The rise of consumer activists, vigilantes, micro-authority consumers, who’re turning kitchens, bathrooms into labs, courtrooms.
We had talked about how the new consumer is information rich, awakened, media empowered and now ready to take action, giving rise to what we called the Erin Brockovich consumer. Are these consumers evolving and now ready to take full charge? Not just being activists and whistle blowers asking brands tough questions… is this new breed ready to take consumer empowerment to the next level of authority? From questioning, to interrogation and final testing for proof. Almost taking over the role of labs and judiciary, turning their homes into labs and consumer court rooms.
Let’s look at some recent episodes that point me towards this new breed and how marketing needs to evolve to satisfy these evolved consumers.
I’m sure the recent Sebamed and honey controversies are fresh in our memories. And it’s not the first time that a competitive brand has claimed purity or has implicated its rival brands. Then what’s the big fuss then, this time?
So here are some of my observations and some extrapolations done in the past which seem to be moving more towards reality. A lot of these brands didn’t just talk about efficacy or purity tests, but actually empowered the consumer to test it for themselves. For instance, litmus tests that let you test the pH balance of the soap in your bathroom (Sebamed) or some sort of purity testing kit that lets you test the milawat levels of that carton of milk in your kitchen (Country Delight). It’s almost like a blend of the rising DIY culture and tech empowerment is changing us into micro-authorities endorsing, accrediting or questioning brands.
As we move forward, with smarter smart phones and easier DIY wall paint (Asian Paints) and furniture solutions (Ikea), this trend in my opinion is only going to go bigger, finally giving rise to a new breed of consumers whom I call the RBG Micro Authorities (named after the legendary US Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg). These consumers will have their own influence zones and could become very critical partners for brands as they look to build consumer trust.
"Also thanks to the DIY culture and tech empowerment, brands could actually make consumers experience a new moment of truth and turn their homes or phones into endorsement labs to prove purity, precision or efficacy."Divyapratap Mehta
In a world where we are in any case questioning the authenticity, purity, precision, safety and intent of our surroundings, people, products, foods, etc. This could end up also becoming a social obsession. Having said that no brand can escape this new reality.
These consumers are here to stay and will only be able to exercise more influence through the power of new media and tech enabled experiences.
So what should brands do to ride this new wave, or shall we say, the new consumer trend, which is here to stay?
In my opinion winning brands of the future will actually harness the power of these consumers. Never before was it easier to collaborate with consumers. Also thanks to the DIY culture and tech empowerment, brands could actually make consumers experience a new moment of truth and turn their homes or phones into endorsement labs to prove purity, precision or efficacy. One of the first examples of such an innovation was the Duracell power check. I would urge brands to make such experiences a part of their marketing plan.
Leverage the power of an app to show lesser dandruff, prove that it works. Innovate to reassure a consumer that the packaged drinking water they just bought is safe or has extra minerals, etc. Think of unique experiences that make the entire journey transparent and empowering for consumers.
In this new bold world, you can make such experiences a part of your consumer journey and you could be one of the powerful brands, championed and advocated by these consumers. As for the brands that have been living in the smoke screen world of marketing, it’s time you sipped the coffee and accepted this new reality, where consumers are ready to go the last mile.
Questioning you, testing you and proclaiming their verdicts. I call it the RBG consumer or the micro authority influencers - multiple vigilantes turned consumer judges, without any gender bias as is evident in the examples I have chosen to name these phenomena after. It’s that time when the consumer vigilantes are not just questioning but ready to take power in their hands, all through the last mile and become the symbol of conscious consumer authority, turning their homes into labs and consumer courts.
(The author is a thought leader in consumer insights, brands and strategy, with experience across diverse markets and clients.)