loop recently discovered the very early signals of an emerging Digital Generation culture in Colombia. We do not all have to pass through the age of telex and fixed structure telephony! Our project work across the globe shows some interesting new themes emerging at the end of the 1990s.

"Master, the Sages say we must aspire to foresight.

What do you think? It is a wonderful idea my son."

Long Range Planning.

Some of these are predictive and Through the Loop is sure that there will be ebbs and flows from region to region and country to country. The emerging themes: the change in value engineering, the consumer desire for integrity, consumer advocacy, subtle environmentalism and consumer energy.

Value Engineering

Value engineering will take on new attributes as we move towards the end of the 1990s. The structural restraint seen earlier is gently giving way to including at least some sense of enjoyment in every consumption experience. Even small rewards count......why has loyalty correctly managed been so successful even for the rather mundane task of grocery shopping? Building some fun into any consumption experience will be mandatory for any brand seeking to grow in the late 1990s. It may even be that brands become services in order to produce this element of enjoyment. There is no doubt that the concept of brand value will become more complex. Understanding the way in which consumers behave as value engineers in your market category across the globe will become vital.

A Desire for Integrity

Integrity will become a leading consumer issue. This is already manifesting itself in consumer boycotts of companies, brands and products. Consumers will look more closely at the company behind the brand. How do you do business? They will also look at the integrity of what you produce or manufacture. It will no longer be about quality but rather the sanctity and integrity of the processes you use to get your product to market. For example, are all of the steps in your nutritional food chain proofed in terms of supply and effect of packaging on the environment? Expect consumers to be more moral! This value set will apply across the globe differently.

Consumer Advocacy

Consumers will need to be involved and participating in the flows of information through the market-place. Previous work on the Digital Generation, originally commissioned by McCann-Erickson, shows that the age-group from 18-29 years expect to be part of that market-place process. A dialogue has become essential but too few marketers are maximising that opportunity. Making consumers advocates for your brand and your company will be vital for business success in the future. The ways to build this advocacy will be more varied through a greater variety of channels of communication. Consumer advocacy will also break the classic market structures as they open categories to new forms of competition. A record or a book store no longer has to be Virgin or WH Smith. Understanding and powering advocacy is going to become more important in both a brand and company context.

Subtle Environmentalism

This is the value set that many commentators expected to be niche and peripheral to the main market-place. The reality is that this has become a pervasive consumer value which reinforces both the desire for integrity and consumer advocacy. "Nature has too often been treated as an industrial process." The effects of this are now transparently clear. Ignore the subtlety of environmentalism at your peril.

Consumer Energy

In emerging countries, such as those in Latin America, there is a new value set, sheer consumer energy. Marketers need to appeal to this energy which is very different in tone from that in mature countries. Through the Loop will be spending considerable time in this development area.

Understanding the consumer themes of tomorrow will be pre-requisites for business success. Through the Loop has posed a series of hypotheses about the way in which the consumer will behave at the end of the 1990s. These can obviously be refined over the course of time.....but meanwhile what would your evaluation be of your company and more particularly your brand portfolio against these themes?

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