Comment: brands should adapt to consumer behaviour

Sanjay Murthy discusses reacting to 'millennials'

Sanjay Murthy is the MD of Figjam, a Dubai-based food & beverage agency that combines the disciplines of branding, interior design and operations to deliver complete design solutions.
Sanjay Murthy is the MD of Figjam, a Dubai-based food & beverage agency that combines the disciplines of branding, interior design and operations to deliver complete design solutions.

Today’s consumers, known as the millennial generation, have grown up in a time of rapid change, giving them a set of priorities and expectations different to those seen previously.

Brands need to realise that millennials are connected; research conducted by Global Media Insight found that 80% of millennials have mobile phones and 75% of them are active on social media. In the UAE alone there are more than 5.4m active social media accounts and, on average, UAE residents spend close to 3.6 hours on social media per day.

Being connected has turned the simple consumer into Sherlock Holmes; the ease of internet access and its wealth of information means customers will often research a brand as well as their products, price and competitors before making a purchase.

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In a study by Retailing Today, 81% of consumers worldwide said that they conduct online research before purchasing any service or product; they look for the value of money in the products they invest in and are fans of the affordable luxury brands.

Purchase decisions start with the recognition that they are in need of a certain product — be it that the product in hand is not performing well, they are running out of the product or they come to know of a better/more advanced product —which then leads them to research and collect information on price, quality and user reviews for all competing products across the market. But, brands needs to remember that today the experience doesn’t end at the purchase point — millennials like to voice their opinions and use the internet to do so.

Emotion is a key factor in winning over today’s tech savvy consumer; they are emotional, they like to share experiences and they are attracted to products that (they feel) represent them. It’s about what brands make them feel and not necessarily about what they sell. Or, to put it another way, those that they form an emotional connection with. Brands that can present this demanding generation with the ultimate experience through shared values and total brand immersion will get, in return, strong brand loyalty. The advocacy these consumers can leverage is like nothing of previous generations — who needs a marketing department when your customers are doing it for you!

A successful brand addresses customer wants/needs in four key areas: emotional design, creative design, commercial design and functional design. In short, to develop a commercially viable, interesting and original brand we must first understand and appreciate that consumers think with both their rational and emotional brains.

The emotional responses are highlighted in several studies which concur that ‘when we buy, it’s for emotional reasons’. Therefore a brand needs to create a physical and emotional connection with the consumer to form a connection with them, whereas creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality, characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, find hidden patterns, make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena and generate solutions.

The rational responses encompassing functional and commercial aspects refer to a focus on function rather than aesthetics, a concern with objectives rather than components and the use of a complete requirements document to guide development and testing. Commercially a business must monitor its spend and have a clear idea of return on investment (ROI) to be financially successful.

Ultimately, understanding how today’s consumers interact with brands is key to understanding their wants and needs. Business must embrace the technological revolution and accept that their online presence is now the norm for communicating with their audience; antiquated tactics that worked in the ‘Mad Men’ era will not fly today; consumers are wise to false brand promises and ruthless in their review of products and services.

Sanjay Murthy is the managing director of Figjam, the Dubai-based food & beverage agency. Figjam combines the disciplines of branding, interior design and operations to deliver complete design solutions.

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