FEATURE26 September 2013

Game-changing consumer behaviour


A new report from Flamingo, in partnership with Wolff Olins, points to growing demand among consumers for a new type of relationship with organisations – one built around ‘a Fair Exchange’. Co-author Annie Auerbach explains all.

What’s the big idea?

Consumers no longer simply consume. They’re active, skeptical, creative, entrepreneurial. Being an activist consumer was once a minority pursuit, but technology has made it mainstream. Based on research with top behavioural experts and social anthropologists, as well as consumer groups, we suggest three behaviours that are moving from the fringe to become common everywhere. 

People are reshaping their relationships with companies by:

  • Sidestepping Institutions. Everywhere in the world people are questioning authority and finding ways to circumvent it. People probe, compare, mistrust and even boycott corporations and quickly find alternatives.
  • Making, Not Just Consuming. They are harnessing a multitude of new ways to adapt things, mix things up, create and sell things, build businesses.
  • Taking Back Time. More than ever, people are using time on their own terms, multiplying the intensity of experiences and time with others, and rejecting noise in favour of quiet. In exchange for data, people want greater freedom over their time. 

As Kirsty Fuller, co-CEO of Flamingo, summarises: “Our lives are as much characterised by scarcity of time, space and the care we give to others as by the more familiar tropes of abundance, technological empowerment and hyper-connection. Out of this context emerge three behaviours that demand we re-think what we mean by ‘mainstream’. And their effects are amplified as never before – people, ideas and movements mobilise and pollinate quicker than ever in hard to anticipate, uncontrollable ways. ” 

“The new role of brand is to create relationships of fair exchange, where consumers and companies meet as equals; where each contributes and where everyone gains”

Annie Auerbach

Annie Auerbach

What does this mean for my business?

Times have changed, so brands can’t carry on as they always have. But this has opened up new opportunities for companies to make much richer, more adult and more multidimensional relationships with people: relationships where they get more than just products, but also where they give more than just money. And in these new relationships, brands are centre-stage. We believe the new role of brand is to create relationships of fair exchange, where consumers and companies meet as equals; where each contributes and where everyone gains.

OK. So what’s the plan of action?

The behaviours we have outlined aren’t a surprising phenomenon, but rather signs that people want, and are creating, a new kind of relationship. One of exchange, not of broadcast. One of give and take. This creates huge opportunities for organisations, through their brands, to enlarge their relationships, to everyone’s benefit.

And there’s a spectrum of ways to do that.

At one end, be yourself, openly declare your exchange, but don’t aim for a deep emotional relationship. Make a brand that honestly sets out a tightly-defined exchange. This is the secret of Europe’s biggest airline, Ryanair.

At the other end, become boundaryless. Share your brand across an ecosystem of organisations and individuals, and let them all shape what you are. This is the secret of the world’s fastest-growing brand, Android.

Now we know all this, what questions should we be asking next?

We want to look further at this Fair Exchange and understand the dynamics between what brands give and what they get from people. Beyond product and service, we will also consider the currency around things like trade secrets, inside stories, skills, tools, insights, guidance.

Annie Auerbach is a director at Flamingo Cultural Intelligence. Read the full Game Changers report here.


11 years ago

Ryanair are certainly honest and tight. You now have to pay to use the on board toilet. That's a secret I wish I knew on the way back from Benidorm the other day.

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11 years ago

It was all going so well... then you mentioned Ryanair. :( - Bob

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