Selling to The New Consumer – Experiencialist vs. Materialist

xl_2874_food-photography-tpMaterialism isn’t a new concept. For hundreds of years (okay, maybe even since the dawn of man), people have equated “stuff” with status. Whether it was the best horse and carriage in the 19th century or the newest Model T in the early 20th century, our possessions (especially the highly visible ones like our vehicles) defined our place in society. Then, along came social media.

Pre-social media, a BMW or a Rolex was the best way to establish your status in the world. Unless you made a point of sharing your latest excursion to Europe or that concert you went to last weekend or the awesome new restaurant you went to with everyone you knew, no one knew about it. Plus, it would take time to share that experience with everyone, via phone calls, coffee dates, and even emails, in the late 20th century. Then social media sprung onto the scene, and suddenly you could share a picture of your food at that new restaurant, a video of the concert you’re at, or a series of jealous-worthy images from your European site-seeing trip. The best part? You could share this content in real-time and reach everyone in your network (including people you may not have spoken with in years).

With this new way of showing status, materialism has morphed into something new: experience-based consumerism. The same principle still remains: just like with material objects, people are looking for status, identity, and happiness from experiences. That means you don’t have to throw out the old understanding of consumer behavior, and how to market to consumers. You just have to readjust your methods.

Courtesy of Fast Co.Create, here are some ways to connect and sell with the new “experientialist” consumer:

1. Focus on Experience (Like Apple)
Apple is a hardware manufacturer. They make stuff. In that regard, they’re old school. But, Apple isn’t the world’s leading brand because they’re good at selling objects. Apple rules the market because they make the entire experience of owning an Apple product enjoyable, and a status symbol. The stores, the packaging, the commercials, the design of the product – it all combines to make an experience that people want to have over and over again.

2. Touch People
Consumers are increasingly emotional about their purchases. Emotions are a huge part of the purchase decision, and so it’s crucial for brands to touch the consumer emotionally, physically, intellectually, and even spiritually. It can’t just be about a physical experience, like holding the product. It should be a multi-faceted experience that includes an intellectual and emotional touchpoint (think Dove ads, which appeal to people’s intellectual nature as well as their emotional side by getting women to see themselves as beautiful).

3. Story, Story, Story
In this age of social media sharing, story is king. The better the story, the more likely it is to be shared on social media so much that it goes viral. It’s about “social currency,” giving people an experience they can’t wait to share. A free dessert for your birthday? Instagram that. A surprise message or gift when you open your package from an online seller? Share it on Facebook. Everyone is constantly writing their own story online via personal experiences. Brands should try to become part of that story.

4. Care
Cause marketing has never been more important. In a world where developing countries are overrun with stuff, with so many choices they don’t know where to turn, there are still billions of people living on less than a dollar a day. There are people without opportunity, without safety, that live without their basic needs met. The brands that realize this and aim to make an impact socially (think Tom’s shoes) are incredibly attractive to the modern consumer. Just make sure that your cause marketing campaigns are in line with your brand personality and consumer profile.

Want more ways to adapt to the modern consumer? Read the full Fast Co.Create article here.

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