CreditsThe EF Barriers campaign was developed at The Martin Agency, Richmond, by chief creative officer Joe Alexander, creative director Brian Williams, copywriter Jeanette Tyson, art director Mark Brye, account director Ian Davidson, account executive Jacki Juenger and project manager Emily Masters.
Photography for the children’s campaign was Allen Birnbach. Photography for the adults campaign was Daniel Pothecary. Digital imaging was done at Smoke & Mirrors.
Via HarvardBusiness.org by Dan Pallotta
Focus groups are all about reference points. Make it more like this, less like that. Whether it's business, social business, or charity, breakthroughs are defined by the absence of reference points, and leadership is defined by the courage to leave all of the reference points behind.
That's why it's so rare.
In 1993 my company created the first multiday charitable event that required a four-figure minimum pledge. It created what has become a $250 million a year industry — and that's counting only the fundraising. That first event was called California AIDSRide. The offer was simple: Ride your bike for seven days and 600 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, sleep in a tent each night, and raise a minimum of $2,000 for the privilege. If we had ever focus-grouped, the event would never have gone forward. The number of people, even in our target, who were prepared to say "yes" to the proposition on the basis of the proposition alone was less than one in a hundred. Maybe less than one in a thousand. If we had done five focus groups of 20 people each, we would have found one person — maybe — who would have said yes. And that would have been the end of it. Or the idea's demise could have been slow suffocation: We would have found plenty of people who'd have said, "I'd do it if you reduce it to a one-day ride," or "I'd do it if I could raise whatever amount I want," or "I'd do it if I could go on one a leg of the trip." Basically, I'll do it if you transform the bold idea you came in here with into something I'm more comfortable and familiar with.
So we never focus-grouped it. Instead, we went out and told people we were doing it and invited them to come. There's a profound difference between asking people what they think of an idea in the abstract versus telling them, "Here it is." The former is following, the latter is leading. People respond to leadership.
They say that the medium is the message. A focus group is a medium. And it lacks the magic of commitment. A full-page ad in the Los Angeles times that says, This Is It, is a message in and of itself. And it's loaded with commitment. You'll never find out the existential truth about anything — a product, service, or anything else — by sending the wrong message. It's the difference between "Will you marry me?" and "I'm trying to decide whether or not to marry you on the basis of whether or not you will say yes to me. I'm not really asking you, but what would you say if I did, hypothetically?
Imagine if they focus-grouped the iPhone:
"Can't you have a physical keyboard that slides out of the back, like all of the other phones?"
Imagine if they focus-grouped Disneyland:
"Can't you make it so I can see everything in a day?"
Imagine if the focus-grouped the Apollo program:
"I think the goal should be 20 years instead of 10."
Imagine if they focus-grouped any of the things that really inspire us. Imagine if they put all of the comfortable reference points back in for us.
Take people to the places where there are no reference points, and leave the focus groups — and the competition — behind.
Do you know their names?
Here's a conversation I often have with marketers:
Josh: Who are your best customers?
Marketer: Women with a child under 4. [Or "People with assets of at least $1 million." Or some such.]
Josh: No, I really mean "Who are your best customers?" What are their names?
Marketer: [No response.]
If you're seeking word of mouth, you should know who your best customers are -- by name. You should be feeding them previews of new products, asking their opinion of features you're considering, and finding out how they think to build marketing copy. You should get testimonials from them. And you should provide places where can submit their own opinions, and others can see it -- ratings and reviews, Facebook pages, community forums or whatever it takes.
Now, consider this. Some of your best customers are those who had a problem... but you reached out and found them and fixed it. There is nothing more enthusiastic than a friend who used to hate you.
Are you reaching out like this? @comcastcares is.
Or do you still think about customers by the thousands and not individually?
What if you could reach out to them individually, but do it efficiently? I ought to write a book about that.
Two types of luxury consumers
I divide the luxury market into “must-haves” and “wannabes.” Members of the first group have incorporated luxury into their lives and seek to retain that lifestyle in the face of recession. Very high net worth individuals occupy the top rung of the must-haves. They are largely inoculated from the downturn. Even if they’ve lost a lot of money in the recession, they are still ultrarich. On the other hand, those must-haves who have become financially strapped are now buying luxury items at lower price points or buying them less often, but never compromising on quality.
The luxury wannabes view luxury aspirationally, occasionally investing in luxury purchases in order to touch luxury without immersing themselves in it. They would never buy (or probably would never be able to buy) a Ralph Lauren suit. But they can afford a few lower-cost accessories such as a polo shirt with the logo.
Hold on to these customers in this economy?
You have to figure out how your customers’ behavior has shifted. Can you enable your more price-sensitive customers to continue to patronize you? It’s a balancing act, because you don’t want to taint the image of the brand.
