Is there such a thing as Consumer 2.0?

August 27, 2008
Recently the guys over at Mr Youth, sent me a paper they wrote on Consumer 2.0 and the 5 Rules to Engage a New Breed of Consumer.  Accordingly to them, the following 5 rules dictate how brands should interact with a new breed of “connected” consumers.
  1. Authenticity Trumps Celebrity – Consumer 2.0 responds to honest, relevant messaging from peers over marketing speak and celebrity endorsements
  2. Niche is the New Norm – Consumers 2.0 do not form a mass market. They relish in choices and look for products and services that speak to them personally
  3. Bite-Size Communication Dominates – Consumer 2.0 digests short, personal and highly relevant messaging in bulk while growing increasingly adept at blocking out noise
  4. Personal Utility Drives Adoption – Consumer 2.0 chooses to consume what they find useful in their lives over manufactured marketing needs
  5. Consumers Own Brands – Consumer 2.0 will speak about, re-purpose and associate with your brand as they see fit

Overall I think these are great rules, though I would push back on a couple of points they made:

  • Is it really the “Demise of the Glamorized Celebrity”? – Mr Youth makes the point that in today’s world, there isn’t a celebrity a brand can bank on that consumers want to completely emulate.  I tend disagree.  Sure consumers have woken up to the fact that most celebs are simply endorsing a product for the paycheck.  And sure every celeb can fall out of favor and hurt an endorsement.  But celebrities are at an all-time high today…they just aren’t as “lasting” as they once were.  For instance, thanks to The Hills, Lauren Conrad is now a “real” celebrity even though she was a nobody a couple of years ago.  Celebrities can still be a great benefit for a brand, but it is no longer as simple as signing the biggest name.  An authentic celebrity endorsement can still be worth its weight in gold.  Just ask the latest “it” fashion clothing who appeared in the pages of US Weekly or the folks over at Pinkberry if a celebrity endorsement helped them at all.  Authenticity may trump celebrity, but it is trumped by authenticity AND celebrity together.
  • Is there a “Decreased Power of the Brand.” – This is one I just flat out disagree with.  The report says that they aren’t anti-brand but instead they just don’t care about wearing brand logos, don’t believe in advertising, etc.  If anything, I think brands are more powerful than ever today because consumers are looking for brands they can identify with…brands with a purpose that say something about them.  10 years ago, you just needed a powerful brand that could appeal to everyone like Nike.  But today consumers are turning to brands like Method, Whole Foods, and others that stand for something, that have a Brand Purpose.  Brands mean more than ever today, but at the same time, brand building takes more effort than it did in the past in order to make someone care.
  • Does the term “cool” holds less weight with this generation? – I think the point Mr Youth is trying to make is that “cool” has lost its universal meaning…but not its meaning all together.  It is just that the emergence of the niche has allowed cool to mean different things to different people.  And best yet, as they point out, people that define “cool” the same way as you are just a click away.
  • Is there an increase in the type of social connections? – I find this chart from the report pretty interesting.  It says Consumer 2.0 has 3 types of friends.  I do believe this exists but I wonder if the line between each is that defined.  I think to my own social network and I don’t know if I can define people into each bucket (except the bucket of close friends that is). 
Breakdown of Consumer 2.0 "friends"

Breakdown of Consumer 2.0 Friends

The report is for sure worth a read so check it out for yourself.


Brands I Love: Potbelly Sandwich Works

March 3, 2008

Potbelly logoIf a brand hopes to breakthrough the cluttered marketplace, a sense of authenticity and community needs to be a cornerstone of their brand equity. Consumers want to develop a relationship with a brand and in many cases, they are looking for brands that could become a physical manifestation of a Third Place. The concept of a “Third Place” refers to a place, other than work or home, where a person can go to relax and feel part of the community. I first came across this formal definition while doing a project at P&G’s so-called “Mosh Pit of Creativity”, Clay Street. It was also at Clay Street that I realized Potbelly Sandwich Works is a Third Place for me.

For those of you not familiar with Potbelly, it is Potbelly Storea Chicago tradition and one of my favorite brands in the marketplace (you can guarantee I will be visiting one while I am in Chicago this month). The chain was started in 1971 not as a sandwhich shop, but as an antiques shop in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The owners sold sandwiches on the side to draw in shoppers but quickly realized they were selling more sandwiches than antiques. The chain was purchased in the mid-1990’s by a young entrepreneur intent on turning it into something more and it has received VC funding from Howard Schultz’s Maveron. Read the rest of this entry »