I love ‘segmentation’ in general, being able to see things in well-defined segments is such a relief for my engineer mind. Defining commonalities and determining patterns around relevant characteristics is not only practical but is insightful, as well. And life is full of segmentations: age groups, SES, personality types, astrology signs, literature genres, supermarket shelves, dog breeds, agency types, restaurant menus… However, segmentation can be a very dangerous weapon if some segments are much more valued and some are despised -such as in genders: if being a man is valued but being an LGBTQ is despised, that would be leading to discrimination and stereotypical labels that you cannot get rid of till the end of time. Think about the stereotypical prejudices around races vs. stereotypical prejudices around astrological signs. The first one smells hatred, injustice, violence; the second one smells just fun and chitchat.
The segmentation in marketing should be very well thought-out with the same mindset. For instance, if your marketing people define ‘rejecters’ as if they are dumb a**holes, please fire them. Your agencies and vendors would do the same to tickle your ego, do not buy that. You have to acknowledge all segments in your market and respect all of them. Not because you are a very kind human being, but because you need to understand all insights about all segments to have an authentic marketing strategy. You cannot neglect rejectors if they are using a substitute product. You should always refer to them as potential ambassadors and understand their perceptions towards your brand and company. Every brand should be inclusive, and exclude only unfavourable behaviours or mindsets, not people.
According to trendwatching’s August report, the social global psyche we go through has big implications for brands. Since people are being fed with fear all around the world and provoked to hate each other, they crave for social harmony and trust… At least, they do not need no more hatred. There are enough discrimination, disharmony, mistrust and hopelessness everywhere. Somebody should be the hero.. It is not obviously politicians or media who makes money based on polarisation, and even not NGOs that need to sustain a tension to keep their existence relevant… And trendwatching refers to Edelman’s report to make their argument much more solid: People need conscious brands more then ever, and companies reached a record trust rate. So they can save the world (?I). First of all I think the concept of “trust” in this research is not clear. A comparison among those four below does not make sense to me, since I cannot see the determinants of this segmentation: Do these four represent all the institutions in social life? No. Do these four have a shared mission? No. Do these four combined make a whole in a way? Hmm, I do not think so… And on top, since the trust for everyone is increasing, what is the point again?
I also do not think there is such a hero brand that can change global psyche nowadays. Everything became too political and fragile around the world. Big corporations became pretentious; brands are opportunistic in general. Therefore, people are cynical about them and they have the rights to be so. There is no brand or company that has a track record of being perfectly conscious to make a hero out of themselves and throw the first stone. Of course there are many brands that put a respectable effort to support social harmony and try to make a positive change; Ben&Jerry’s, Tom’s, Chobani, Dove, Chipotle… Some do it authentically, some do it as a marketing strategy. But they all have an antagonist, they all set a tension to make a resolution and make more sales. That is a simple marketing approach that Honda perfectly simplified years ago with “Hate something, change something“… And as another common point, they all have their nice territory of goodness, and they do not take a stance on different subjects. Especially not in more complex problems like racial issues or refugee crisis.
Except the digital media brands, no big corporations -or human brands as trendwatching segments- had a stance on #blacklivesmatter, even on a hashtag level, it seemed to be too risky for them. And on refugee crisis, when everything was easy and fine there were brands on the opportunity wagon like Hornbach and Ikea… But now, you cannot hear about them and their further efforts. Because the subject became a little bit messy. These problems are still there and they are even bigger now… But they do not promise enough opportunities for brands. So there is no need to be the hero.
Please do not lose hope after seeing these ads above which believe that construction sites are only for migrants and white people will buy some bulbs for the ones that cannot work.
I believe that many brands can offer big and well institutionalised solutions to real problems. Promoting hashtags is nice, but not enough; spreading commercials is nice, but not enough; making donations is nice, but not enough… So leading a real change in global social phenomena cannot be easy: Brands should be both courageous and rich enough to change those things. Because they cannot promote their cause on media for free like NGOs or governments. They need to pay. They cannot conflict with governments or local authorities, because then they will pay for it. So being a real hero is not realistic or sustainable enough for brands on a longer run.
However, change can happen much more slowly if you are authentically devoted to make a change more than you are devoted to make easy money. If brands focus on the problems around their product experience, they can make a change in this territory they have a knowledge and experience about. For example, Always putting effort to make women much more confident perfectly resonates with product’s reason of being. #Likeagirl is not only a hashtag, it is a worldwide awareness and support program. Always’ program is good for the community and it is good for the brand because it is relevant. The brand has a licence to speak for the women and fight against the shame they unnecessarily have for being a woman, the shame that they are thought to have when they are bleeding. And every pack of product is a proud medium to spread the cause. Since it is a valid cause.
Or Volvo, in project Vision Zero with many Swedish companies and the government. It is relevant, it perfectly matches with the brand heritage, it is visionary and important for the whole human kind. And every Volvo product with superior safety features can be a prove point and a solid outcome. Since it is a relevant cause.
So to make a summary and a point: I believe that having a purpose should not be overrated and over consumed. There cannot be a segmentation such a kind, like purposeful brands vs selfish ones. Every brand has to have a social awareness and behave accordingly. Your purpose does not need to be attached to a cause or a CSR project; it can be in a form of appraising humanistic values, it can be embedded in your product design… Having an authentic and sustainable cause cannot be mandatory but having a purpose is like having an authentic mission, it should be a part of your corporate culture and products. So revise your mission and vision statements before going after an opportunistic campaign that your agency proposes. Do not be that opportunistic douchebag, do not hide your marketing KPIs behind a pretenting-to-be-purposeful hashtag.
Be humble, authentic and make a real contribution for a relevant change if you can. Thanks.
UPDATE (Nov, 16): Ikea strikes back and communicates about the efforts on helping the Refugees. Read further here.