This is more challenging at a time when cash-strapped companies are reducing spending on market research that could help them learn just how to reach those customers. Most large companies in the U.S. are cutting their research budgets by 10 percent to 20 percent. To adjust to this shift, I urge marketers to focus their research on the products, brand, and markets that are key to their strategy. Don’t waste resources on peripheral or potential consumers.
Discounting? is that always a bad idea for luxury brands?
“Simplifier.”a new kind of consumer
Simplifiers predated the recession, but the recession has accelerated the trend. These are people who trade down to a simpler lifestyle than they are able to afford. In particular, they seek to reduce the scope and scale of the stuff they own, because they simply find it too aggravating to maintain and less emotionally satisfying than they expected. Often, as they grow older, they place more value on — and invest more money in — experiences instead of possessions.
Savvy marketers will keep this new Simplifier in mind when creating an argument for their product or service.
In the 1940's and 1950's, those in the U.S. were experiencing the birth of the consumer economy, teens in China were also living through a major transition. The second Sino-Japanese War, the largest Asian war in the twentieth century, ended, ending the 14-year long Japanese invasion. In its wake, civil war raged between the Nationalist and Communist parties. In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist Party fled to Taiwan and, on October 1, the Communists established the People's Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland.
Communist leader Mao Zedong initiated major economic reforms - a socialist "Big Push" to industrialize China, replacing landlord ownership and peasant workers with the development of heavy industry and the construction of new factories. Throughout the 1950's, Mao's campaigns to suppress former landlords and capitalists intensified; foreign investment in the country essentially ended. In 1958, Mao launched a new initiative, the "Great Leap Forward" - an unprecedented process of collectivization in rural areas: the formation of communes, the abolition of private plots, and the creation of a massive auxiliary network of small-scale industries, such as backyard iron smelters to produce steel - all designed to shift the nation from an agrarian to industrial economy. Agricultural output plunged, resulting in widespread malnutrition. By 1960, the country was in the throes of an economic and humanitarian disaster; 30 million people perished.
For teens coming of age during these years, it was a time of conflict and confusion as traditional ways of life were uprooted in pursuit of modernization. Hard physical work and poverty was a fact of life for most. This generation learned that affiliating with the "right" people was essential for survival, advice they undoubtedly offered to their children.
Individuals born from about 1946 to 1960/1964 (Boomers)
The 1960's and 1970's were the years of the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution. Under Mao's socialist orthodoxy, both traditional Chinese and Western culture were repressed, social institutions collapsed, schools were abolished, public transportation came to a nearly complete halt, temples and churches were vandalized, and "liberal bourgeoisie" and intellectuals purged. Sino-Soviet relations deteriorated, ending Soviet technical assistance and further isolating the country. Living conditions remained extremely difficult.
Unlike teens in the United States who formed cynical views of authority based on the corruption they saw in their leaders, teens in China were a major force within the Cult of Mao. With no schools to attend, they joined the Red Guards and gained whatever knowledge they had from the Chairman's Little Red Book. Many demonstrated in support of Mao and joined in terrorizing ordinary citizens. Members of this generation in China grew up with the belief that loyalty to the state and institutions would be rewarded, questioning authority was unacceptable, education was unnecessary, and anything "foreign" or "old fashioned" was unwanted. They were dedicated to a single way - "the" way of doing things.
After Mao's death in 1976, the Cult of Mao rapidly devolved, leaving many in this generation - now young adults - disillusioned, uneducated, and angry at their sudden oust from power. Today this generation is known in China as the "Lost Generation," since, without any formal education, many of its members are ill prepared to participate in the modern world.
Generation X - Individuals born from about 1961/1965 to 1979
Growing up in the post-Mao 70's and 80's, years, teen X'ers in China grew up during the period of Economic Reforms and Openness: de-collectivization of the countryside, decentralization of government, and legalization of private ownership.
Special Economic Zones were created to encourage capitalist investment. Reforms included the development of a diversified banking system and stock markets. The consumer and export sectors developed rapidly. By the mid-1980s, living standards, life expectancies, literacy rates, and total grain output were up and an urban middle class was growing. X'ers became the first generation in China to come of age in a consumer society.
This generation of teens in China also grew up with more personal rights and freedoms than the previous two generations. By 1980, Deng Xiaoping had maneuvered to the top of China's leadership. There was a renaissance of traditional Chinese culture; local religions including Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism flourished.
Beginning in the late 1980s, mainland China was exposed to many Western elements: pop culture, American cinema, nightlife, American brands, and Western teen slang. China developed a strong cell phone culture, and soon had the most mobile users in the world.
Despite the economic and cultural progress, the country remained a totalitarian state. Liberals protested Deng's unrelenting stance on the political front. In 1989, the Tiananmen Square protests resulted in China's government being condemned internationally.
