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Predicting the behaviour of future consumers

Predicting the behaviour of future consumers
Jim Clark, IPA Head of Insight, reports back from the Future of Consumer Intelligence Conference in LA and what it means for the UK.

What, exactly, is the magic formula for campaign success?

How can agencies leverage success to win new business?

And how is the digital landscape likely to change consumer needs and expectations?

These are challenging questions. For one thing, the digitisation of everyday experience isn’t just affecting us as consumers: a common consensus among the panellists was that it’s affecting the way we ourselves (and particularly planners and creatives) operate.

Digitisation has radically accelerated the pace at which we share and disseminate ideas, providing access to far more information than previous generations could have imagined. But with this access also comes a heightened awareness of which ideas work, and which ones haven’t – resulting in stagnating levels of risk-taking and actual innovation.

Strategising, at its most basic level, involves doing what everyone else isn’t doing. Taking risks, and trying new things, is inherent to this. But the morass of information, data, and media coverage to which we all have access makes it easy to latch onto the same ideas as everyone else, or quietly replicate the ideas of another.

Rather than fostering talent, increased access to ideas risks stymieing our own creative capacities.

One way agencies are looking to counter this is by re-focussing their efforts on offline experiences, and thinking about what defines human identity when we strip away the social media profile, comments thread, updates and avatar photos.

Data-driven insights don’t need to translate into campaigns featuring automata – an awareness of the granularity of real life, the life we live away from computer screens and mobile devices, can help a brand stand out as both original and reflective.

For example, according to Jake Katz, VP of Audience Insights & Strategy at REVOLT TV – a new music destination set up by Sean Combs aka Diddy – real life is a rising commodity. The more people rely on virtual communication and the more automated and data-driven their working lives become, the more they will prize face-to-face interaction.

This means we as consumers will gain new appreciation for brands’ efforts to speak to them as human beings. The brands that make us feel, remember, contemplate – the brands that make us newly aware of ourselves as humans – will be uniquely placed to cut through the noise. We are not automata – a campaign that acknowledges this will be welcome.

That said the data out there is ripe for harvesting. GPS and mapping expert Simon Thompson from ESRI elaborated on the point that location is the new “cookie” when it comes to enabling marketers to observe where consumers are talking about their brand.

Brands can leverage this knowledge by going and talking to the customer in person, thereby extending the in-store shopping experience and personalising the brand-customer relationship. Think of it as humanised data collection – a way to get closer to the individual, rather than the number.

Another aspect of this humanisation is helping consumers on a practical level. PepsiCo, for example, wants to roll out billboards that improve lives, building on a successful initiative last year with a billboard that created fresh water in Peru.

In addition, Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, presented a guide to long-term thinking, saying that many assumptions about future consumer behaviours are wrong, because they are based on the past and don’t take into account “exponential growth”.

Using the human brain as an example, Kurzweil predicted that in thirty years we’ll be uploading our memories, as well as tapping the cloud to increase brain capacity for specific purposes, from job interviews to new business pitches.

This reliance on digital technologies will make the human emphasis all the more important: the more reliant we become on technology, the more reminding we’ll crave of what distinguishes us from it.

I will be talking in more detail at a series of “Future Consumer” presentations across the UK later this year. For details on location, venues and ticket pricing, please click here for more information.

Jim Clark is IPA Head of Insight with additional writing from consultant Rachele Dini

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Last updated 06/06/2014

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