Hyper-personalisation is the key to marketing to the 'new consumer'

Joeri Van den Bergh, marketing professor, author, and co-founder of InSites Consulting said trust is also key to the nextgen consumer

Joeri Van den Bergh
Joeri Van den Bergh

Marketers hoping to capture the attention of the up and coming 'new consumer' must personalise, evangelise, humanise, and fetishise if they are to succeed.

This is the view of Joeri Van den Bergh, marketing professor, author, and co-founder of InSites Consulting, who is visiting Australia this week. He said the next consumer generation is coming, and it’s harder to catch their attention as they feel they are much busier than other generations, and they are using multiple screens at once.

Van den Bergh told CMO marketers must ask themselves how to catch attention and cut through the clutter in this attention economy. Trust and authenticity are vital to this, he said, as is the ‘sharable experience’. The good news is younger generations don’t mind giving away personal information, and even their DNA, if it means their experience will be hyper-personalised.

“Younger generations are broadcasting their lives on Instagram, everything is related to an extraordinary experience, with visual experience becoming even more important,” Van den Bergh told CMO.

“Whether it‘s in a store or buying a coffee, only when something extraordinary is created will it be posted and shared. So brands need to create something that is special, because new consumers only think it’s special when it is sharable. This is what the younger generation wants.

“It doesn’t need to be small and local all the time - big multinationals can create this, as long as brands are clever and do things that are visual experiences and shareable.”

Another key to gaining trust is transparency. According to Van den Bergh, consumers are prepared to pay a premium if one brand is more trustworthy than another.

"Of course, to gain trust it all must be transparent because thanks to social media, every claim made is easy to track to see if it is true. Trust and transparency are part of the new needs of the customer,” he said.

“Canada Goose just did a fantastic demonstration of all of this. They created dressing rooms where the temperature is minus 20 degrees Celsius for consumers to try out their jackets in real-life circumstances. This was fantastic because that’s something the new consumer wants to share, but it also created trust because you can try out the claims of the brand in real conditions to see if their jackets do in fact keep you warm.”

There are four directions brands have to head towards to capture attention for the new or 'nextgen' consumer according to Van de Bergh:

1. Personalise 

All marketers know about personalising messages, but in an age of a young consumer, hyper-personalisation will be key not only for messaging, but for products as well.

“Young people expect products to be a copy of their own passions, interests and lifestyles. They also expect they can influence how a brand evolves, and have an impact on what a brand is doing,” he said.

“Personalised products and hyper targeted products will be important. A recent example would be Netflix’s Bandersnatch [Black Mirror], as it gives control of the story to the consumer. Levi’s also recently offered personalised jeans capability in store. Essentially, this is customising the products according to the needs of the consumer. Nike’s HyperAdapt shoes would be another example.

"In this way, the product itself becomes a piece of technology allowing Nike to offer personalised experiences."

What's more, the control of the message and the product is in the hands of the consumer., Van den Bergh said. "Nike Live tracked the data of what people are looking for in a neighbourhood and adjusted its offering to suit, so 30 per cent of stock is in line with trends in that particular area. Every two weeks this is changed.

“Young consumers are OK with giving away personal data, even DNA, if it means they get something hyper-personalised to them. They were also raised in a much more democratic way by their parents and in the education system, so they grew up not just as consumers expecting to have a say, but as people expecting to have a say as well."


Young consumers expect brands not to just to sell them something, but to also help them create a better world, Van den Bergh continued.

“Next-generation consumers expect the brand and companies they purchase from to solve the issues they created. They are happy to be involved, but feel the first step should be taken by companies and brands. This means reducing waste and packaging, and being more eco-friendly. It means standing for something," he said. 

“Of course, this can go awfully wrong, so any stance should be aligned to the DNA of the brand to keep it credible – it must be related to the brand image. Nike and Kaepernick was a good example of this. While this stance led to protests, because the brand was telling the story of an athlete, it was related to the DNA of Nike, so it was more credible and it ended up working.

"Brands should always make sure do it in the right way and not misuse this point of view. It’s a thin line to walk.”


For brands to be to be trusted, there needs to be real people involved, not just brands, corporations or companies.

“Create more ‘touchability’ to create more trust with consumers. People need a connection with a human. This does not always have to be the CEO, it could be anyone, but show a face behind the walls of the big brands," Van den Bergh said. 

“This leads into increasing transparency. New consumers want to know who is making products under what labour conditions. They want to know what the true cost is, the profit margin, and be shown where a product is made. For example, Kettle Chips is using track-and-trace codes on every bag of chips, so purchasers can see videos of the potato farmers growing the potatoes used. Transparency increases valuable trust.”

4. Fetishise 

This means making things more special, more exclusive, new and on trend, because new consumers are prepared to pay a premium for exclusive products.

“The new consumer loves to try out new things and prefer experiences over things. So limited editions, limited collections, or anything that is quite exclusive increases the coolness and interest from younger generation," Van den Bergh said. 

“Every young generation is searching for their own identity, while still being part of a group, generally. For Generation X, it was the brand dictating what was cool and what was not, and you bought your way into this exclusivity. Today, it is the consumer who is creating her/his own style and combining different brands to create this, so it is no longer brand dictated. It is more style dictated or street dictated, which is why brands are working with influencers now. It is the consumer who creates her/his own identity.

“Just a few short decades ago, brands were the trendsetters – they were projecting cool and aspirational imaging in their ads – they were setting the goals. Today, things have changed dramatically; the next generation has been bombarded with commercial messaging since their birth – they’re immune to it.

“Next to that this young generation grows up in times of fragility on an economic, environmental and political level, shaping them into down-to-earth realists. For brands to survive in the current landscape, they have to win the next generation's trust before they can even start having the conversation.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

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