Brands Must Adapt To Smaller Consumer Worlds

Walker SmithAugust 6, 20207362 min

Brands Must Adapt To Smaller Consumer Worlds

Today’s marketplace is defined by fragmentation. This diversity of tastes, values, ideologies and lifestyles creates a complex operating environment for brands. The universal mass-market America, defined by a shared aspirational narrative has given way to a nation of Smaller Worlds. Today’s consumer is infinitely complex. Traditional means of segmenting consumers like age, income, gender and race are no longer sufficient. An exponentially fragmented consumer requires an equally complex strategic approach for businesses.

U.S. MONITOR data starkly illustrates the decline of a collective American culture. Differences of this scale aren’t common, and after 20 years of general stability, where two-thirds of Americans felt like we all shared the same values, that national figure now barely hovers above 50%, even dipping into the minority for Millennials and Generation X.

It’s something that people are openly acknowledging, too. They’re coalescing around smaller worlds of shared interests, influence and information that echo and endorse existing tastes, preferences and beliefs. A look at the cultural discourse suggests these preferences aren’t going to revert to their previous incarnations any time soon, either. This reality further complicates the equation for brands and businesses, which are at risk of losing share to more agile competitors that adapt to smaller worlds.

The question then becomes: How do brands stay relevant in smaller worlds? Luckily, this new environment, while complicated, does present opportunities.

Brands As The Unifier

For starters, businesses need to increase efforts to find these smaller worlds, which means rethinking traditional segmentation. Even strategies like geographic targeting are affected by the shift to smaller worlds—the values of those who live in cities and even specific neighborhoods can differ significantly from those nearby. Modern technology allows for micro-targeting to reach these consumers, but requires extra attention to specificity of targeting, marketing and messaging.

On the flip side, many Americans still aspire to more togetherness. In other words, divided smaller worlds present an opportunity for businesses to act as unifiers. And our data back it up. Two-thirds of Americans think we’ll resolve our cultural and political differences. What’s more, a similar percentage think that brands are going to play in integral role.

This means that the real business opportunity is to bring people together under a big tent of connection—to fashion unity from division and give Americans a reason to believe in what’s possible.

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