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Ideas

To Buy, or Not to Buy

To Buy, or Not to Buy

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

June 7, 2018

Our latest Prosumer Report looks at the “new balance between the ‘me’ and the world people want to find.”

We are what we consume.

In the last decade, Havas Group—through its proprietary Prosumer Reports—has found that more and more people have come to recognize just how much they’re consuming and that the nature of the goods they’re buying are not sustainable—for our society or the planet.

We have entered an era of MEaningful consumption—a time when people are acknowledging the negative consequences of their choices at retail and are accepting personal responsibility for doing something about them.

In the latest report, “The MEaningful Shift,” Havas Group revisits the movement toward mindful consumption and explores how the shift is now pushing more people to take personal responsibility for their collective problems. The report also identifies 10 actions marketers should take to connect more meaningfully with today’s more mindful consumers.

We spoke to strategists from around our global network about the report’s findings and how it relates to their markets.

"Despite the legitimate concerns about fake news and privacy, social media has empowered people."

Tell us a little about The MEaningful Shift report.

Clément Boisseau, Global Network Strategy Director, Havas and Managing Director, BETC: With “The MEaningful Shift” we wanted to convey the idea that consumers wanted to take action to give birth to a new order. More sustainable, more egalitarian, more meaningful, and yet more centered around their own desires and expectations. It sounds like a paradox, but it’s all about the new balance between the “me” and the world people want to find. Improving oneself to improve the world; improving the world to improve my quality of life.

How have New Consumers changed since you began monitoring them over 10 years ago?

CB: The New Consumers haven’t drastically changed in 10 years, but they have amplified all the questions they were starting to ask 10 years ago. Questions about the impact of their consumption, about making good choices for their health and wellness, about the responsibility of corporations and governments to drive change and make the world a better place.

Ten years ago we caught the beginnings of a new movement toward a more meaningful world, and I think we only started to understand the consequences of this new era in our daily life as marketers. For instance, the quest for more respectful and meaningful consumption is blurring the frontier between corporate and commercial communication. When people talk about a brand, they talk about the product or the service, but also about the company behind it, because they talk about the way the product is manufactured, by who, etc. It means that brands and companies should integrate their Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) at the core of their product/service purpose and not only as just something that is nice to have.

I think that it is a major trend with the B Corporation companies in the US, but also in France. There’s a lot of debate about the role of a company: to create value not only for the shareholders but also for the consumers and the society as a whole. It’s the path followed by Danone, one of the clients we are very proud to work with. I also believe the New Consumer is more and more engaged and concerned about their consumption, which will oblige brands and companies to invent new ways to innovate and market products. It’s not a question of ideology or conviction; it’s a question of being pragmatic in order to be able to keep doing business.

Who are the main drivers and what do you think led to this shift?

CB: The access to information has played a crucial role. Despite the legitimate concerns about fake news and privacy, social media has empowered people. People have been able to get accurate information regarding their understanding of consumption choices. You can’t pretend you don’t know, because you have the facts about deforestation, carbon footprint, junk food, etc.

The study finds that six in 10 global respondents are making an effort to consume less, and 78% are shopping more carefully and mindfully than they used to. Should brands be concerned that this shift in attitude may affect sales?

CB: Of course brands should be concerned. If they don’t adapt to this new era, they won’t survive. We already see it in the food category, for instance. New consumers want local, organic, small brands that they see as being good for their health and for the planet. They shop more mindfully because they question the supply chain, the manufacturing process, etc. Brands have to adapt to produce in a different way, to put quality at the core of all that they do.

"It’s because people get the impression that they can actually take part in crafting and/or tailoring a product, which gives them more ownership of it."

What are some of the leading factors that shape today’s consumer buying behavior in your country/region?

Anastasia Boykova, Director of Strategy, Havas Russia: Russians do tend to choose more meaningful options, but their responsible purchasing behavior is more about necessity and circumstances than conscious choices. Russians tend to support local producers not so much to show patriotism, but because of the economic sanctions that ban a great deal of importing. Russians tend to recycle not so much to minimize the negative impact on the planet, but to get a discount. Online platforms like Avito or United Launch Alliance (ULA) are growing popular because they help Russians make some extra rubles rather than sharing or owning less.

Alexis Cheong, Senior Strategist, Havas Media Singapore: In APAC the advent of smartphones and mobile connectivity has leapfrogged desktops and made consumers much more comfortable with mobile shopping, which is increasingly the primary buying channel. That means it is less about the traditional consumer decision journey and more about capturing the consumer during moments that matter.

In Singapore particularly, the high rental and manpower costs could also contribute to better savings and prices online, which is very enticing to the price-conscious consumer (which is the majority of the country), on top of low delivery fees. However, we see a trend of reverse showrooming happening here as retailers struggle to retain and attract new customers.

Being price-conscious is also linked to the economy—people tend to spend less on dining out and shopping when the economy is in a recession. However, environmental and eco-consciousness are still low in Singapore and most Asian countries, with price and convenience overriding the need to buy from sustainable or eco-friendly sources.

