Increasing individualism through globalisation
The following report on increasing individualism arising through globalisation is based on a posting by Trendwatching.com (http://www.trendwatching.com/trends/maturialism), one of the world’s leading trend firms who scan the globe for emerging consumer trends: in this case a growing international trend towards individualism in consumerism and a demand for brands that are ‘more daring, outspoken, even a bit more risqué’. The following was posted in September 2010:
As the busiest time of the year is about to kick in for many of you, we thought we’d keep things light-hearted this month. Check out the rise in ‘mature materialism’: experienced, less-easily shocked, outspoken consumers who appreciate brands that are more daring, outspoken, even a bit more risqué.
Trendwatching.com cited three drivers behind the ‘maturialism’ trend: the anything-goes online culture, the slowly creeping spread of liberal culture, and the ongoing shift of how status is defined.
With the popularity of social media networks, millions of consumers can easily post their comments about brands, companies, bad customer service or defective products (Holzer, 2010). Some firms have been quick to adjust to these changes, appointing managers to monitor Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks (Shih, 2009).
Another example of consumer power was that when the iPhone 4 was first introduced, Apple users generally praised it. But the apparent antennae problems, and the company’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge it, led to an anti-Apple backlash for a while (Wall Street Journal, 2010).
Also consumers expect transparency from companies, and are not afraid to voice their comments and criticisms. Trendwatching.com said:
The gap between the sanitized, litigious, politically correct corporate world and mature consumers wanting to experience something more daring and unscripted has never been bigger. Case in point: the increasing popularity of anything that’s ‘live’… Live experiences can’t be edited or controlled or censored, and thus offer the rare possibility of surprise, excitement and ‘realness’ that mature consumers enjoy.
In particular, urban consumers have become more exposed to, and interested in, alternative goods, services and lifestyles, moving away from traditional social structures and looking eagerly for the next big status marker. Wealthy and urban consumers are looking for more innovative, creative and unconventional products, services and experiences.
To address the new demands of consumers, companies have to walk the fine line between being naughty and indecent. Cathy Garcia, writing in the Korea Times in September 2010, reported that South Korean companies were following examples of the materialism trend from other countries; and in New York the previous July, Calvin Klein Jeans (Indvik, 2010) posted a large QR code on two billboards for its new collection, with the words ‘Get it Uncensored’. Smartphone users were able to capture the code, which linked them to a racy 40-second uncensored commercial featuring supermodel Lara Stone.
Air New Zealand’s ad campaign highlighted its transparent prices by showing employees wearing nothing but body paint (nothing to hide, 2010). Levi’s Jeans launched Curve ID (softpedia.com, 2010), a new line of jeans designed based on women’s body shapes, not waist size. Levi’s identified three universal body shapes for women: slight curve, demi-curve and bold curve, for the jeans.
Ice cream is being positioned in a different way for the mature crowd (how-to-branding.com, 2010). A UK brand came out with premium X-rated flavours, and Wine Cellar Sorbet introduced alcohol-infused sorbets.
Hagen Daz ice cream advertisements are now targeting adults rather than children. One showed a woman lying in bed with Hagen Daz Caramel Biscuit and Cream ice cream. US-based Ben & Jerry’s renamed their Chubby Hubby flavour as Hubby Hubby in celebration of the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Vermont State in 2009. Burger King now targets a non-traditional market with a 24-hour Whopper Bar offering a specialised menu that allows patrons to customise their sandwiches and burgers; and beer is served.
The Disloyalty Card (nickwade.com, 2010) is another simple – but brilliant – example of unconventional advertising. Gwilym Davies of Prufrock Coffee is a world barista champion who in 2010 was running a small store on Shoreditch High Street, London. Keen to encourage a genuine interest in an emerging scene, he introduced his Disloyalty Card. If customers drink at eight other coffee stores, they can claim a free coffee from him. The stores are mainly scattered across East London, and all are (just about) within walking distance of each other. They’re listed on a business card, and for each one visitors receive a stamp as proof of purchase.
Thus for grown-up brands in tune with consumer values, materialism creates amazing opportunities for entrepreneurs. Mature consumers expect communications and innovations to be candid, to have personality and passion, and sometimes to push the boundaries.
1. Identify how the communication style discussed, contrasts with researchers understanding of the different cultural groups mentioned. 25marks
2. Discuss how the role of the individual is seen to have changed in this article. 25marks
3. Evaluate how the American cultural preferences might clash with other cultures. 25 marks
4. Evaluate the obstacles to the rise of this materialism in your own culture. 25marks