Emerge from their Cocoons
The era of "cocooning," a dominant lifestyle trend since the late '80s that provided marketers and advertisers a guide to the consumer psyche, is passing in favor of a new age of "butterflies," consumers who seek to reconnect with their worlds.
"Consumers are emerging from their self-involved, self-centered cocoons to reconnect with the outside world. As they break forth from the cocoon, they are assuming a new leadership position in the social, political, cultural landscapes that define their identity in relation to the outside world," said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, and author of Why People Buy Things They Don't Need (Ithaca, NY: Paramount Market Publishing, 2002).
"Consumers seek a new equilibrium between the roles they play in their inner and external worlds," according to Danziger, whose firm, in association with House & Garden magazine, recently completed a landmark study of luxury consumers that uncovered the trend toward "connecting."
Unity Marketing studied the luxury market of home-owning consumers with household incomes of $100,000+ that purchased one of 14 luxury products or seven luxury services in the past year. "The affluent market is a bellwether or early adopter of cultural and consumer trends that will ultimately rock mass consumer markets," noted Ms. Danziger. "As to consumer trends, first the rich do it, then everybody else does."
Integrating findings from qualitative and quantitative research, Danziger discovered a psychographic segment that she calls "butterflies." "While distinctions between the luxury segments are subtle, the butterflies stood out as the most evolved consumers, with the most mature perspective on their position as luxury consumers. For them having wealth carries social responsibilities. They don't necessarily feel guilty about having so much, but they are not solely focused on their own inner life and personal identity, rather they are equally concerned with their position in society," Danziger added.
Bill Gates, Yes; Trump, Stewart, Welch, No
As the affluent seek a new equilibrium, they are coming to embody the expression, "with great wealth comes great responsibility." "Take Bill Gates, some of whose great wealth is now being directed toward endowments that he believes will better humanity. He is a perfect example of the emerging butterflies our survey discovered. On the other hand, '90s icons like Donald Trump, Jack Welch, or Martha Stewart embody the unevolved, self-involved luxury cocooner," Danziger explained.
As cocooning wanes, consumers will build new connections with the external world. "This new connectedness is all about linking up with the world through the media, travel, and electronic networks. It's about becoming a part of something bigger than one's own narrowly defined inner landscape. In other words, luxury cocooners are disconnected. Butterflies are connected," Danziger says.
The implications of the shift from cocooning to connectedness for marketers are profound. "For marketers the single biggest challenge is that we must truly connect with our consumers by developing an ongoing, meaningful, two-way dialogue with customers, potential customers, and future customers. In the past, advertising and public relations, both one-way communications originating from the company, have dominated. But with the Internet, company web sites will become the central hub for two-way communication with customers. Every point of contact between a brand and the consumer must be reconfigured for two-way interconnectedness and new methods of communications must be established between customers, retailers, distribution partners and the company," said Unity's Danziger.
"As the desire to cocoon retreats and the need to connect becomes the dominant lifestyle trend, connecting why people buy your product or your brand with how you reach them and where you reach them takes on new meaning. Even more important will be linking the consumer with the brand and the company through meaningful two-way communications," added Danziger.
About Pam Danziger & Unity Marketing
Found in 1992, Unity Marketing (www.unitymarketingonline.com) is a marketing research and consulting firm that helps companies apply the concept of emotional marketing to corporate branding and marketing initiatives. Using its "why people buy" research strategy, Pam Danziger, company founder, president and author of Why People Buy Things They Don't Need (Ithaca, NY: Paramount Market Publishing, 2002), uncovers the motivations, desires and emotional needs that drive consumers to buy. This approach turns consumer insights into actionable marketing and brand strategies and gives executives "future vision" to plan the direction of their business. Unity produces market research studies that are essential business planning tools for executives competing in the luxury market, jewelry, art, home furnishing, gifts and collectibles, toys, personal care/cosmetics industries among others. Unity also publishes the Luxury Business and Gifts & Collectibles Business newsletters. Today Pam is at work on her next book, Let Them Eat Cake: Marketing Luxury to the Masses (as well as the Classes).