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Marc Mathieu on the death of the ‘average’ consumer: Why brands need to start playing wingman

By Marc Mathieu, Former senior vice-president of marketing

June 22, 2015 | 4 min read

Former Unilever marketer Marc Mathieu explores the death of the ‘average’ consumer, arguing that brands playing a supporting role in feeding consumers’ own narratives will be the ones to flourish.

Marketing for the people has long meant marketing for the masses. However, with the gift of technology and data, it will soon mean marketing for the person.

The ability we now have as marketers and brands to become relevant to an individual at a personal level will transform the marketers and brands of the future to be less about mass ubiquity and pervasiveness and more about individual utility and personal value.

For the first time in the history of marketing, we have the opportunity to de-average how we engage with the people we serve. For decades,we have assumed (maybe we had to) that through extensive and iterative research we could create an average proposition that fulfilled the need of an average consumer.

Today we know that the average consumer doesn’t exist, but more importantly, thanks to technology,doesn’t need to. More and more we can engage with each and every individual person based on their own specific wants and needs, their individual identities and aspirations.

We can, and we should. This next generation is leading a ‘me’ revolution – a revolution not anchored in selfishness, self absorption and greed as the name may imply, but rather by a strong sense of self and a desire to explore and shape all the possibilities and wonders that our global village has to offer. As brands, as marketers, we can support them. We can feed their personal passions, we can fulfill their very own needs and we can help them flourish.

They are shaping a collective future for themselves and for society on their terms. Powered by data and technology, marketers are uniquely equipped to aid in this cultivation of dreams and aspirations in a hyper-relevant and meaningful way – no longer just by creating collective needs and addressing them at scale, but by supporting individuals in their very own journeys, helping them explore and discover, cultivate and achieve.

Marketing de-averaged calls for an end to the age of the average consumer and the average communication. As we embark on the shift from mass media to mass personalisation, the fine line between the wingman waiting to be called upon and the intruder who unexpectedly disturbs is one to watch closely. One is useful, while the other makes you feel used.

The wingman is the vital role that we must fully embody. We are entering a new era where the worth of our brands will be determined by their ability to support the people we serve and help them to flourish within whatever context they desire.

In a world where everyone wants to be (and can be) the author of their future and the fulfiller of their dreams, it is time for us to move beyond our role as the broadcaster, the master of ceremony, the centre of attention. It is time to move to a place where our brands play a supporting yet essential role in feeding and amplifying millions of narratives, in hundreds of countries, helping to shape and support all the individual and unique futures of this generation and generations to come.

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