How to speak to Your Customers’Today
In 2015, consumer trend firm TrendWatching, which happens to be one of my all-time favourite companies, put out a statement on its website saying that “self-actualization is the future of consumerism”. Immediately triggered by that assertion, I wanted to get to the bottom of it. Therefore, I decided to do some research.
I soon arrived at Maslow's five-tier pyramid, the hierarchy of needs. As you all know, according to this motivational theory in psychology, we encounter our basic, functional human needs at the bottom: food and water, as well as safety. On top of that, there are our psychological needs, i.e. our urge to build relationships, and our desire to feel accomplished. At the top of the pyramid, we find our ‘self-actualization’ needs, i.e. our own aspirations, or the need to reach our full potential in life. In recent years, our basic and social needs have all been largely fulfilled. That means we now have more time and money left to invest in our own aspirations and our own self-actualization. We have the freedom and means to become the person we actually want to become, or, in other words, the best version of ourselves.
Marketing has evolved along those lines as well. Indeed, we used to be focused on product-driven marketing. In short: we talked about the basic features of our products, and we talked to the minds of our customers. Then, we moved into customer-driven marketing, meaning we would engage in research to be able to truly understand our customers. In fact, we would even co-create with them. This allowed us to speak directly to the hearts of our customers.
Nowadays, however, aspirations are becoming increasingly important. A growing number of companies are starting to focus on aspiration-driven marketing. Basically, we are no longer just speaking to the minds or to the hearts of our customers. Instead, we are addressing our customers’ souls.
In order to get to our target groups’ souls, marketeers require a whole new set of skills. This makes sense, as product-driven marketing was primarily steered by marketeers with a lot of analytical and financial skills. In order to stand out, we then needed more creative skills. The ongoing digital disruption called for marketeers with highly-developed digital skills. Yet right now, we want to communicate with the soul, the aspirations, of our customers. Consequently, the one thing we need more than anything else as marketeers, are human skills. To put it differently: as a brand or a company, we have to be able to put ourselves forward in a way that is as human as possible; as REAL as possible.
For that reason, I will always tell companies to really exude a sense of #REALNESS whenever they talk to customers. Today, in our new pandemic reality, in which people crave safeness, togetherness and wellness, this has never been more true. To communicate these three needs, it is absolutely crucial we do it with a sense of #REALNESS.
The power of vulnerability
But what does #REALNESS actually mean? First of all, it means being Reliable; being trustworthy. Clearly, in times of crisis, being trustworthy is one of the most important things. Secondly, it means being Ethical. As a brand, it no longer suffices to do what is right. Today, you really need to be making a difference in society.
Thirdly, we need to be vulnerable. This means that, as a company, we need to be Attackable. At the moment, our whole society is feeling vulnerable. It would be downright odd if a brand or company does not admit to being vulnerable as well. In fact, that would create a distance between that business and its customer, and it would end up alienating itself from its customers.
Although it might sound quite contradictory, as we were always told that brands need to be strong, the opposite is true. By showing vulnerability, and the way you go about showing and owning it, you are actually being courageous. Moreover, people can relate to that. Customers can find strength in the way that you deal with your own weaknesses.
Last but not least, if you talk to your customers with a sense of #REALNESS, it is essential to be Lovable. However, being lovable does not just mean customers should love you as a brand. I would actually advise doing the opposite: brands need to truly care about their customers. Companies have to show that they love their customers, especially in times of crisis.
The #REAL you
In conclusion, aspirations are playing an increasingly important part in today's society. Particularly in this current pandemic reality, people want to feel comfortable; they are constantly on the look-out for #safeness, #togertherness and #wellness. Therefore, companies and brand need to put themselves forward as REAL as they can be. Being a marketeer myself, I would advise any of my colleagues out there to show their human skills, and focus on doing it with #REALNESS. In short: Get #REAL!
If you feel like discussing this with me some more, I am happy to take your call and find out how we can help each other.
For now: take care, everyone!