2018 Consumers Are Different so Your Brands Need to be Too

Disruption

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“Uncertainty and change is the new normal.”

With those words, Roberto Ramos, senior vice president of strategy at Doneger Group, began a presentation that encompassed the wide array of variables molding today’s society and distilled down the four discrete consumer groups that will emerge to affect creativity and commerce over the next year.

Dubbed “The State of the World & The Consumer in 2018,” the talk laid the groundwork for a look into the future with a review of the contraction, consolidation and downsizing that made up the recent past.

That, Ramos said, was the shakeout.

But we’re entering a new era, one of realignment. “There’s a reset that’s taking place. We’re questioning the status quo. We’re questioning old platforms that don’t quite do it for us anymore. It’s driven by game changers but also game changing moments,” he said. ”We’re recalibrating our place in the world by looking at our identity, looking at our values and looking at our sense of purpose in the world, and we’re looking at it in terms of priorities and focusing on the core.”

This introspection has lead consumers in four distinct directions: Disruption, Playscape, Augmented Me and Frontierless. Click through the slideshow to meet these new groups.

Photo credit: Doneger

A sense of urgency and anti-establishment vibes course through the Disruption cohort.

Get ready for rockers and rebels and youngsters who call to mind the ’90s Angeleno skate culture. These shoppers aren’t interested in perfect. They’re happy when things get a little messy around the edges. And they’re into mashups, be it between green spaces and urban areas or their digital and physical lives.

Like any macro group, micro expressions will emerge, and we’re already seeing signs of one: Counterculture. Think about the red carpet full of Hollywood stars clad in black, using their moment to denounce predators or apparel brands sending models down the run way in message tees protesting the current administration. Being bold, subversive and merging politics and art will be a hallmark of this group.

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To speak to the consumers who fall into this Disruption category, Ramos said brands need to figure out what their rebel streak is.

“You might be the most conservative brand in the world but there might be something in your DNA that gives you the opportunity to be more bad ass-y,” he said.

[tps_header]Playscape[/tps_header]

Photo credit: Doneger

While other groups channel their anxiety into rebellion, Playscape is all fun. This crowd is looking for a release from all turmoil and the rapid pace of change.

“We want to stay kids, especially since the state of the world is so scary and the rise of technology is so fast and overwhelming,” Ramos said.

These are the guys who never miss a cosplay convention, don’t take themselves too seriously and take pride in knowing a lot about esoteric topics. They want to have a laugh, be surprised and geek out. They want to be involved in fun, immersive experiences—basically the opposite of what they get just looking at their screens.

One way Playscape is expressed is through what Ramos calls Kidulting, a shift toward culturally acceptable juvenile behaviors like the recent coloring craze, video game marathons and afternoons spent building Legos. This group is also expressed through Fandoms, which has given rise to festivals and theme parks where people can weird out with likeminded escapists. For those who want their whimsy with a side of culture, Playscape has resulted in the emergence of murals as museums and visual albums as art forms.

“This is fodder for a lot of fun,” Ramos said. To adapt, brands will have to become creative. For instance, Nike doesn’t just do sneaker drops, they couple the shoe releases with scavenger hunt-style experiences that fans must solve in order to even be eligible to buy the latest styles. “Ask yourself, ‘How do you cultivate fandom [or] manic obsession with your brand?’” he said.

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[tps_header]Augmented Me[/tps_header]

Photo credit: Doneger

Augmented Me takes us from doing to feeling. These folks are seeking a sense of calm. “It’s the rise of additive elements to make the most of the modern conditions, taking all these different means, inspirations, tools and creative pieces to feel better in life,” Ramos said.

Think rustic meets clean, minimalist lines—with more refined technology fitting in seamlessly. This group wants craftsmanship, minimalist user experiences and sustainability. They’re most likely to seek out smart apparel and meditative design.

Augmented Me incorporates the Coping Economy, individuals looking for ways to manage stress and detox their lives—and for some that means heading to the new fancy pot dispensary on the corner. Cocooning is another facet of this macro group, which sees people focused on the design of their homes and seeking out green interiors.

To reach the Augmented Me crowd, Ramos said marketers have to speak their language. He said start by evaluating your brand to determine where you can pare back. Further, figure out how you can provide consumers with meaningful things and experiences. “How are you giving them more time, more fun, more magic and more memories?” Ramos asks. “Augmented Me is on the softer, more emotive side of things.”

[tps_header]Frontierless[/tps_header]

Photo credit: Doneger

The Frontierless psychographic is what Ramos calls Darwinism at its best.

These consumers are strong, driven and ready to take on their fears. They’re tech-equipped and looking for multipurpose gear that’s lightweight and weather adaptive.

From this group springs the Survival subcategory, which is a reaction to the anxiety around global warming and the state of the planet. They’re into wearables and they’re ready to hunker down in their luxury bunkers at the first sign of trouble.

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These same anxieties are expressed differently by what Ramos calls the Hunt for the Unique crowd. This group chases ephemeral experiences whether that’s the blink-or-you-missed-it beauty of the cherry blossoms in Japan or an elusive glimpse of the Northern Lights. “We’re afraid some things might become extinct…We know things don’t last very long, so right now there’s this hunger for catching things when they happen,” he explained.

The Frontierless masses are always on the go so retailers will need to determine how their brands might feed the adrenaline rush this customer needs.

While no brand can be everything to everyone, Ramos encourages companies to evaluate how they can evolve to address these emerging groups.

“Brands have had to readjust to this more fluid conversation where it’s not just brands speaking to the individual and the masses but it’s many different conversations,” he said. “We’re now in this era of different sort of hives instigated and propelled by passions, lifestyles, interest and geography.”

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