Eight key marketing trends for 2008 and beyond
Consumer needs are evolving at an ever-accelerating pace as they follow emerging trends that reflect new lifestyle concerns. Marketers who hope to engage such a moving target - and win consumer trust and loyalty - must not only be aware of trends but also develop marketing initiatives that genuinely link their 'brand soul' to consumer expectations, according to Laurence Knight and Carol Davies, partners at marketing consultancy Fletcher Knight.
The company's overview of the key marketing trends that are expected to shape the 'brand map' for 2008 and beyond includes several key issues:
- The new luxury: Expertise vs. Prestige As high-end goods reach down to the masses, luxury is evolving to create a new elite consumer that values expertise more than prestige. Instead of looking to the wealthy for what's aspirational, this consumer looks to the experts as their role models. Rather than just going out and buying a Sub-Zero refrigerator, for example, these new luxury consumers are asking, "What are the best chefs using in their kitchens?"
- The weight management gap Just as the income gap continues to widen, there will be a growing gap in waistlines. A small group of consumers will take advantage of the proliferating healthy eating options - from organic food to low fat ice cream - to assertively take and keep control of their weight. But the vast majority of overweight Americans, stressed out and financially stretched, will continue to grow heavier. The disparity between the lightest and the heaviest will widen, making America both one of the healthiest and unhealthiest nations at the same time.
- Beyond green: Becoming transparent As more and more companies jump on the green bandwagon, consumers' scepticism meters will start to ring alarm bells. Environmentally friendly platitudes will no longer be sufficient to differentiate. Consumers will demand more proof that a company or brand is actively reducing its carbon footprint. In this world of evidence-based marketing, even "bad guy" companies like Wal-mart, which is helping to save the planet because it saves costs, can turn out to be "good guy" winners.
- The rise of the male influencer As men continue to shop more and play a bigger role on the home front, their influence as consumers will continue to grow. No longer relegated only to DIY, electronics, and cars, they will look for products - from shampoo to marinades - and retail experiences that understand their unique and increasingly complex male point-of-view.
- Beautiful food After the proliferation of "health and wellness" in foods, some consumers are now more readily accepting that food is the source of true beauty, and food can be truly beautiful. Super Sensory and Super Functional foods will seek a more receptive target who truly adopts the mantra that beauty is from the inside out. Functional foods that target hair, skin, nails, metabolism and longevity, will seek efficacious beauty, while super sensory food products will help the consumer experience new dimensions of beautiful vitality in food.
- Purity and safety When it comes to safety and purity of products and services, consumers are quickly moving beyond "nation bashing". A consumer realisation is re-emerging that brands have the central responsibility for maintaining trust with the consumer when it comes to safety. A growing number of consumers will wield their true power and influence in the brand choices that they make. They will expect their brands to communicate safety and purity in way that is clear, believable and trustworthy. And some segments will be willing to pay a lot more for the peace of mind and reassurance that the brand has the checks in place.
- The sound of products "Snap Crackle & Pop" has long demonstrated the influence and association that sound can have on consumers. Now the world of physical product and sound is about to become a hot bed of innovation. Greeting cards have successfully demonstrated the potential to move consumer into a new level of 'auditory association'. Products will look for new ways to integrate digital media in to packaging, POP and of course sponsored programming. Consumer will seek out digital sound that creates new levels of emotional and sensory association and also provides more specific functional information on product.
- Authenticity and 'brand soul' Consumers are now in constant communication with their brands of preference and, because of this, they will look more and more for true brand authenticity or "brands with soul" that share their passions and motivations. Such brands have a clear 'reason for being' that allows them to communicate with an authentic voice. The brand soul is not necessarily a mission or a charitable cause, though - although it certainly can be those things.
The firm concluded that real "brand soul" is usually related to values and ethics, such a quality, self-esteem, or integrity. And that means that consumers will see brands without soul as simply relying on the 'hard sell' of products and services built on pushy positioning statements. This is a conclusion that marketers won't be able to afford to ignore in the coming years.