We live in an iterative, rapidly changing world. Today's hot product of the moment is replaced by tomorrow's next big thing which will soon become yesterday's news. From marketing to technology and the products we use every day, today's consumers are always on the lookout for new and improved everything.
The pace of change is likely to increase as technology developments feed new behaviors and demands, and as Millennials and Generation Z replace Boomers and Xers as the cohorts with the most buying power. Younger generations have evolution in their DNA. They are extremely comfortable with new technologies and quickly adapt their behavior to take advantage of the latest and greatest.
Iterative Marketing--Conversations, Not Broadcasts
These factors have forced brands to rethink how they reach their target customers. Yesterday's magazine ads gave way to ecommerce, which has given way to social media and mobile, which will likely give way to big data and the Internet of Things.
But in a world where advertising-wary consumers can opt out of brand messages at the click of a button, brands can't just reach--they must engage and create a conversation, using social media and mobile to enable what some experts call crowdsourced culture.
In crowdsourced culture, brands and mass media no longer control all cultural channels. Today, channels are controlled by consumers themselves. Crowdsourced brand content is the next iteration of marketing and branding; instead of brands controlling messages and broadcasting them to captive audiences, brands shape messages, and entice audiences to join them in a bidirectional conversation.
These conversations will be further enabled by connection of the products consumers use to the Internet of Things (IOT). IOT will allow brands to gather data about how their products are used and how they can improve them to better suit changing customer tastes. Combining IOT and crowdsourcing will allow brands to create a circular conversation--one that will all them to communicate collaboratively with consumers to improve today's products and build the products of tomorrow.
Iterative Fashion--High Style Direct to You
The way people are shopping for fashion continues to evolve as well. Once, fashion designers and manufacturers distributed products through a network of wholesale tradeshows and sales representatives to retailers, who then marketed to consumers.
Fashion brands like Chicago's MAD Style, which started as a small wholesale business based out of its founders' basement, and has grown to supplying over 6000 retail stores, are now responding to "the Amazon effect" by developing their own direct to consumer channels via eCommerce and mobile commerce, in addition to traditional wholesale channels.
MAD Style has aggressively embraced technology in a big way over the past 2 years. "From our social media efforts and presence and our newly launched website, to the use of bridging software to seamlessly import orders from our sales reps across the country and our websites into our cloud-based accounting system," says Doug Stein, CEO of MAD Style. "We also use API data feeds to list our items on several of our customer sites. Re-targeting, online live customer service chat, SEO, PDF hot-spotting, we are working on it all to find things that move the needle!" Technology in this case has allowed brands like MAD to expand into new markets and segments in ways they likely couldn't have just a few years ago.
Iterative Nutrition--Healthy, Not Tasteless
Change isn't only happening in the fields you'd expect, like fashion and technology. It's even happening in the foods we eat. A recent Nielsen survey showed that younger generations have different food preferences than previous generations, are more aware of the health effects of their food choices and are willing to pay a premium for healthier foods.
Even these changes can be related back to technology. Sharable social media content has helped shape the conversation about food and led to shifts in consumer behavior. Breakfast cereal is a great example: breakfast cereal used to be considered a healthy food choice. Now, cereal is seen by many millennials as inconvenient and carb-laden; it's losing ground to other breakfast products like protein bars and Greek yogurt.
These shifts inspire a need for innovation amongst food brands. Companies like Illinois-based FONA International are helping brands overcome these challenges by researching and developing flavors that work with the lower-sugar, higher protein foods that today's consumers prefer. "Today, everything is about speed, customization, and iterative learning," says Amy McDonald, Executive Vice President of FONA.. "Consumers want to be part of the development cycle and play a role in how products adapt once they hit retail shelves." FONA researches and analyzes trends to identify "white spaces" or flavor opportunities so that brands can stay on trend with changing tastes.
Across a spectrum of products, technology is driving the pace of change. Products that we once thought futuristic--like a phone that fits in your pocket, or water that's also a tasty vitamin--are now part of our everyday lives or are just around the corner.
As we reach the tipping point with next generation technologies, these too will inevitably lead to new ways for brands to communicate and collaborate with customers, driving new behaviors, and accelerating the pace of iterative change.