This week I’d like to explore the notion of ‘average’ and its marketing implications: the consumer’s belief that they are unique, their fear of appearing average and how marketers are using this trend.
Most 21st century consumers do not want to be average, they want to believe that they are a beautiful and unique snowflake. But the fact is that, statistically, most of them are just that… average. The vast majority of consumers are Early to Late Adopters of a trend – joining the second week of the Ice Bucket Challenge or the third week of the Pokemon Go craze.
From a marketing perspective, we strive to pre-empt the average consumer and one way that we can do this is by identifying and communicating with Market Mavens. As Seth Godin explained in his TED talk, “What marketers used to do is make average products for average people, that’s what mass marketing is. Smooth out the edges, go for the centre, that’s the big market.”
Godin is referring to marketers’ uneasy realisation that the formula of creating a product that fits most people then bombarding them with advertising until they buy it, is no longer working. I believe this is largely due to the cultural shift that Western consumers underwent between the 1950s, when conformity was paramount, and today, when individuals strive to stand out and be noticed.
This anxiety of average is exacerbated by social media, in which friends and acquaintances project an edited version of life that leads us to believe that their lives are full of cutting-edge experiences and perfectly styled homes. Consumers want to present themselves as above-average and one way to do this is to be knowledgeable. Jonah Berger highlights this in the first of his 6 STEPPS for Success Applied to Email Marketing, (Social Currency) he says, “… sharable information is that which holds social currency; one way or another, it makes us look good to those around us.”
Craft beer drinkers are a good example of this, they are passionate about beer and often brew their own, hence they want to sound knowledgeable on ingredients in different varieties of beer and espouse the superiority of these ingredients. This knowledge gives them Social Currency among their peer group. It is vital to these Craft Beer Mavens to remain ahead of the trend, so they will follow the right blogs, attend the right events and follow breweries on social media so they do not miss out on developments.
Many craft beer drinkers share psychographic traits with ‘Hipsters’ – much as they would vehemently deny the correlation. However, just as Hipsters are taunted for listening to bands that haven’t been invented yet, craft beer drinkers assert themselves by drinking beer that the average consumer hasn’t heard of. They then want this beer to be successful, as this success supports their position as an early adopter of ‘the next big thing.’
While the big brewers use their social media to disseminate content they hope users will engage with and want to share (another viable strategy suggested by Berger), craft breweries are going beyond trying to engage Market Mavens by setting themselves up as Mavens of the industry. Aleti et al assert that craft breweries are maximising social media to promote not only their own beer, but to evangelise other breweries that they are conceptually aligned with, or drop names of festivals and events where craft beer drinkers gather. In doing so, they present themselves to more potential followers and set up their social media page as more than a source of information on their own beer, but also a source of information on the broader craft beer market, which enables Craft Beer Mavens to build their knowledge and differentiate themselves from average beer drinkers.