In Forrester’s 2017 predictions, the Audience-First approach was highlighted a lot more than in the past years. Audiences are being put at the front and centre of brand strategies vs previous ones that used to put business needs at the core. Audiences and their needs are going to be driving how marketers communicate and sell their products, this will require that brands and their marketers take more time to understand the people they are speaking to. We need to be able to predict consumer needs based on big data and informed insights.
This understanding or lack of it is the very thing that will determine and affect a company’s ability to meet its bottom line. This is about clearly defining and setting up metrics that demonstrate what it means when a consumer says ‘I need a brand that understands my needs’, brands need to define what that ‘understanding’ means and looks like for them as a personality. Thus previously marketers formulated strategies in isolation, main drivers being a type of product. They were out of tune with what was happening on the ground, heavily relying on tired stereotypes as tactical approaches.
The millennial consumers can tell when brands are trying too hard and are borderline being condescending, demonstrating authenticity will drive this new currency. These millennials aren’t always open to trusting brands, so marketers need to find ways to gain and retain their trust, turn them into loyal customers who will potentially sell a brand to their peers in the absence of a brand. They will potentially serve as ‘ghost brand influencers’-relying on word-of-mouth marketing never goes out of fashion.
“We predict that one-third of companies in the B2C space will begin changing their business structure to get closer to the customer and effectively compete on the basis of experiences” Forrester 2017.
Basic economics teaches the principles of supply and demand, the same framework applies in marketing. We are at a point where there are too many forces pushing against brands by demanding that they work a little extra for their butter. There is now a bigger pool of brands on the market that are all competing for the attention of what on the outset seems like a big pool of consumers, but in reality, because a lot more people (especially millennials) are earning less (reducing spending power) and care less, the brands now need to work harder for the buck. Millennial consumers need value for money, and this no longer just from a monetary point of view, it’s also from an ideological stand point. Research has shown that this generation has different priorities from baby boomers and GenX, they want to support brands that not only offer a service, but rather make a social impact. I am not even referring to CSR, the kind of impact that economically empowers and uplifts those in need-charity and philanthropy are now being deprioritised because they are ineffective in the long run and not scalable. Millennial consumers are more in tune with supporting and building brands that are sustainable, have social impact and are profitable. This is the kind of mind-set that brands need to appeal to, they care about long term results that leave communities more empowered and self-sufficient. They are yearning and driving brands that speak about shared value, it’s not what a brand can do for the consumers but what the two parties can do for each other-symbiotic relationship.
At the centre of this Audience-First approach is a reliance on technologies that directly or indirectly connect to customer experiences and brands to customers. It’s an adapt, or fail to meet Business KPIs kind of situation, thus forcing brands to move into a space where they need to start running ‘digitally-led-businesses ‘in order to win at a venture in a ‘customer-led’ business set-up, because their competing in a ‘digital-centric’ market. Ford SA failed to see and understand this new dynamic, brands need consumers more than consumers need brands.