In his latest column, B&T’s favourite contrarian, agitator and shit-stirrer, Robert Strofeldt, casts his eye over society’s zeitgeist and says there’s some disturbing facts for every marketeer…
A major issue doing the rounds of the industry is “Reframing Australia” or how the Australian population has changed and we (advertising) must be aware of the changes and act accordingly.
I dug through my files and found a presentation I put together 20 years ago. (July 1997 How much change has there really been? Following are the key points from this presentation:
· Last 20 years has seen the rapid secularization of society.
– General community rejection of established institutions e.g. Government and Church
– Rapid shifts in English language i.e. acceptance of street talk.
· Shift from established, externally defined sources of authority and meaning to individualized and hypothesized legitimacy of viewpoint.
· Described as Post Modernism.
“The 1980s marked an historic transition from a society of mass production class based identity and collectivism to a more individualized culture where identities are more numerous, and more fluid and society is a more mobile affair” The Times 1992 (Identity Politics is not new, or just started a couple of years ago. It has been growing slowly and steadily for over 20 years)
· Post Modernism coincides with shift from the industrial to the information age due to proliferation of and access to information
· Twenty years ago, all information was viewed as useful. Today, large volumes of useless information must be shifted through to find value. (e.g. large volume of “junk” on the internet)
· Result for Marketers has been the emergence of the “Super Consumer”
– Not “sold” to, they “buy”
– Are proactive and demanding
– Armed with product knowledge
– Shop competitively, but not only on price i.e. not tested on animals, adherence to ethical production, political correctness. (Brand Purpose was being considered 20 years ago, nothing new there).
“Consumers became their own product investigators, researching product quality before they made their choice. After years this work intensive consuming began to breed resentment. Here is the future, vigilante-consumer-wise. For years we could not see the person at the top. Now we want them out front and center and held accountable. (Faith Popcorn “Targeting Your Life” – silly name but she did some great work.)
· Impact on marketers is and will be huge. Today’s consumers are not won by being fooled or shouted at.
SEVEN POINTS OF CONSUMER DRIVEN MARKETING”:
1) Product Quality – Now demanded and ignored at one’s peril
2) Customer Focus – Still true it costs five to seven times the amount to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one.
3) Link Brand with Broader Social Values – Be seen as a responsible and contributing member of the community. (There is that “new: concept” of Brand Purpose again).
4) Work with Consumer – Always look for improvement by seeking their counsel
5) Give Something Back – Make them feel they are receiving value
6) Be Honest
7) Respect Consumers’ IQ – Particularly when communicating with them
· With the proliferation of media conduits and digital technology, there is an ever-increasing opportunity to talk one on one to the customer. Also represents a golden opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship. (I was a lot younger and more idealistic then and feel into the anthropomorphism trap. Consumers don’t want relationships with brands, rather brands they can trust).
“Customers are not on-off switches. They are volume dials. Instead of concentrating on one product at a time and trying to sell it to as many customers as possible during a fiscal period, tomorrow’s share-of-customer markets will concentrate on one customer at a time and try to sell that customer as many products as possible over the customer’s lifetime” Pepper & Rogers “The One to One Future”
Using a variety of means to talk to customers is now a must with the disintegration of the mass market. The era of the 1970s where marketers could reach a large potential market through a single TVC will never be repeated.
All communications, whether brand or retail, must adopt an integrated approach if the optimum impact is to be achieved. (The separation of media and creative into two different and sometimes competing businesses, has held back this area. No creative person in their right mind is going to suggest 2-second videos on Facebook as a solution. This could only come from a media person, or academic,)
Females have traditionally been “the household shopper” and targeted for many FMCGs. Now with the increasing independence of male input, females are becoming major purchasers of tyres, cars and other products and services once seen as primarily the male domain. And the corollary is true as well.
Multiculturalism is currently and will continue to have, a major impact on the Australian market:
• 21 per cent of the Australian population is born overseas. This number is greater than the combined populations of South and Western Australia.
• Close to 20 per cent of the Australian population over five years of age, speaks another language besides English at home. (one in five, 20 years ago!) This figure is higher in Sydney and Melbourne.
• Figures from the ATO state that more than 25 per cent of small businesses are owned by people from NESB. This figure is higher in some communities, particularly Chinese.
• In the past 10 years around 50,000 business migrants had settled in Australia. To qualify as a business migrant, a person had to bring at least $A1 million with them.
• NESB communities respond “enthusiastically” when addressed in ways which are linguistically sensitive and culturally relevant.
• Ethnic communities have proven to be loyal to companies who have courted them in a business-like and professional manner.
This information was taken from a workshop given to dealer principals of a large automotive manufacturer – it was basic and widely known within the industry. Yet today, 20 years later, pretty much the same is being put forward to people in advertising as The Changing Face of Australia.
What the hell happened? We are not in our current cultural position due to overnight changes.
Long before many of the people working in advertising and marketing today were born, Australia was widely recognized as the most (and successful) multicultural society in the world.
There is no radical shift from 20 years ago to today – it has been slow and steady on a pre-determined route. I have looked at some of the “data” being presented and it is a matter of “so what?
Digital madness took over. People stopped looking at the macro and focused on the micro. In 2008 a popular video did the rounds proclaiming any company without a strong social media presence would not be in business in 5 years -time.
In 1997, the internet may have been old news to the military and academics, but it was new to the masses and social media was still nearly seven years away. The dotcom crash was also still in the future.
Identity politics, multiculturalism, the changing role of and attitudes to women in the workplace, brand purpose etc., were well underway before the internet became the all invasive and pervasive beast it is today.
As an industry, we have been focused on social and online media – thinking they are the greatest advertising platforms of all time. And just as the industry (well, some of it) starts to wake up to the facts, we are starting to see that the much bigger stories have almost passed us by.
The internet, in particular, the Google/Facebook duopoly, will continue to have starring roles in future, but finally, we seemed to have learned they are lead actors, not the main show.