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Marketing and Comms
Forget Inspiration:
Successful Movement-Making Requires Appealing to Consumers’ Aspirations

“The sustainability movement has been slowly gaining momentum, but I think we would all agree that it isn’t moving fast enough and the world we live in can’t afford for us to continue moving at the current pace.”

So asserted Kimberly Manno Reott, Accounts Director for design firm Context Partners, in the opening of Monday’s workshop on movement-making at SB’16 Copenhagen. Context Partners recognises that building long-term relationships with customers and employees is critical to succeeding in a constantly changing world where identity, information and power dynamics are rapidly shifting. Building these long-term relationships requires more than traditional campaigns that lead to short-term customer loyalty; it requires building networks to support movements.

“Movements don’t just happen,” Reott continued. “They are a product of intentional design.” But if designed correctly they hold the power to shift social norms and the way customers relate to a brand. So what’s the secret sauce?

  1. A Shared Purpose that is relational, familiar and timeless
  2. Roles that are clearly defined
  3. Relevant rewards that recognise the long-term commitment of loyal customers.

To help us better understand these three elements, the speakers continued to define the difference between inspiration and aspiration. Most campaigns focus on temporarily inspiring their customers to act in a way that leads to increased transactions – to purchase a new brand of shoe, for example. This approach, however, does not create sustained engagement; as soon as their shoes wear out the customer moves on to the next trend. Rather than focusing on inspiration, successful movements instead enable customers to achieve their aspirations – who they want to be at their very core.

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“The beauty of focusing on customer aspirations lies in the fact that people’s aspirations rarely change and, if given a choice, people will act towards their aspirations every time,” Reott said. Given this, a shared purpose that focuses on creating pathways that enable customers to live out their aspirations will by default lead to lasting, loyal relationships that transcend transactions.

So how do we determine what aspirations people have? Context Partners continued to introduce six aspirational personas, or ‘roles’ they have identified through their research – Builders, Innovators, Connectors, Curators, Storytellers and Sharers. Each role corresponds to different interests and skills, and collectively they form the organizational structure that enables a movement to be launched and sustained.

Segmenting customers into these clearly defined roles that transcend historic data recognises that customers want to be engaged in different ways, centred on their aspirational values and not socio-economic status or past purchasing decisions. It also recognises customers as partners that can (and want to) directly support a company’s business goals and address business challenges; Innovators and Builders might be engaged in the R&D process and Storytellers in communications efforts, for example. Rewards for loyal customers should be designed and tailored with these personas in mind.

After covering the framework, examples of companies that have initiated successful movements, including Patagonia, were discussed. Context Partners’ Design and Discovery Lead, Suzanne Pflaum, then led an interactive session encouraging participants to explore the six aspirational roles in more detail. Much to the delight of the room, determining our individual roles involved evaluating the first thought that popped into our minds in response to eating a piece of chocolate with our eyes closed.

All in all, the workshop was incredibly thought-provoking; clearly brands need to rethink the way they view and categorize customers and their aspirations to create positive and lasting impacts.


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