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AdFest 2008: ‘Today’s consumer should be seen as a dynamic swarm and not a passive herd’

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AdFest 2008: ‘Today’s consumer should be seen as a dynamic swarm and not a passive herd’

“Today’s consumers are spoilt for choice and it is the consumer who is in control and reinventing the relationship with the brands,” noted James Lou, Executive Vice President, Managing Director of Strategy, DDB, Chicago.

Addressing the audience on ‘Reinventing the relationship brands have with the consumers’ at the 11th AdFest in Pattaya, Thailand, Lou, raised four key points – question everything, taking hazarders turn (doing things that are not considered usual), being open (it is not just about being open to ideas, but also being open to being wrong), and to look outside of ourselves – for brands to keep reinventing themselves and stay relevant in the time of changing consumer behaviour.

Lou kicked off his presentation by stating that advertisers and marketers should think beyond advertising and marketing. “Today, consumers want control and choice. They do not have just one thing to buy, but they have a great deal of diverse choices. So, when we think about reinventing the relationship with the consumers, the truth of it is the consumer who is in control and it is actually the consumer who is reinventing the relationship with the brands,” he said.

Quoting six macro consumer trends uncovered by DDB – personal authenticity, self-invention, participation, age nullification, technology and choice chaos – he said that the consumers were not passive, on the contrary, they wanted to be engaged and involved and be part of the decision. Today’s consumers had power and control, and they trusted each other, he added.

“Today’s consumer should be seen as a dynamic swarm and not a passive herd, and this swarm is made of advocates, saboteurs, apathetics,” Lou said, adding that advocate was somebody who specifically looks for something and probably recommends the same product to others as well. Today recommendation was more important than anything else for the success of any brands, he said.

Lou further said that advocates loved the brands and they were a big influence. “Advocates are the ones who help us to champion out client’s products and they are a very important force in the swarm,” he added. The second group in the consumer crowd is the saboteurs, who antagonise or hate the brands. And the most dangerous group in the swarm was the apathetics. Having said that, Lou added that advertisers and marketers should reinvent themselves in the way they looked at the consumer. “Let us not call the consumers consumer anymore. Let us try to make them advocates of our brands,” Lou said.

“We cannot catch our audience any more as they are too strong and powerful. We should create ideas that make people come to us and they become the messengers and advocates. So, instead of trying to engineer an advocate or force someone to become one, brands should take a position and have a conviction, which is what will make it stand out and attract advocates naturally,” he said.

“We need to engage the consumers one-on-one and stop chasing,” Lou concluded.


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