InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) 2017 consumer trends report highlights the “uncompromising nature” of today’s customer who increasingly expects brands to deliver experiences that satisfy contradictory needs. Weber Shandwick, Havas PR and Curzon PR explain how PR can create opportunity in this complex environment.
IHG defines the “uncompromising consumer” as one who wants brands to deliver services for paradoxical needs. These consumers are focused on the protection, and expression, of their own individuality while paradoxically seeking inclusion in a “meaningful” group. For example, they crave rare experiences but also want them to be easily available.
The hospitality business says by addressing and capitalising on these contradictory desires, brands can deliver consumer experiences that strengthen relationships and grow loyalty.
Brands need an unpolished way to communicate with customers
Adam Mack, chief brand strategy officer at Weber Shandwick, says the agency’s research with Noreena Hertz on Generation K (14 to 21 year-olds) is evidence of the ‘uncompromising consumer’ and a mindset that is only going to become more mainstream as the audience gets older.
He adds: “They’re more impatient; in fact a one second delay in loading a web page loses over 10% of traffic. They’re more cynical; just 6% of Gen K trust businesses to ‘do the right thing’, compared to 60% of adults. They tend to trust their peers over any other endorser; over 70% make purchase decisions based on friends’ likes, shares and posts.”
According to the agency there are three things brands can do better to create engagement. Mack continues: “Firstly, ensure they have authentic purpose behind their brand or product and make sure they’re not trying to dress anything up or spin anything; authenticity is everything.
“Secondly, unlock peer-to-peer networks by partnering with mid-level/mid-reach influencers to make and distribute content.
“Finally, involve consumers in the product and campaign development process as much as possible, allowing them to make their own mark on the brand and campaign – beautifully finished content is not so much their thing. Beyond this, the watchwords should be agility, honesty, humility and fun.”
Balance is key
Farzana Baduel, CEO at Curzon PR, says the solution lies in balance. She continues: “As intelligent PR professionals we must protect and preserve each brand’s unique heritage whilst also keeping up with key trends to stay ahead of the innovation game.
“One key strategy which drives growth through marketing 3.0, or values-based marketing, is giving consumers the freedom to express themselves, collaborating to PR initiatives in their own way to make them feel they have a voice – as seen in Burberry’s ‘Art of the Trench’ campaign and Tiffany & Co.’s superb ‘What is True Love’ campaign.
“Both brands encouraged their global consumers to strategically engage with their core values through inviting them to share their own stories. By choosing to contribute, consumers were aspiring to be part of something greater, thus building brand loyalty. The perception of access without over-comprising on availability is what works – balance.
“PR is all about creating, crafting and curating magnificent stories. With balance it can be expertly developed to fulfil consumers needs however contradictory they may initially appear to be.”
Brands need to offer ‘real-world realisation’ for their product
Jonathan Welsh, associate director at Havas PR, says that this type of consumer has been on the rise for some time due to rise and change in social. He says: “A recent survey by Havas found that 53% of consumer identified themselves as a ‘hometown person’, with 6% seeing themselves as a ‘world citizen’. 65% would rather shop locally, and 75% would rather have great sex in their own beds than in a hotel. Sorry, IHG…
“Havas PR’s Marian Salzman, trend-spotter supreme, refers to these consumers as ‘localists’. These consumers use online resources from anywhere in the world, but are keen to cultivate them offline to enhance their local, real-world lives.
“Many brands are only half way there, they are creating the online resources but not offering a real-world realisation of their brand. This shows us why Amazon’s move to a ‘bricks and mortar’ trial is relevant to today’s consumers.”