Scott Hendry, head of UK planning at Gyro, says marketers should stop thinking about the consumer and start thinking about people.
The marketing industry spends lots of energy talking about consumers but does this not sound rather inanimate considering a purchase decision or ongoing relationship is made by people? Now, we all know what people are, you have relationships with people, people talk to people. But does the same really apply to a consumer?
We’re already making significant assumptions about the type of relationship by using the word consumer. It’s also rather myopic and one dimensional because it’s based on the premise of the brand rather than the person who you want to buy your product or service. However the future cannot sustain such a disregard for individuals. In the brave new frontier that marketing exists in today, we need to reconsider a world where people have much more power in the brand owner-brand relationship.
Instead we need to tear off the veneer of a consumer and put people at the centre of our thinking. Immediately the relationship becomes more than just a ‘one night stand’, implying treating those buying the product as simply a way to get to the next sale. What we need to do is deliver a more meaningful and useful experience to people, with a mutual benefit at the centre of the relationship. Taking this ethic on board, brands must ensure that there are benefits within their products and services that meet a human need. Being humanly relevant is how we can help elevate brands above the irrelevant. Human relevance is how we ensure the brand has an emotional context to it. No matter if that brand is B2B or B2P (business to people), it’s a person involved in the relationship making the important decision.
There are many brands that are doing away with the consumer concept and putting people at the heart. Take Apple, which carved out a new market for self expression. It has focused on a human ideal — empowering people to express themselves, a market it now owns. Apple brought a new way for people to understand their lives and their interactions with each other. This is manifested in iTunes, where people create their own music imprints.
Even aggregator sites provide a humanly relevant solution. Provide them with some information and in return they offer you a range of solutions that fit your needs and criteria. It's a relationship, formed around the understanding of the needs of people, for example, time saving and money saving.
Google have built their business simply by giving the person searching the most relevant answer to their problem or need. They could just as easily have built their solution from a consumer perspective and delivered the answer that was most beneficial to Google, but would they be as successful as they are now if they had?
Tesco in Korea turned human relevance into consumption by building their Home Delivery solution around where people are. Built on the insight that people work long hours and some of their downtime is waiting for public transport, Tesco made a QR based virtual store in the subway. Airlines are also developing human-like traits and responding to customers’ needs. KLM developed a Facebook app to keep customers updated during the ash cloud. It also used social media to monitor and respond to customer issues when they were grounded. One KLM passenger stranded in Schipol complained on Twitter about not having any water to drink, and within an hour a KLM rep found him and gave him a bottle of water. A simple exercise for KLM but would have made a difference to how that person felt about the brand.
Successful marketing in the future lies in our ability to build our thinking around people not consumers. By placing human relevance at the heart of the conversation we can form mutually beneficial long-lasting relationships. Long live people.
Scott Hendry is head of UK planning at Gyro
Consumer image via Shutterstock
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