Arwen Zhai, Senior Strategy Director, Havas Shanghai: Upgraded consumption is the key driving force behind Chinese consumers’ consumption behavior. Chinese are improving their quality of living through purchasing better quality products to fulfill their ever-growing desires.

The other leading factor is that Chinese are shifting their consumption from products to experience. They not only consume material goods, but are also eager to enjoy more and new experiences.

Mathias Staar, Head of Strategic Planning, Havas Düsseldorf: Essentialism vs. new news. Origin vs. availability. Price vs. quality.

How are brands marketing to the minimalist lifestyle? Is it counterintuitive?

AB: Well, it does not mean that all Russians consume responsibly only under pressure. Some do by choice and are ready to stand and pay for their position. One of the best examples is a recent protest against a premium food retailer that packed each banana in a separate plastic bag. Local designers produced collections of “eco net” fabric bags. However, these are still limited in scale.

AC: Yes, it is counterintuitive, but brands are simply following the zeitgeist. It could be catering to the trend of minimalist aesthetics due to Instagram’s influence rather than the actual minimalist lifestyle. That means things that are sleek and clean, such as Muji.

MS: A lot of food and fashion brands refer to the origins of a product and how good its quality was when it was untouched and pure. That being said minimalism is a journey back to the essential benefit of a product with no complications.

Why do you think consumers are now more attracted to DIY products, and can brands tap into that space?

AC: I am not sure if consumers in Asia are attracted to DIY more so than ready-bought items due to our “throw-away culture,” though upcycling is slowly becoming a trend here as people become more environmentally conscious. Brands will do well to move toward sustainable packaging and resourcing and I believe that will help shift perceptions. For example, there’s a zero-waste grocery store that opened up here in Singapore and was well received.

MS: It’s because people get the impression that they can actually take part in crafting and/or tailoring a product, which gives them more ownership of it.

Why do you think citizens in certain countries feel that their purchase behavior has a greater impact than their vote?

MS: They see how quickly brands react to new and individual consumer needs, but at the same time they have the impression that politics does not even react to collective needs at all.

With the MEaningful shift, are trends under attack? And is it trendy to abandon a trend?

AC: I believe trends will always surface and exist, but what’s happening is that trends are slowly becoming more “enlightened” in the age of social media sharing and information. For example, the issue of plastic waste has come up here in Singapore partly due to the global awareness created by Sir David Attenborough, but also because of the younger generation.

In Singapore, trends will never be abandoned or ignored because we are such a cosmopolitan society, unlike countries like China and Japan, which are largely closed off from the rest of the world.

AZ: Heraclitus said: “The only thing that is constant is change.”

We are what we consume.

In the last decade, Havas Group—through its proprietary Prosumer Reports—has found that more and more people have come to recognize just how much they’re consuming and that the nature of the goods they’re buying are not sustainable—for our society or the planet.

We have entered an era of MEaningful consumption—a time when people are acknowledging the negative consequences of their choices at retail and are accepting personal responsibility for doing something about them.

In the latest report, “The MEaningful Shift,” Havas Group revisits the movement toward mindful consumption and explores how the shift is now pushing more people to take personal responsibility for their collective problems. The report also identifies 10 actions marketers should take to connect more meaningfully with today’s more mindful consumers.

We spoke to strategists from around our global network about the report’s findings and how it relates to their markets.

"Despite the legitimate concerns about fake news and privacy, social media has empowered people."

Tell us a little about The MEaningful Shift report.

Clément Boisseau, Global Network Strategy Director, Havas and Managing Director, BETC: With “The MEaningful Shift” we wanted to convey the idea that consumers wanted to take action to give birth to a new order. More sustainable, more egalitarian, more meaningful, and yet more centered around their own desires and expectations. It sounds like a paradox, but it’s all about the new balance between the “me” and the world people want to find. Improving oneself to improve the world; improving the world to improve my quality of life.

How have New Consumers changed since you began monitoring them over 10 years ago?

CB: The New Consumers haven’t drastically changed in 10 years, but they have amplified all the questions they were starting to ask 10 years ago. Questions about the impact of their consumption, about making good choices for their health and wellness, about the responsibility of corporations and governments to drive change and make the world a better place.

Ten years ago we caught the beginnings of a new movement toward a more meaningful world, and I think we only started to understand the consequences of this new era in our daily life as marketers. For instance, the quest for more respectful and meaningful consumption is blurring the frontier between corporate and commercial communication. When people talk about a brand, they talk about the product or the service, but also about the company behind it, because they talk about the way the product is manufactured, by who, etc. It means that brands and companies should integrate their Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) at the core of their product/service purpose and not only as just something that is nice to have.

I think that it is a major trend with the B Corporation companies in the US, but also in France. There’s a lot of debate about the role of a company: to create value not only for the shareholders but also for the consumers and the society as a whole. It’s the path followed by Danone, one of the clients we are very proud to work with. I also believe the New Consumer is more and more engaged and concerned about their consumption, which will oblige brands and companies to invent new ways to innovate and market products. It’s not a question of ideology or conviction; it’s a question of being pragmatic in order to be able to keep doing business.

