The age of “my brand, my way” is here.
Consumers want to be known individually, and they no longer accept blanket statements. People are distinct in their preferences and their values. They identify with their uniqueness and expect the brands they care about to notice it, too.
Successful brands will not only take notice, but also discover ways to speak creatively and strategically to the individual — rather than simply categorize individuals as part of a group.
Here are four trends that harness the power of the individual to create greater engagement between consumers and brands.
1. Prioritize ‘Me’
U.S. consumers crave personal attention. Effective brands are focusing on individuals and tailoring products and services based on their preferences.
The “me” mindset is particularly true of Millennials, who expect brands to recognize their specialized tastes and reward their purchases through loyalty programs and special events — and by featuring them as brand ambassadors.
Customization is a magic touchpoint with consumers, allowing them to express their personal style and preferences while still utilizing their favorite brands or products. Here are a few examples:
- Coca-Cola Freestyle: Coke’s popular touch-screen soda fountain can be found in select restaurants and allows customers to mix flavors and Coke products for customized drinks. Coca-Cola Freestyle now even has an app that allows customers to share their favorite recipes on social media and find a location nearby.
- Chocomize: Chocolate lovers can create and order their own unique treats from this company’s website, choosing from more than 100 different ingredients, including everything from bacon to violet petals.
- NIKEiD: This iconic brand offers customers the opportunity to design and order “your shoes, your way,” allowing them to specify the color, the pattern, and even an inspirational message sewn into the tongue of the shoe.
2. Expand Mobile Communications
Mobile isn’t just a thing — it’s the thing. Nearly two-thirds of all Americans and nearly one-fourth of the world’s population own smartphones. And four out of five consumers use them to shop, making $1.1 billion in payments every day.
Mobile allows brands to talk directly to consumers through a device in their hands, which creates a powerful anytime, anywhere connection. Leveraging mobile by having a strong mobile presence and a mobile-friendly website will empower customers to engage. This also sets up an opportunity to provide not only a customized experience for a consumer, but also a truly individualized one based on each user’s unique behavior and purchase patterns.
Brands like Amazon have been doing this for some time, suggesting products for you based on your previous searches and buying habits. Now, wearable technology is opening the door even further for marketers, giving them unprecedented access to consumers. Products such as Fitbit and the Apple Watch focus on collecting unique user data to enhance each person’s individual experience. Marketers see a big opportunity to leverage this type of data in the future to create even more individualized experiences for consumers on a bigger scale.
3. Increase Content Marketing
Content marketing or “brand journalism” is another trend that harnesses the power of the individual. Content marketing is a shift from one-way storytelling to dynamic storytelling — or “happy hacking,” as Dentsu predicted at Cannes Lions two years ago.
Every brand acts as a publisher by contributing to the conversation while encouraging consumers to create content and engage as well. Platforms such as Snapchat and Periscope, as well as brands like GoPro, are allowing consumers to be a part of the story while participating in its creation.
The public relations field is uniquely positioned to lend itself to the content space because those involved are well-versed in finding and telling compelling stories, creating beautiful brand content, and emphasizing authenticity and credibility over commercialism.
4. Serve the Multicultural Consumer
America continues to become more diverse. Currently, Hispanics make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population. The Asian-American population is also growing, accounting for nearly 5 percent of the populace. In some cities and states, these consumers are in the majority. Each group has distinct languages and dialects, interests, cultures, family values, and product preferences. Millennials are the most multicultural generation in American history, freely moving between and sharing cultures.
This demographic shift offers both challenges and opportunities for brands. Effective brands can increase their success rates by designing products and services that appeal to the diverse identities of consumers.
With the rise of the individual comes a shift in power. Who’s really in control? As the focus moves to things like understanding consumers, engaging them in the story, and appealing to their diversity, it becomes less about the brand’s authority and more about the consumer’s sway. Companies need to adapt to stay abreast of trends. Effective brands will be willing to relinquish control to capitalize on the power of individuals — they’re not going away.