The ways brands track trends and larger cultural forces are not created equally.
At worst, it’s a whack-a-mole reactive response to trends after they’ve already emerged (and are perhaps on the wane).
Looking at larger, slower moving behavioural trends (often described as the tectonic plates under volcanoes) run the risk of going too deep into academic and generalized forces to action or predict their shape.
We believe that understanding consumer behaviour as currents offers a better lens to action on human needs as a force of nature. Understanding these currents as flows with their own direction and evolution can point us to ways brands can work with them, rather than pushing against them.
Behaviour is analog, not digital. While that might sound counter-intuitive for advice on digital strategy, it better reflects how culture is constantly shifting and evolving, instead of something punctuated by immediate and radical and unforeseen change.
The current is driven by the force of desires and unmet needs, as well as the tensions that result from them.
What does it look like?
Taking a survey of the geography and direction of these currents shows us the influences and attitudes that shape and are shaped by the larger cultural context we’re living in.
Let’s take an example from the entertainment industry. How we’re consuming content is shifting (or, the currents of how we consume entertainment is shifting). Some content creators resist second screen interactions, hoping to keep focus by driving singular engagement with screen one. Trying to keep that singular focus on a single screen is like trying to swim upstream in a strong current.
Yet the flow of consumption currents is a strong counterforce to these single screen efforts.
As a wise colleague put it, “We need to own the distraction.” (thanks Marc). Owning the distraction means we’re following the direction or flow of the already existing consumer current. Sony PlayStation has embraced this with their PS4 second screen app. Limited functionality that could be leaned into further.
Let's examine a classic case study of Netflix overtaking the goliath of Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster’s failure to innovate by trying to drive people to brick-and-mortar locations for their content – when tech and currents already demonstrated that consumers were moving towards streaming content at home – is a great example of trying to swim upstream against consumer behaviour. Protecting their brick-and-mortar business model may have made sense at the time because they were already deeply invested in it. However, failure to move into a streaming service ultimately led to their downfall.
We look at digital strategy for brands from scope of the human tension/consumption current we’re trying to address all the way down to the skin of UX and UI. This is how we create digital experiences that resonate and guide brands to deeper resonance with the consumer.
Take a look at this video for context
What does that mean for digital brands?
Think about the flow of human and consumer behaviour as a river. Diverting the course of a river is a difficult task. While we can build a dam or carve out canals, this takes a lot of engineering effort, time and treasure to achieve. Going with the flow or keeping aligned to the larger flow is a more user-centric way to connect with consumers as humans and meet deeper needs.
We can identify flows and forces brands can utilize to create user-centric innovation and brand communications that have deeper resonance and longevity. Benefits and motivation increase because they’re aligned to already-existing conduct and appeal.
Taking a survey of the geography and direction of these currents shows us the artifacts and attitudes that shape and are shaped by the larger cultural context we’re living in.
How can Thrillworks help?
Reach out to us for a demo of how consumption currents operate in your industry and among your consumers. We’re happy to walk you through our model, our thinking, and discuss where we see opportunities for successful and resonant brand innovation in all digital channels.