Monthly Archives: January 2012

Trends for 2012: A Balancing Act

By Crystal Markowski

Each year for the past several years, advertising agency JWT has released a report on 100 trends to watch in the coming year. Many of these trends are fueled by new technologies (or new applications of current technologies) that alter the way we shop or do business. To get my 2012 started, I was curious to know what JWT had on their radar. What trends should I be watching for, what types of experiences will consumers want, and how will this all impact how we shop? After reading through the list, I started to realize that some trends on the list existed solely to balance out the effects of other trends. Seems odd, right? Allow me to explain.

One of JWT’s trends for 2012 is “Objectifying Objects,” meaning as our worlds become more digital, we will start to value and hang on to the old tangibles. (Think of those who just can’t trade paperbacks for an eReader. They say, “There’s just something so satisfying in turning a page.”) As technology pushes us further into the future of consumer goods, many of us start to feel as if some part of the experience has gone missing. Another example of a counter-trend is “Reengineering Randomness.” What is this trend you ask? According to JWT, we are narrowing ourselves into a smaller range of content, interactions, and experiences because technology has allowed us to customize our worlds. Companies like Ticketmaster and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are exploring the possibilities of using social media to allow for “Social Seating.” In the not so distant future, KLM may allow plane passengers to select their seats based on other passengers’ social media profiles. Because we have control over so many of our interactions, we now need ways to randomize our lives again. As a reaction, a company called Airtime is “reengineering randomness” by offering users the thrill of connecting via real-time video chat with complete strangers. In 2012 we will seek ways to allow for randomness, new perspectives, and new discovery beyond what we’ve selected for ourselves.

Why are we allowing trends to propel us in one direction, then, developing ways to undo the affects? One thing we can take from this is the importance of understanding the emotional role certain experiences play in consumers’ lives. While everyone can benefit from the conveniences of technology, this doesn’t mean consumers want everything to be streamlined all the time. We shouldn’t forget that consumers seek connection by nature. Consider the times when your customers are best served by automation or customization, but don’t discount the times when they want to preserve a feeling from their past. Finding the right opportunities to provide conveniences without completely losing organic, human experiences might mean the best possible scenario for your consumers.

Advertisements

LEGO: “Friend” or Foe?

By Samantha White

We should all listen to five-year-old Riley and think about her gender questions. I’m curious as to what she would say about LEGO’s launch of a girl themed line, which has recently been in the news. Many parents are outraged at the new line, called “Friends,” because it continues to reinforce specific gender roles. Here’s my take on it.

First off, kudos to LEGO on the new feminine-focused line of bricks. They know who buys their products most often and are attempting to extend their consumer base. I’m sure they did plenty of research to know what would sell best for their target audience, and the LEGO team is confident it will be a hit. Any product launch is a success (until it’s not) and any press is good press, right?

Wrong.

For those of you who haven’t looked into the Friends LEGO line, here is a breakdown: the brick sets are based on five characters, each of which has their own environment. Emma owns a beauty shop, Andrea owns a café, Stephanie owns an outdoor bakery, etc. The fact that none of the characters are police officers or pirates or construction workers is offensive in its own right. They DID throw in a treehouse and a convertible, but there is no equivalent to the classic male-dominated LEGO sets. Besides the obvious gender role undertones, what makes LEGO think that all little girls want to play with pink and purple blocks in beauty shop sets? Like Riley says, there are little girls who prefer other colors and other roles while playing.

My suggestion for LEGO, you ask? Take a hint from your boy-dominated licensed sets and create equally hip ones for girls featuring strong feminine characters. Add some female ninjas to the “Ninjago” line or a Wonder Woman character to the “Super Heroes” line. For every Star Wars or Prince of Persia line, create a line based on “Mulan” or Disney’s new feature film “Brave.”

Like Riley notes in her now famous Youtube video (3.5 million views), there are plenty of gender specific toys on the market. When will we get to the point where there is more of a middle ground? Instead of making LEGO sets specifically for boys or girls, why not put more gender neutral toys on the market? Riley is right, you know. Some boys want to play with princesses and some girls want to play with superheroes.

Brands’ Moral Code: Honesty is the best policy

By Stephanie Milam

For the majority of American adults, brand loyalty is no longer a permanent or predictable thing. The well-informed now choose a company or product based on what best serves them as consumers. With reviews and ratings available at the fingertips of any smartphone, tablet, or computer owner (which is just about everyone), people put more weight in what their peers have to say about a company and its products and services, rather than how the brand is marketed through media outlets and in stores. Ratings can often be brutally honest and it’s precisely this level of honesty that is ultimately most valuable and influential to the consumer when making a purchasing decision.

The end of 2011 saw major backlash from consumers on issues ranging from their DVD subscriptions with the Netflix fiasco, to the political protesting of corporations with Occupy Wall Street. People proved that they do not like being kept in the dark, and demand is growing for companies to step up to the plate with a fair and transparent business model. Even if mistakes are made, consumers tend to be forgiving if you explain the faux pas and apologize.

In 2012, an expectation has also been set for “mano-y-mano” service, where customers are treated with respect and communicated with directly because not treating them well has become an even greater risk than in the past. From crowdsourcing, social media, and the uncovering of corporate scandal, consumers understand that they hold power because they have a variety of tools with which to disclose false representations and poor treatment. Bank of America felt the wrath of its customers last September when blogs and social media platforms lit up with angry comments regarding their new debit card usage fees, causing a plummet in its stock value and the bank to cancel the new fee one month later. So if companies fail to provide both courtesy and transparency, customers will use this power by not only taking their dollar to a competitor, but by spreading the word to others about their bad experience.

Businesses now have to continually prove why they deserve a customer’s dollar. Loyalty is neither automatic nor consistent, and you have to treat your customer as an equal to avoid a bad reputation. What will set companies apart in 2012 is their upfront honesty about how they’re doing business and why.