The agile consumer #1

| Tags: Business

Studioriley has been working with Cheil Worldwide for the last three years to better understand how people are evolving as globalization transforms all lives, and as technology shifts social structures. The focus of the work, led by Chris Chalk at Cheil, has been grounded in the concept of “agility”.

So what do we mean by agility and how does it describe the way people engage with consumerism today?

On one level “agility” is about two things: quick understanding and fast action. Quick understanding is a consequence of technology. It transforms the mass consumer mentality of the last century into the agile consumer mindset we see now. Fast action is the behavioral change that follows. In combination, this creates a market that initially seems unstable, but on deeper analysis is being grounded in powerful meaningful ideas.

Product loyalty and brands were the products of television and the mass distribution of manufactured goods. Agile markets are markets driven by both consumers and businesses, who are able to learn and act quickly. In this environment brand loyalty ceases to be about perception and becomes more about reality. Brand ideas cease to be fantasies based on mythologies and become realities based on behavior. Because of these changes, markets that were relatively stable – with well-built brands managed for the long term – become disrupted by new innovations and the agility of consumers. These agile consumers are seeking newer and better benefits, understand deeper and more important long-term values, and therefore are behaving differently.

So what are the long-term values that underpin consumer agility? How does someone who can learn and act quickly be anchored in a stable social context?

Without a stable underpinning to both perception and action, people feel lost and vulnerable. How many times have you heard a dismayed commentary about how hard it is to trust companies these days? Yet somehow the young, specifically the so-called Millennial Generation, claim that despite the chaos of a post-recession economy they feel happy. (Pew Research 2014). Is this because, as one commentator claimed, they are deluded and heading for disappointment? Or is it that they have re-calibrated their values to reflect the ideas that make them happy? We would argue the latter, and when seeking those values that offer security and ultimately define happiness, we see ideas such as a sense of communal belonging, the striving for meaningful relationships and the twin external concerns of protecting the environment and achieving social justice.

This elevates the importance of “purpose & values”. Agile businesses are not loose canons out of control and managing chaos. They are grounded in a clear purpose and a set of values. Look to new brands such as UBER and even some sold ones such as Virgin.

Chris Chalk and I will discuss these ideas at the Adweek Europe conference on April 3rd in London. As our world speeds up so the need to be grounded in purpose and values becomes more important.