For this generation, the flood of new information, academic opportunities, and world knowledge was highly appealing and shaped a life-long inclination toward learning from multiple sources. Economic opportunity, including a growing consumer market, was available for those who studied and worked hard. Members balanced between the reinvigoration of China's cultural heritage and exploration of opportunities in the West. Not naturally Western-savvy, X'ers developed with a mental model that was highly pragmatic and facts-based.
Generation Y - Individuals born from 1980 to 1995
Around the world, Generation Y teens shared many common experiences. As in India and the U.S., teens in China were swept up in a booming economy. Although foreign trade embargoes from Tiananmen were in place, economic growth in China continued at a fast pace during the 1990's and early 2000's.
Reforms continued, including the sale of equity in China's largest state banks to foreign investors and refinements in foreign exchange and bond markets. In 2004, the National People's Congress provided protection for private property rights and placed new emphasis on reducing some of the disadvantage of industrial growth, including regional unemployment, unequal income distribution between urban and rural regions, and environmental pollution.
The country made significant investments made in science, technology and space exploration. Thousands moved from rural villages to cities, farms to factories, leaving behind family, class and history. By 2007, most of China's growth was coming from the private sector. Throughout this period, China has gradually become more open and less repressive - not a democracy, but also no longer a totalitarian state.
Nicknamed the "Litter Emperors," Gen Y's in China occupy a special role in the burgeoning society. China's one child policy, introduced in 1979, means that most members of this generation are only children, in many instances reared as the sole focus of two parents and four doting grandparents. They tend to have high self esteem and a level of confidence that positions them for leadership roles in China and globally.
Like many Y's around the world, this generation has strong advanced technological skills and an urge to be connected globally. Even as teens, they confidently communicate directly with outside world leadership and influence the future of their country. During the 2008 Tibetan unrest which marked the 49th anniversary of the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Beijing's rule, young patriotic Chinese waged Internet campaigns against Western media coverage of the protests. Also in 2008, when a massive earthquake killed 70,000, many young people participated in the rescue as volunteers.
Teen Y's in China have experienced a wave of national pride. Two foreign colonies were returned to China during their teen years: Hong Kong from Britain in 1997 and Macau from Portugal in 1999. In 2001, China was admitted into the World Trade Organization. Most significantly, in 2008, China successfully hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Y's in China share this generation's global sense of immediacy, coupled with the excitement of being part of the country's first wave of broad economic opportunity and growing national pride. Y's in China are confident and competitive. For many, a desire for economic success is closely coupled with a desire for status. They are looking forward, toward increasing China's role and influence in the world.
As we look ahead to future generations, the one child policy was re-evaluated in 2008 and extended for at least another decade, insuring that the next generation will also be comprised largely of single children.
China, like other countries, illustrates the dramatically different experiences and formative events that influenced those growing up in the 1940's - 1970's (the generations called Traditionalists and Boomers in the United States), and the growing similarity of experiences in the 1980's onward. Generations X and Y are the beginnings of global generations
Issue 29, Summer 2005
How Important is Ownership?
As in any change, there is opportunity for those businesses that read the new reality and react in ways which align to the world as it is. The danger for so many retail and fmcg businesses is that they ignore the signs – or read the signs but enter a denial phase. My contention is that, like so many social shifts before, the change in attitudes to ownership is going largely unnoticed; it is creeping up by stealth and the proverbial frog is dying in the slowly heating waters.
If you look in the right places, you can see the results of these demandside changes all around. Retailers had a bad Christmas and continue to publish poor results. Articles appear regularly signalling the urgent need to rebrand brands, turn them into 'lovemarks' or revitalise them into 'powerbrands'. Marketing becomes more desperate in its tactics to seduce people – to the point where its activities are regularly criticised by MPs, watchdogs and journalists. Sales become an accepted way to make year-end figures rather than simply the method to clear stock for the next season – with the evident impacts on margins.
And here's the rub. While marketing has undeniably become harder, most analysis ignores changes to people's values as a significant driver of the retail marketplace. Typical complaints are that 'the competition just got stronger' or 'housing values are no longer growing' or 'demand is now limited to replenishment due to high household penetration levels'. And, of course, if everything else fails, we blame the weather. On the other hand, we rarely hear, for example, 'Some people are now coming to the conclusion that enough is enough and that increasing the amount of material possessions they own is no longer a central value in their lives.'
THE CONSUMERIST PARADIGM
To state our conviction in even stronger language, we are convinced that the very assumptions of the existing consumerist paradigm are increasingly out of sync with everyday reality. Moreover, we observe that most of contemporary market analysis and market research is so rooted in these traditional assumptions that it is blind to changes at the edges.
