The Bi Polar Consumer

Beyond Communications claims to have uncovered the bi polar consumer an entirely new animal in the retail jungle on that many of us might resemble and one that will give big brands a real headache if they don’t understand his/her motivations and behavior. Bi-polar consumers want: a retail experience to be easy (they are lazy shopper); fast (they are time poor); new (they tire of things quickly); technologically driven (they love internet, payment systems etc); and cheap, they are savvy shoppers).

Secondly, from an emotional perspective they also want: personal service (a friendly face) authentic quality (for example farmers’ markets); luxury (they are part of the self reward, I deserve it generation); old (they appreciate heritage; ethically comforting (they want to feel they are doing their bit) and customized for me (they dislike mass market).

So, we have the blending of opposites here. And just to make them even more hard to target bi polar consumers are attracted to differing an alternate options and are often attracted by extremes. For example: they want quality food but want it fast; they wear £ 800 Armani jeans with £ 2 Primark pumps (Primarni); they shun middle of road products (preferring low end and high end, but not the middle i.e. Primark and Armani but not Next). Everybody seems to be happy with these apparent contradictions (e.g. good ambassador Gordon Ramsay caught ordering Burger King).

What dos all consumer schizophrenia mean for brands? Well, to be successful in securing the bi polar as a customer, they will have to: offer authenticity (their own, not generic) while embracing technology offer extremes of luxury and / or real value; get very close to consumers; get green; and have limited editions. What does this mean for retail as a whole? Currently, we are entering what we call the Fourth Protocol –the fourth stage in the evolution of retailing.

The first stage, A Necessity up to the 1950s and 60s was manufacturer driven. This was when retailing was reactive to customer needs, product liens were being expanded, cash handling was simple we has end of seasons ales, there was little in store information and there was little in the way of entertainment. It was brands you recognize. It was driven by product.

The second stage: A Nicety from the 60s through to the 80s was retailer driven. Retailing became pro-active to customer needs, national chains developed, sales became permanent mass advertising took over from local, marketing became multi channel and retailers talked about fulfillment of desire. This stage was about brands you want. It was driven by the market and finance.

The third stage: An Event from the 90s until now was consumer driven. Retailers began to anticipate consumers’ needs multi channel; marketing made its debut, relationship promotions ere the vogue with an emphasis on CRM, edutainment and infotainment were introduced to tickle the consumer’s jaded palate and above all, brands are selling lifestyles.

So what dos the Fourth protocol brings us? The fourth stage in retailing will be more than consumer driven – it will be consumer created. Brands and products will be created by the consumer. The ultimate attempt to get close to the consumer will result in brands being the consumers.

This new relationship of brands with their creators / customers is being pioneered in street wear fashion where creatomers are becoming multi millionaires within the space of a few years. For example, Marc Ecko Enterprises reported international sales of approximately $1 million.

Another example of creatomers is in user generated content. With the increasing desire for True New Heritage (fashionable new brands with perceived real heritage) by 12 to 30 year olds, brands are turning to the users themselves to create content designs and even brands. TV companies are funding skaters to use their creative video skills to produce entire TV series. Nike has been offering user created trainers for some time.

Marketing trends are leaning towards word of mouth and buzz marketing to get in the face of the public. User generated networks such as Myspace and YouTube are lading onto the retail sctor.

At the heart of all is authenticity. We will pay for it, we will demand it, we will even create it ourselves if need be. While this may be part of the retail future we will operate, it is only a background to the psyche of consumers themselves. We have been analyzed to death, we have been niche marketed to, we have been grouped categorized and profiled but are we understood?

Humans an innate ability to be irrational we can be driven by the left brain and the right brain, by our hearts and by our minds, and we can do it simultaneously.

The Bi-Polar consumer manages successfully to shop while swapping from a hedonist to an eco warrior in a split second.