It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” –Charles Darwin.
Darwin’s theory on survival is a popular reference point for Euro RSCG Worldwide’s global chief strategy officer Marianne Hurstel. “We are really not interested in what the product is today. What is important is what people will expect in the future, not just from the brand but from that category,” she says, adding that adaptability is crucial for brand survival.
Euro RSCG Worldwide’s global chief strategy officer Marianne Hurstel
To predict what consumers will expect from brands in the future, Euro RSCG asked simple questions to consumers most predictive of the future—the prosumers. They are proactive consumers who often try out new things, exercise great influence on others, are sceptical, but not cynical about what the media or ads tell them, etc.
They make up 15-25% of the population in any geography. During the survey, the prosumers were asked how empowered they feel, how they share information with friends and how suspicious they are of claims made.
Hurstel shares some insights of this global prosumer research exclusively with Mint. The findings provide useful insights that can help advertisers communicate better with these potential disseminators of brand news:
Loyal to company values
The prosumers are more attached to brands than other consumers, but are extremely sceptical about the information supplied via advertising and media. “This is a set of experts who look for information beyond conventional sources. If the source is unofficial, the perception is that it is more credible,” says Hurstel. A firm has to feed them information about both the product and the company.
“We worked with French multinational Groupe Danone SA and launched a magazine which told consumers about their products, but later discovered they were far more interested in the company,” says Hurstel. Prosumer loyalty is linked more to the values of the firm than its products. To build loyalty, the company would have to move beyond product satisfaction.
Also, prosumers want the brand to talk to them, but not talk down to them. They want the brand to listen to them.
Vision is crucial
Today, 80% of prosumers say their preference for a product is based on the vision of the firm. Apple Inc., for example, is known for its creative innovation. “When you ask someone what they expect in a car, you expect comments on design, performance, speed or image,” says Hurstel. Prosumers, instead, are conscious of environment costs. “Two years ago, we told the head of Peugeot SA car company: Your products are very good in design, performance, but that’s not what your consumer will want in two, three, five years.”
Euro RSCG had warned Peugeot that consumers will choose cars according to environment. “And that’s exactly what happened. Today, consumers look at how environment-friendly the car is.”
Also take Evian mineral water. This iconic, but expensive brand was associated with purity. Prosumers indicated they would like to be healthy, in good shape and stay young. Water was seen as a source of rejuvenation and rebirth— strong imagery that is present in religions across the world. Evian, thus, became a mineral water that helps people stay young forever. This changed the brand image and boosted flagging sales, says Hurstel.
Reputation & proximity
If a company isn’t behaving well, prosumers are likely to punish them by not buying their products. The two drivers for preference are: proximity and corporate reputation, which includes both product communication as well as corporate reputation.
“Corporate social responsibility isn’t about planting trees in some vague corner of the world, but about how you do your business and how ethical you are as a corporation,” says Hurstel.
These consumers aren’t just buying a product for what it is, they’re also buying a positive conscience.
According to a study conducted by Euro RSCG in France, the UK and the US, prosumers seem to expect more from big companies than they do from the government when it comes to social and economic problems.