Whatever happened to … Joe Bloggs?

"Consumers have multiple personalities"

Interview with Rolf Gilgen, managing director for strategy of BBDO Proximity Düsseldorf

Question: What kind of consumers are we these days?

Answer: In our knowledge-based society, we have grown in confidence when dealing with authority figures – and that includes dealing with brands. Consumers know that many of the products they buy are interchangeable. They have a critical mindset when purchasing and are also very willing to share information. Thanks to new technologies, consumers can discuss their experiences publicly, at any time and wherever they are, and submit a direct opinion. As a result, consumers play a significant role in shaping the image of brands and products. This new-found confidence, the need for individualism and simplification, and the desire to act sustainably and purposefully without additional effort has changed our consumer culture almost beyond recognition over the past few years.

"Consumers have multiple personalities"

Question: What is the principal driver behind this development?

Answer: As a form of mass media, the Internet has quickened the speed of our lives considerably. Actions and reactions are almost instantaneous. People can also use the Internet to meet their wish for individualism and self-projection instantly without needing any specific technical knowledge. This wish is a consequence of traditional roles and conventions being broken down. Social platforms such as Facebook not only reflect this need, they also magnify it.

Question: What are the consequences for brand products?

Answer: There is an increasing desire among consumers for simplicity and lower speed. Consumers strive for simplification. They value brand products that make their lives easier. In addition, the new diversity in terms of value and standards and the wider choice on offer is drawing increased attention to smaller market segments and personalised products.

"Consumers have multiple personalities"

Question: How will companies have to orient themselves in the future?

Answer: There is not really one specific trend. Multiple trends exist in parallel with one another, and each of them provokes counter-developments. One thing is clear though: the path towards optimum contact with consumers is through better understanding. What moves people? What motivates them? The tried and tested target-group models of the past have been developed a little further. Consumers today can no longer be divided into segments or customer groups that always react the same way. Other approaches are required in this respect. One of them is sentiment marketing, which takes into account the fact that consumers are not one single person and therefore have different behavioural patterns in different circumstances and situations.

Question: The consumer as a multiple personality?

Answer: The established view of homo economicus often does not get us anywhere. The absence of high-quality predictions of how people behave when shopping often leads to false conclusions being drawn. We are not rational decision-makers who maximise every opportunity presented to us, rather we let ourselves be guided by elements that often remain hidden from our conscious mind. The field of behavioural economics offers more in-depth knowledge of this aspect and can therefore make investments more efficient and more effective.

Rolf Gilgen is a managing director of advertising agency BBDO Proximity Düsseldorf and is responsible for strategic planning. He oversees segments such as food, financial services, automotive, retail, energy, media and telecommunications.


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