We hear about 'identity morphing', 'hyper wants', 'tribal belonging' and 'buying bulimia', and these are presented as the trends driving today's consumer. But what if the truth is increasingly elsewhere? What if companies are continuing to measure the past rather than anticipating the future focus?
Sociovision's research indicates the consumerist value set is becoming passé and new life is burgeoning beyond the old world of purchase, prestige and property rights. We have been able to identify seven archetypes, each with a specific new take on ownership. Let's look at just two of these archetypes, which sit outside of the mainstream consumerist logic, and illustrate their impacts on businesses today.
Light Lifers do enjoy material possessions. It's just that they see no need at all to pay for them. In an era when so many have so much, their strategy of beg, steal or borrow is perfectly practical. What counts for them is to be able to use things for more or less short periods of time; individual access is the door and networking the key.
The ramifications are considerable for consumer goods companies. Renting and leasing are frequent means to access, although borrowing, filching and sharing are even better. The idea of spending money to acquire something, frequently does not even enter Light Lifers' heads. Their philosophy of travelling light means being weighed down by longterm commitments and 'for ever possessions' is the last thing they desire.
What challenges do Light Lifers lay down for marketers? Car companies, in particular, are scratching their heads about the move towards rental. Equally, they are worried that an increase in leasing contracts is blurring the perceived cash value of cars. In the future, many will only know that their Ford Fiesta costs £199 a month, the total cost being hidden from view.
The travel industry is also feeling the effects of Light Life attitudes. Why buy a package holiday when you can design a DIY adventure around visiting distant family and friends? Finally, ever wondered why people use internet cafés? Well, if you have recently bought a home media system you will soon understand. Light Lifers may or may not have the money to buy a new HP tower, but subcontracting the configuration and maintenance to the internet café owners meets their footloose objectives. Renting a screen for half an hour of emailing is so much lighter than plug-and-pain.
The Respectable Rebels have grown up in an era where bytes replaced atoms and where the web is the new marketplace. Respectable Rebels barter rather than buy; in the peer-to-peer world, what is virtual is virtually free. Do not speak to these downloaders about legality since this archetype believes in rebels' law, where possessions are shared and where the payment for a transaction is the investment needed to set up the software.
The music industry has taken the best part of five years to cotton on to Respectable Rebels. The industry first threatened Napster: then it bought and closed Napster; then it attacked pirates through the courts and only latterly has set up legal download sites. The film industry is likewise threatened and has yet to respond with official sites. Meanwhile, millions use emule, e-donkey and so on to build their film archives. Less obviously, Respectable Rebels were some of the first to pile on board low-cost airlines. The price was seductive, of course, but, at the back of their minds, it was so sweet to put one over on the national airlines that had milked the market for so long. This time they
did nothing illegal but rebellious thoughts were part of the appeal.
The other archetypes we discovered were as follows.
Financially Challenged: necessity drives these people to access not possess. Hand-outs and rental are frequent means of accessing consumer society.
Freeloaders: a group of individuals whose high-powered network is the source of their wealth. They are parasitic consumers rather than purchasers; it is more important 'to know than to buy' and 'to seem' rather than 'to have'.
Old Style Socialists: supporters of sentiments like 'all private ownership is theft'; people with this leaning want collective ownership and public service to distribute wealth equitably.
Pre-Materialists: these are people who have never been fond of possessions, emphasising a simpler, sometimes spiritual, approach to life.
Post-Materialists: experiencing and being are the leitmotivs of this cluster, who have gone beyond possessions and now 'invest in lives'. They do consume, of course, but always for higher motives and ethics.
Taken together, Sociovision estimates that these seven archetypes represent around 55% of the population. Put another way, only 45% of British society today believes in full-on consumerism as a way to live, a route to happiness and a reason for being. Furthermore, our time series research indicates that, over time, this percentage of white-hot consumers is slowly declining. Meanwhile, the most rapidly growing groups are the Respectable Rebels (which we estimate at 4% of the population) and the Post-Materialists (at 9%). Interestingly, while the Rebels, in common with Light Lifers, are younger in demographic terms, Post- Materialists tend to be older. The fact that some older people have turned their backs on serial consumption would seem to scotch any hope that this is a passing phase linked to carefree youth trends. Moreover, we are convinced that these value changes, which now replace consumption at the centre of many people's lives, are more permanent than many in our industry hope.
In conclusion, we believe current marketing faces a significant risk of being blindsided by social evolutions despite some clear signs of the consequences of change. So much seems to be riding on the uninterrupted and unmolested continuation of the consumer marketplace – and yet archetypes surround us that threaten this continuity. Each archetype, remember, has a radically different notion of what ownership is all about. Retailers and consumer goods companies would do well to understand better the emerging social shifts, and plan how to reconfigure as a consequence.
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