Who are the main drivers and what do you think led to this shift?

CB: The access to information has played a crucial role. Despite the legitimate concerns about fake news and privacy, social media has empowered people. People have been able to get accurate information regarding their understanding of consumption choices. You can’t pretend you don’t know, because you have the facts about deforestation, carbon footprint, junk food, etc.

The study finds that six in 10 global respondents are making an effort to consume less, and 78% are shopping more carefully and mindfully than they used to. Should brands be concerned that this shift in attitude may affect sales?

CB: Of course brands should be concerned. If they don’t adapt to this new era, they won’t survive. We already see it in the food category, for instance. New consumers want local, organic, small brands that they see as being good for their health and for the planet. They shop more mindfully because they question the supply chain, the manufacturing process, etc. Brands have to adapt to produce in a different way, to put quality at the core of all that they do.

"It’s because people get the impression that they can actually take part in crafting and/or tailoring a product, which gives them more ownership of it."

What are some of the leading factors that shape today’s consumer buying behavior in your country/region?

Anastasia Boykova, Director of Strategy, Havas Russia: Russians do tend to choose more meaningful options, but their responsible purchasing behavior is more about necessity and circumstances than conscious choices. Russians tend to support local producers not so much to show patriotism, but because of the economic sanctions that ban a great deal of importing. Russians tend to recycle not so much to minimize the negative impact on the planet, but to get a discount. Online platforms like Avito or United Launch Alliance (ULA) are growing popular because they help Russians make some extra rubles rather than sharing or owning less.

Alexis Cheong, Senior Strategist, Havas Media Singapore: In APAC the advent of smartphones and mobile connectivity has leapfrogged desktops and made consumers much more comfortable with mobile shopping, which is increasingly the primary buying channel. That means it is less about the traditional consumer decision journey and more about capturing the consumer during moments that matter.

In Singapore particularly, the high rental and manpower costs could also contribute to better savings and prices online, which is very enticing to the price-conscious consumer (which is the majority of the country), on top of low delivery fees. However, we see a trend of reverse showrooming happening here as retailers struggle to retain and attract new customers.

Being price-conscious is also linked to the economy—people tend to spend less on dining out and shopping when the economy is in a recession. However, environmental and eco-consciousness are still low in Singapore and most Asian countries, with price and convenience overriding the need to buy from sustainable or eco-friendly sources.

Arwen Zhai, Senior Strategy Director, Havas Shanghai: Upgraded consumption is the key driving force behind Chinese consumers’ consumption behavior. Chinese are improving their quality of living through purchasing better quality products to fulfill their ever-growing desires.

The other leading factor is that Chinese are shifting their consumption from products to experience. They not only consume material goods, but are also eager to enjoy more and new experiences.

Mathias Staar, Head of Strategic Planning, Havas Düsseldorf: Essentialism vs. new news. Origin vs. availability. Price vs. quality.

How are brands marketing to the minimalist lifestyle? Is it counterintuitive?

AB: Well, it does not mean that all Russians consume responsibly only under pressure. Some do by choice and are ready to stand and pay for their position. One of the best examples is a recent protest against a premium food retailer that packed each banana in a separate plastic bag. Local designers produced collections of “eco net” fabric bags. However, these are still limited in scale.

AC: Yes, it is counterintuitive, but brands are simply following the zeitgeist. It could be catering to the trend of minimalist aesthetics due to Instagram’s influence rather than the actual minimalist lifestyle. That means things that are sleek and clean, such as Muji.

MS: A lot of food and fashion brands refer to the origins of a product and how good its quality was when it was untouched and pure. That being said minimalism is a journey back to the essential benefit of a product with no complications.

Why do you think consumers are now more attracted to DIY products, and can brands tap into that space?

AC: I am not sure if consumers in Asia are attracted to DIY more so than ready-bought items due to our “throw-away culture,” though upcycling is slowly becoming a trend here as people become more environmentally conscious. Brands will do well to move toward sustainable packaging and resourcing and I believe that will help shift perceptions. For example, there’s a zero-waste grocery store that opened up here in Singapore and was well received.

MS: It’s because people get the impression that they can actually take part in crafting and/or tailoring a product, which gives them more ownership of it.

Why do you think citizens in certain countries feel that their purchase behavior has a greater impact than their vote?

MS: They see how quickly brands react to new and individual consumer needs, but at the same time they have the impression that politics does not even react to collective needs at all.

With the MEaningful shift, are trends under attack? And is it trendy to abandon a trend?

AC: I believe trends will always surface and exist, but what’s happening is that trends are slowly becoming more “enlightened” in the age of social media sharing and information. For example, the issue of plastic waste has come up here in Singapore partly due to the global awareness created by Sir David Attenborough, but also because of the younger generation.

In Singapore, trends will never be abandoned or ignored because we are such a cosmopolitan society, unlike countries like China and Japan, which are largely closed off from the rest of the world.

AZ: Heraclitus said: “The only thing that is constant is change.”

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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