The future of consumption |  Digital Transformation |  Technology

A cashier stores products in a recyclable bag today, in a supermarket in Asunción (Paraguay).Nathalia Aguilar / EFE

The technological acceleration and the pandemic are changing the world of consumption. In the future, and right now, we consume in other ways and interact differently with brands, as explained in the last event, Retina Futuros Posibles. Some of the most notorious changes are the concern for health and social and environmental sustainability, the growing weight of payment for the use of goods and not for their property, the boom in online shopping, the use of networks to become informed (the digital reputation of companies, granted by customer evaluations, is now crucial), or concern for the values ​​of companies and not only for their products (as is well known and promoted in the marketing sector and advertising). Unbridled consumerism is one of the great threats to the survival of the species: it is time to prioritize consuming better over consuming more, the waste that has traditionally been identified with the growth of the economy and access to well-being, while at the same time widens the gap between social classes.

One of the most notable trends today is the one that puts the consumer at the center. “The consumer is now sovereign,” says Erik Larsson, Director of Marketing and Digital at Philip Morris in Spain, “has the power of decision, is more informed, is more demanding and sensitive to issues such as health or sustainability.” The tobacco company, producer of Marlboro cigarettes, is a curious case: it recommends its customers not to start smoking, or to stop smoking, or, if it is not possible, to use the less harmful options they develop (after an investment of 7,000 million dollars in innovation), based on heating tobacco and not burning it. They are sure that cigarettes as we know them are going to disappear, and that this is positive.

According to Larsson, it is necessary to know the customer well, have data to know him, and take segmentation into account: there is not just one consumer, diversity is increasing. It is also necessary to know the customers not only quantitatively but qualitatively. Then it is necessary to interpret these data, identify trends and behaviors. “The only way to be successful is to know the consumer better than the others,” says the Marketing Director, who also thinks that it is necessary to work “from the outside in” and not the other way around. In other words, that innovation does not come from the technical staff of the company, but rather that the company collects the concerns and needs of the world around it.

Other ways to consume

According to the Meaningful Brands study, from the Havas communication and advertising group, only 20% of brands are perceived as having a positive impact on our well-being and quality of life. What’s more: respondents would not care if 70% of brands disappeared from the face of the earth, which shows a profound disconnect in the bet of companies and the expectations of consumers.

But there are other forms of consumption and relationship between brands, customers and producers. Some bring new degrees of trust and commitment. An example is that of initiatives such as Crowdfarming, a start up that seeks a healthier and more natural diet and fairer conditions for the producers of agricultural and livestock products. “In our model, you don’t just buy a product, but you can adopt something, like an orange tree or a cow,” says co-founder Juliette Simonin, “this has advantages for the consumer, for traceability, for the producer, for the price. fair, and for the environment, because food waste is avoided ”. CrowdFarming works in four countries (Spain, France, Germany and Italy), involves 160 producers and already brings together 200,000 families who trust in this model that dispenses with intermediaries to be sustainable and transparent.

Canthynnus is another start up looking for another way to engage with customers. In this case the product is premium canned fish and shellfish: customers do not buy single cans, but subscribe and receive a monthly batch, the composition of which they cannot even choose: every month there are surprises. “So customers can get to know a greater variety of preserves”, says co-founder Miguel Galera, “we want to value cans, that it is not just a replacement product, that people do not open a can only when they have nothing else what to eat or not feel like cooking ”.

They want to put canned food on the same level, in terms of reputation, as other highly valued products such as cheese, wine or olive oil. And also to value the importance of the canning industry and its workers, mostly women, for which they use processing techniques. storytelling. “A can has to do with culture, with art, with tradition,” says Galera, “when we studied the sector we realized that the only way to differentiate ourselves was through dissemination: creating stories around a can.” Thus they involve people from the industry, artists, such as illustrators, to tell the intricacies of this ancient trade and get more people involved in social and environmental causes.

In a world where impulse purchases are so important, these companies seek a more stable and lasting relationship with their customers. “You can buy something for Glovo and have it in 10 minutes or you can wait six months for good organic oranges paid at a fair price,” says Simonin, “I think it is clear that we cannot continue consuming in the same way.”

More creative advertising

Advertising and marketing are a crucial element in the relationship of brands with customers, and it is changing too, and for a long time. Brands no longer have to necessarily tell what they sell, but rather seduce through company values. “People already know that you wash more white and the components of your magic shampoo, to tell that again is not to build a brand, but to destroy it,” says Eva Santos, co-founder of the Delirio & Twain agency. It is already common to see campaigns in which the product does not even appear and in which brands invest in telling other stories to achieve the complicity and identification of consumers. These ideas need to be propagated: many times brands do not know how to appreciate their own values, they see them as an internal matter that should not be told abroad or they do not know how to identify their stories of business birth as something worth telling the world. But many times these stories have a lot of value, because they connect with people, and there is nothing better than a good story to reach others, as we know from the first bonfires of homo sapiens. If those stories are sustainable, all the better.

For Santos, we come from pre-pandemic times where creativity was conspicuous by its absence and the focus on technology prevailed, which does not necessarily have to do with creativity. “This industry continually advances and retreats,” says Santos, “when it advances creatively, it is when there are managers in companies who believe in it and brands sponsor creative stories. There have been times of great believing clients and great creatives… and we have gone back ”. Now, look, good times are coming for creativity, which, after all, is what makes us human and differentiates us from machines.

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