The change around the corner

To stay relevant in a shifting consumer landscape, brands must be able to adopt cultural changes and embrace new consumer attitudes.

Architecture that embraces the changing consumer landscape:  the new Masa  restaurant in Bogota, Colombia by Studio Cadena, perfectly illustrates user-centered design for architecture, with a 7500-square-foot open-plan restaurant that provides Bogota residents with a ‘third place’ featuring a variety of moods and moments for its customers.

Architecture that embraces the changing consumer landscape: the new Masa restaurant in Bogota, Colombia by Studio Cadena, perfectly illustrates user-centered design for architecture, with a 7500-square-foot open-plan restaurant that provides Bogota residents with a ‘third place’ featuring a variety of moods and moments for its customers.

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LEE ESTE POST EN SU IDIOMA ORIGINAL, ESPAÑOL.

Translated from Spanish.

Since April, we’ve been featuring a series of monthly posts on topics related to design trends, branding, and Latin American identity, contributed by Medellín-based design and strategy studio ImasD. The studio’s third contribution comes from Manuela Abreu, Research & Project Manager at ImasD. Designer by profession and researcher by passion, Manuela conducts research and analysis focused on human behavior. In her work, she has led user-centered design processes and given both local and international talks and workshops. grupoimasd.com

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We are facing a historical moment in which the world houses the greatest amount of people, and therefore, the greatest diversity of consumers ever before seen.
— Manuela Abreu, Research & Project Manager, imasD
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"Here today, gone tomorrow”; surely you’ve heard the phrase before, perhaps in a different context, but it seems appropriate in the current state of the consumer landscape. We live in such an evolving society that anywhere we look, we can find new types of users, communities and cultures with unfamiliar tastes and preferences.

We are facing a historical moment in which the world possesses the greatest amount of people, and therefore, the greatest diversity of consumers ever before seen. As users, today we might start following a brand and tomorrow we might decide we do not relate to it anymore. From a brand’s perspective, the situation is quite similar: today we might have a defined target, but tomorrow, that target might disappear or evolve into something else.

As consumers change, brands need to adapt along with them. But what do brands need to do to be on the right side of history? How do we know who our user is and how he or she is changing?

a solid state

The vast majority of brands that we might identify as achieving that elusive level of “success” have managed to understand people in a very similar way: they establish a consumer profile that groups their entire audience or a segment of their customers, they define it in depth and finally, they base all strategic decisions on that user— this method is by no means wrong. It ceases to be useful when a brand maintains the same user profile for years or even decades. Maintaining such a static profile has subjected many brands to a constant, homogeneous and almost immutable dynamic in terms of product, strategy, communication, packaging, and experience.

For example, many of the brands that we are familiar with and often consume are aimed at families. They position themselves as brands concerned with a consumer’s well-being, and this has worked for them thus far because it is easy for people to identify with the family model they propose. But are families really like those pictured in advertisements?

In a word, no. Society has become increasingly diversified, and today, families go beyond the traditional model of a mom, dad and kids. In Colombia, for example, single-person households have greatly increased since the country’s last census. With the approval of gay marriage and adoption, thousands of same-sex couples live together and have children. Our society is changing and will continue to do so increasingly.

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This phenomenon happens with other consumer groups, too. Access to information, hyper-connectivity, social, cultural and generational changes (especially those established by millennials) have created a huge shift. Brands need to take action to remain relevant in a market they must learn to survive in.

How? immerse yourself.

Imagine that you are standing on a balcony watching how people spend their day. After a few hours, you might pick up on the endless amount of behaviors and dynamics people display. A similar thing happens with people’s relationships to brands. But observing them from a balcony will not solve anything, as brands we must immerse ourselves in our consumers’ daily lives, understanding their habits, tastes and customs in order to really understand what they need or want.

At ImasD we take research very seriously and there is no client that passes through our studio that is not first submitted to a thorough brand investigation. Our people-centered research techniques give us a glimpse into how consumers live their daily lives, and a deeper understanding of them can help us anticipate changes they will make in the future. We help brands get to know their consumers by understanding their lifestyle, and avoiding assumptions, prejudices or customer segments defined by gender, age and socio-economic level.

nobody said it was easy

As you may have guessed, none of this is as easy as it sounds. Changing a brand’s entire strategy is no small feat: it takes time, resources, effort and above all resilience to get a brand to run at the same pace as its audience. And while the road is full of obstacles, the most important thing is to take the first step.

Many brands have already confirmed the positive impact that comes with better understanding people and their changing consumer preferences. This has allowed brands to take a stand in the face of diversity, craft strategies that go beyond sales, create lifestyle communities that foster consumer loyalty, and help position and differentiate brands. What are you doing to understand your consumer in the hypercompetitive environment in which your brand coexists?