Future-ready brands study how consumers are changing
Consumer attitudes and beliefs
inform brand visions and tactics
Senior Vice President and Executive Planning Director
J. Walter Thompson, Mumbai
The future is an adventure, going into the unknown with a sense of thrill and anticipation. Building a brand for the future is not easy. It demands both vision and practicality. Somewhat like ziplining, we need equipment to carry the brand forward with momentum, while keeping it safe at most times.
The joint demands of vision and practicality, at first glance an odd couple, are best understood and reconciled through the lens of the consumer. The lens of consumer attitudes and beliefs provides a visionary, yet practical, scale that can help us prepare brands.
In a volatile, unpredictable but exciting future, this scale can help equip brand builders to take actions that are most likely to make their brands more future-ready, more aligned with the expectations of the next generation—the millennials. Here are three key characteristics of future-ready brands.
Future-ready brands are fun
The first aspect to measure is whether consumers associate a brand with having fun. Consumer data emphasizes that millennials are not only driven to achieve, but also have an equally strong yearning for fun. The twin drivers of achievement and fun lead to a consumer behavior defined as cocooning.
The term cocooning emerged in the early 1980s to describe stay-at-home behavior. Recently, there has been a resurgence in cocooning, with consumers immersed in their own world anywhere, anytime. Cocooning behavior, like watching an online video, is exhibited late night, while commuting, eating, or shopping.
Diving deeper, the emotional needs for cocooning are to escape from boredom, anxiety, dull routine, or even a messy problem. These motives signal, at the core, a need for an emotional release. A recent report notes that enjoying life and freedom are two of the four fundamental life needs of the new generation (the others being self-reliance and protecting family). Hence, brands need to check whether they are in step with the consumers’ yearning for fun.
Future-ready brands do 'good'
The second aspect to measure is whether consumers associate a brand with contribution to the social good. Over 80 percent of millennials believe it is important to leave a legacy of goodwill, to leave the world a better place for future generations, to balance out inequalities in the world. They believe that it is their generation’s responsibility to shape the future of their country, according to the JWT BRIC millennials survey.
The survey finds that millennials are actively looking for ways to voice their opinion about social problems. In addition, there is overwhelming evidence that in an increasingly transparent world, consumers expect business to earn profit with purpose. In modern times, brands are expected to contribute toward a social cause. Hence, to be in step with the consumer mainstream, and the expectation of advancing the social good, brands need to have a tangible dimension of social good associated with them.
Future-ready brands are different
The third aspect to measure is whether consumers see a brand as different in some way or other. Nearly 50 percent of millennials affirm that their own life will be very different from that of their parents. An “I’ll pave my own way” thinking permeates the minds of millennials.
Over 70 percent agree with these statements: “I would date/marry outside my race,” “I view race differently than my parents’ generation did,” “I don't see anything wrong with men taking on jobs traditionally associated with women or vice versa,” technology has put so many professional and entrepreneurial opportunities in front of me.”
We see there is an abundance of “we’re different” data points about young consumers, and to be relevant to them, in the present and future, brands need to define themselves and, more importantly, embrace their own difference.