I was running research groups in China a few years ago as young consumers explained to me that a certain branded snack was out of date, old fashioned and for their grandparents. As I came out of the group the Brand Manager, who had been observing from behind the glass, informed me the product had only been in the market for 12 years and, although suffering now, had been very successful for most of that time.
When markets are moving fast it is easy for brands to get left behind. Sometimes a long way behind.
The functional aspect of the brand may not have changed, it is the consumers’ emotional reaction to the brand that is changing. To keep your brand up to date you need to understand, track and even predict how consumers’ emotional needs are changing and then update the functional benefits and communication of your brand to keep pace.
This is hard enough to do in mature, slower moving markets, but in fast moving evolving markets it is even more of a challenge.
As economic and political situations evolve, consumer attitudes and requirements can change quite rapidly. Latent, but unspoken, demand can suddenly be released or long established needs just vanish. Social media exposes consumers to product options and choices they may otherwise not have known existed and competitive launches can completely change a previously stable market.
In order to keep up, brands do not only need to understand the functional elements of change, the practical aspects of political, legislative, economic change, or the features of new products in the market. They also need to understand the emotional impact of these upon the consumers.
As Daniel Kahneman described some years ago, consumers rarely make logical well thought through decisions. The vast majority of their purchase decisions are automatic, quick, with little or no effort (System 1). Searching for the logical, functional reasons that consumers’ decisions are changing is likely to leave you even more confused.
Understanding the Psychology behind consumer decisions – the emotional impulse that drove them – is far more likely to expand your understanding and inspire you to successful actions.
It is possible to understand and to track changes in consumer psychology and its affects upon their perceived needs and purchase decisions as markets change. To understand how changing politics, legislation, economies etc. impact upon consumers thinking and purchase decisions. Once you understand this psychology it also becomes easier to predict the way consumers will respond to further changes and to direct your product development and communications to maintaining or improving your brand performance.
Market leaders can become the disrupters themselves. Lead the changes in the market, rather than getting left behind by them.
Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Providing Clarity on the Psychological relationships between consumers and brands