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Latest Consumer Insights Show How Brands Are Driving (and Being Driven to) Better Behavior

Kicking off this Monday morning workshop at SB’15 London was Raphael Bemporad from BBMG. He soon got the room buzzing with his warm welcome and introduction to the topic for the morning’s workshop: market insights related to customer attitudes and behavior.

The following three hours were jam-packed full of facts, figures and analyses, but before we hit the numbers, Bemporad had a message for us — now is the moment of opportunity. Why? Because the landscape of sustainability today has changed — it has shifted from obligation to desire. Not only that, but the right thing and the cool thing have come together and with that, the rise of a new kind of consumer, that wants to improve lives and participate in something bigger than themselves: the ‘Aspirational Generation.

Made up of mostly millennials and Gen X, the Aspirational generation is big. Many emerging markets have between a third and a half of their population falling into this category, with an even split between males and females and three common dimensions: They love to shop; they want to shop responsibly, and they are optimistic about the future.

Bemporad proposed five ways to engage Aspirationals:

  1. Give them a ‘manifesto’
  2. Create a ‘badge’ for the tribe
  3. Empower their voice – they want a ‘megaphone’
  4. Provide them with a social ‘currency’
  5. Develop a ‘platform’

Next was Dan Gavshon Brady from Wolff Olins. Speaking to 43 CEOs, 400 employees and 10 experts in leadership management, Wolff Olins looked at how leadership practice is changing. They found that today’s employees are ‘uncorporate individuals’ that do not respond well to the leadership style of the late 1900s. Instead, they need delineation, self-sufficiency and to create their own purpose.

86 percent of those interviewed said they have had to change their leadership style dramatically in the last five years and that this has not been easy. The research found three major tensions:

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1. Culture and FAST — how do you change a culture quickly? 2. Distributed leadership — how do you confer a direction but then let it shape itself? 3. Clear and fuzzy — how do you create a purpose and convey an authentic brand?

Gavshon Brady concluded by suggesting that even the title of CEO should change to ‘Designer in Chief.’ Whether we see this happening in the coming years or not, it's a descriptor that would certainly help everyone’s understanding of the challenges faced.

Lucy Shea of Futerra then launched into a pacey presentation on the approach of her change agency, which wants to ‘make sustainability so desirable it becomes normal.’ Its method for this? Combining logic and magic to drive change.

‘Logic’ is the practical elements — the vision and the maps (plans) — whereas the ‘magic’ is about the symbols and the stories: the brand and the killer creative that will tug on the heartstrings and resonate with real people.

Shea used the example of a communications campaign Futerra created to raise consumer awareness about the origins of their clothes. ‘Fashion Revolution Day’ started as annual commemorative social media campaign in response to the Rana Plaza disaster. But it is already becoming more of a movement, bringing together customers and brands in a way that brings the issue to light. The 2015 campaign hashtag had more than 63 million unique users and it became the number one trending hashtag globally on the day.

Dorothy Mackenzie of Dragon Rouge then discussed how the future of living spaces and workplaces will create more sustainable ways of living. Important to consider are the technological, demographic and economic drivers, such as:

  1. The squeeze on space — the housing shortage and space saving options
  2. The rise of community — online platforms and groups
  3. Business equals pleasure — the aspiration of current students to own a business, not to be employed by one
  4. The responsive environment — intelligent buildings using embedded devices that seamlessly manage efficiency
  5. The maker movement — craft and repair
  6. Zero-waste society — the reuse of all products

Mackenzie asked: Could the answer to affordable housing be as simple as the 3D house printer capable of printing a sustainable 230m2 house in just 24 hours? Or could it be that the Internet of Things will bring us together with technologies in ways that allow us to find simple solutions that just become part of the way we live?

It is these types of questions that are helping businesses spot the gaps and opportunities. By working in this way, we can align business needs with people’s needs.

Looking at global trends and the opportunities and challenges they bring was Steve French from the Natural Marketing Institute, who drew on insights from the NMI’s annual tracking study, designed to look at the ‘why’ behind environmentally conscious behavior.

Globally, the research showed that most emerging countries care about both environmental protection and socially responsible business (with the exception of Russia). But in developed countries, consumers feel less informed about sustainability issues and the actions they should take.

Interestingly, consumers today are less concerned about climate change than they were in the past. Why? Because they believe things are being done.

It also found that, while 6 in 10 people considered sustainability mainstream, their motivations are different:

  1. Personal and family health
  2. Practicality, to save money
  3. Drifters, those want to do the right thing, but sometimes they find it difficult (the most exciting group)

The outcome is the same — these people are taking action in response to sustainability — but with one caveat: no sacrifices. Consumers want the same quality in a sustainably produced product and they don’t want to have to pay more for it.

Finally, Christoph Kahlert of Germany’s Serviceplan Group discussed making sustainability perceptions measurable.

“Consumers don’t really want to know anything,” he asserted, “they want to buy, and they want to have a good feeling.” In essence, sustainability alone is not strong enough for consumers — it needs to be connected to values and emotions.

So how important is sustainability for buying decisions? In Germany, the answer is that is affects 4.6 percent of buying decisions, a number that reaches 10 percent when talking about baby products. Kahlert posited that, with this in mind, sustainability cannot be a one-time communication. It needs to be part of ‘always on’ messaging and integral to stakeholder conversations.

Bemporad summarized that we can bring people together and drive change through two pillars: The pillar of brand, which combines culture, emotions, relationship and communications; and the pillar of sustainability, which brings together system, logic, design and strategy.


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