The Modern Consumer

Most consumers, most of the time, don’t care very much about brands. What they do care quite a lot about is connecting with people who are important to them, exploring their passions, finding a good deal, being treated fairly and creating the most enjoyable life they can.

In such an environment, what most marketers do is focus on that first sentence. Since people don’t care much they lay out their case for their brand, often with facts and testimonials, in the hopes to “educate” someone why they should care about their brand.

But, as the first sentence reads, people don’t care very much about brands. So an approach like this often keeps throwing an advertiser back at the starting point to keep trying again in a Sisyphean manner because they’re never satisfied with the amount of results they’re seeing.

Instead, the most successful marketers today take a more modern approach and focus on the second sentence because the tools finally exist to begin understanding consumer needs more deeply than ever before in history. And this ability has created a more informed, more intelligent, more influential, more modern consumer.

In such a world the modern consumer expects three things from brands trying to market to them.


First, the modern consumer needs to connect with a purpose. (Even if they don’t realize it.) Patagonia’s purpose is Higher Quality, Lower Impact. That connects with a certain type of outdoor lifestyle consumer. JetBlue’s purpose is Bringing Humanity Back To Air Travel. That connects with a certain type of flyer. Purpose makes an organization more compelling.

Before the social and connected web, something like “purpose” didn’t matter as much. Brands could be built largely by just what they said. But now, since everything a brand does is observed and amplified, purpose is something that matters. Because purpose guides how a brand acts and treats people. Which is why brands as diverse as Cabela’s, Kickstarter, and Subaru have done so well; because having purpose guide everything they do which attracts more shared-minded consumers.


Second, the modern consumer gravitates towards brands that provide the best utility in the category. Before the smartphone “utility” for a company simply meant unlocking the store doors, answering the phone and being present to answer questions.


Today, utility means delivering exactly what people want to a screen in their hand. It has to be quick and correct. It also means providing added value by interpreting needs in the correct way and delivering back something that exceeds expectations: a better product, an un-considered add-on, a relevant piece of information, and more. A brand that isn’t delivering valuable utility will be beaten by their competitor who is, customer after customer.


Thirdly, the modern consumer expects marketing to be intelligent enough to know who it’s talking to. Prior to digital footprints, marketing and advertising mostly relied on a mass-media approach, accepting audience waste and spillover as an unavoidable bi-product.

Today, marketers have the ability to understand and interpret consumer behavior. Through data and insights, they can make choices to tailor messaging and eliminate more waste and spillover then ever before. In return, consumers receive marketing that, at its best, is relevant to what they’re looking for in their life. Everyone knows they’re going to be marketed to—but when it’s compelling and relevant suddenly we all become more interested.


Each industry has its own needs to consider when identifying purpose, creating utility and interpreting consumer behavior. These are so important because the same person in one day could be:

  • a convenience store shopper
  • a cellular customer
  • a vodka drinker
  • a milk drinker
  • an enterprise software buyer
  • a fast-casual diner
  • a jewelry store shopper
  • a vacation planner
  • a voter
  • a cause supporter

Imagine if each brand in each category just laid out their case and factually educated the same person why they should care about their brand?

Crazy isn’t it?

The brands that stand apart consider the lives and needs of the modern consumer at the heart of their marketing rather than just finding a new way to talk about themselves.

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