Goafest 2008: Consumer generated discontent could hamper your brand

By , agencyfaqs!, Goa | In Advertising | April 07, 2008
Sheila Byfield warns brands against wandering into the consumer's personal space with in your face advertising and unasked for information because today's consumer is much more empowered

Sheila & #BANNER1 & # Byfield, head of consumer insights, Group M, shed light on the various changes in consumer behaviour and the immense blurring among brands.

As mentioned by most people in the industry of studying consumer insights, Byfield stressed on the increasing fragmentation within media. More than 1,000 channels exist on television and radio and they are cluttering the segment without offering much content differentiation. "There is fierce competition for time and attention," she said. "But this does not mean that traditional means of communication have died out as considered by many - they have just changed."

The age of communication is no more one of interruption with inserted content on television or radio, but one of engagement where the consumer participates just as much in the brand of his choice. The increasing demand for user generated content has created a totally new world of advertising.

Sheila Byfield
This fragmentation has brought about a whole new revolution in consumer behaviour. In the retail space, consumers are wary of what they buy and what they consume while they shop. More than half of the information supplied in-store is filtered. Consumers are known to rely more on advice offered by another consumer, even if he's a stranger, rather than the brand itself, which they have known for much longer. Communities and networks that discuss all that is on the consumer's mind should be places of huge interest to the brand.

This drift towards taking advice from strangers is due to the blur in brands. Brands are no longer identified by the values with which they started off. A few examples that Byfield cited were Armani tying up with Samsung to launch television sets and mobile phones and Amazon selling food on its website. Consumers are blurring too, she said, adding, "Male skin care is responsible for 30 per cent of the global cosmetics market." Children too are getting much more involved in decision making processes at home. In contrast, the older generation is getting younger with a try-all-before-you-die attitude.

Media and technology are blurring in a big way. Earlier you could view only on television and talk only on the telephone. Now, with technological advances reaching new heights, television can be viewed on the phone and you can talk on your computer.

With the immense shift towards building communities and networks, consumers are coming together in more ways to profit from their purchases. In China, a network that gathered all those who wanted to buy a washing machine, bunched up about 250 people. These people then called the dealer and asked him what his rate would be to supply 250 washing machines. This empowered consumer will govern brands. "Brands would have to be able to interpret the consumer's behaviour much before it comes into being," said Byfield.

The consumer is more aware and prefers to spend more on experiences than material things. This trend is observed in India. The experience can be offered in-store if carried out effectively. Byfield suggested increasing the experience by facilitating product trials. Indians lay emphasis even on luxury products. Byfield was quick to add that Indians are also much more responsible about the environment and there is a swing towards consumers buying organic and environment friendly products.

The consumer thus is constantly looking for a balance in his life. The brand will therefore need to tread a careful path so as to not overstep into the consumer's private space because in this age of user generated content, there is a vent for user generated discontent, too.