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It’s Not About Me. It’s About Us.

According to the trend watchers and forecasters, 2016 will be all about me.

Jezz Frampton from Interbrand refers to the current era as the “Age of You” and calls upon brands to create “mecosystems.” Over at Trendwatching.com, the coolwatchers agree that “We dwell in ‘The Youniverse,’ where “sophisticated technologies will offer a powerful dual benefit: not just customized products and services, but a deeper understanding of the true (often hidden) self…”

Call it what you will, pundits agree about the opportunity for brands to become more central in the lives of individuals. They argue that by creating products and services and messaging that reveal something to consumers about themselves – about their moods, habits, and preferences – brands can build stickiness and engagement. And – nothing new here – if they can find new ways to make purchasing an act of self-expression, consumers will more fully meld with the brands that populate their lives.

But, as I wrote in a recent OpEd for Cognoscenti, as pictures and dreams shared by ordinary people make their way into advertising and vice versa, as our browsing and buying histories are used to determine what we see, as companies seek to make consumerism an even more pervasive form of self-expression – as these cleverly named trends gather strength, we run the risk that the horizons of each person’s Youniverse will shrink rather than grow. And blindered, parochial people do not make for a healthy society, not even for a healthy corporate performance.

Our experience and Customer Quotient (CQ) research have demonstrated that consumers aren’t looking for companies that pander to them, ceaselessly hector them for their opinions, or cozy up to them with Big Data-enabled manifestations of faux intimacy. On the contrary, they cherish the brands that share their values, that are accountable for their products that treat their consumers and employees with empathy and respect. The companies doing that are the companies that prosper, with higher revenues and Return on Assets than their competitors. So let’s turn our focus outward, from the meconomy to a wecosystem in which all of a company’s stakeholders have a voice and an understanding of their interdependence.

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