Enlightened Consumerism November 12, 2019
ACTIVE-LIFESTYLE CONSUMERS ARE DIFFERENT
We who consider ourselves active-lifestyle consumers, prioritize time and spending to focus on our excitement for healthy living and enjoyment of the outdoors. As a group, outdoor enthusiasts also take pride in leading social thinking, fashion, urban design and political views. We’re more than physically active. We actively lead emerging consumer trends that impact many other market segments. We’re natural leaders and excellent followers. Better understanding us as consumers provide insights to how you can engage for a stronger consumer-focused brand in the future.
CONSUMER ENLIGHTENMENT OR BUDDHIST ECONOMICS
If you have attended Outdoor Retailer or any of the active-lifestyle industry tradeshows, you’ve seen growing interest in smaller more personable brands, and brands that are worker, social and environmental cause-conscious. Many have attached this trend to Millennial and Gen-Z, expecting even stronger interest with the Alpha’s to come.
Surprisingly these values are not new, and are actually elements of what was coined “Buddhist Economics” (first published in London in 1966). Buddhist Economics was considered a call for an economics of peace and a consumerism of contentment, sustainability and quality of life. It suggests moving away from the Industrial Age way of thinking and society’s passion for over-consumption competition. This type of thinking is not widely published, but very complementary to trends we see today in the outdoor recreational segment and other active-lifestyle categories.
Mattannuta is a defining principle of Buddhist Economics – knowing the right amount of consumption. It’s your awareness of the optimum consumption point where enhanced overall true wellbeing (including our natural environment), coalesces with the experience of personal satisfaction.
Satisfaction can arise from consumption, but we can also experience a sense of satisfaction with less or non-consumption experiences. We see this thinking emerging today, with consumers’ interest in smaller brands, brand transparency, self-aware consumerism and brand social consciousness.
TRUE-SELF BUDDHIST ECONOMICS
A Wise personal consumption
B Freedom from harming others, nature, or society
C Sustainable resources and product use
D Harmony with human nature in work ethic
E Integration and unity with nature
EMERGING CONSUMER BRAND INTERESTS
A Smaller agile brands with small footprints
B Fashion functionality and athleisure products
C Experiences over product ownership
D Transparent brands that are community property
E Eco, social and globally human sustaining
F Personal well-being and healthy living outdoors
G Brands that are relevant and make consumers feel good
There are a number of insights when aligning emerging consumer interests and Buddhist Economics. Let’s explore several.
ECOLOGY & ECONOMY OF SCALE
Without embracing Buddhist Economics, even the most eco-responsible companies are greenwashing their brands. Yes, re-commerce or bringing used products to market for resale as Arc’teryx and Patagonia have done deserves applause. Extending the life of products and materials reduces waste, allowing the full value of a product to be extracted from it – very Buddhist Economics.
Many organizations point to Circular Economy, focusing on recyclable products as a pivotable solution to their heavy production footprint. Recycle yes – waste is valuable, but recovering that value is equally complex and costly. But emphasis on waste and recycling distracts from the need to first address consumption.
Enter Mattannuta, knowing the right amount of consumption – the awareness of true well-being by knowing a sense of satisfaction with less or non-consumption experiences.
In Arc’teryx’s case, they entirely redesigned their production, consumption and commerce system itself. Not focusing on products which are easily and economically recycled, but on quality products that are designed to last longer and exceed their value. A design focus on re-use and repair – two or more warm and dry brand-loyal consumers for each quality jacket. A smaller footprint driven by emerging consumer interests.
FROM ME TO WE – COMMUNITY PROPERTY BRANDS
According to a recent Accenture research study, consumers see themselves driving brands. Two-thirds believe their actions can influence a brand’s reaction to issues of the day. Nearly two-thirds also prefer to reward companies that are willing to take a stand on current issues. And almost half will walk away from a brand if they are frustrated with the position it takes or are unwilling to take a position at all. Consumers require transparency not only in brand position and words, but in the actions, values and beliefs of the company – its employees, partner companies and factories it influences. Brands are becoming community property of shareholders, employees, stakeholders and consumers.
But a company or brand doesn’t need to leap into political activation to engage with its consumers.
First, it needs to understand that brands will need to be intentionally design-driven and holistically end-to-end to ensure the strongest and most engaging positive consumer experience possible.
Second, it needs to understand that in our prolific sharing environment, consumers self-generate information to inform, educate, evaluate and compare for themselves. Thus, your consumer’s voice is an important element of your community brand and a significant brand asset that needs investment and planning.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY OF HAPPY PEOPLE
Traditional economics and branding hold that human nature is self-centered, caring only to push ahead to maximize incomes, possessions and lifestyles. We are continuously left wanting more stuff, never finding complete satisfaction. It’s a short-lived happiness that’s fed by our materialistic, goal-oriented economy.
Again, emerging trends leaning towards Buddhist Economics are much more experiential in nature. Noticing the surrounding beauty on a run, enjoying your food and its origin as you eat, connecting more intimately with friends by using products together. Well-being and happiness come from experiences, engagement, good relationships, accomplishments and purpose. And everyone’s well-being is connected. How enlightening. And community building.
This philosophy is scientifically supported with natural chemical building blocks in the brain that boost our feel-good factor. The limbic system produces neurochemicals that tell you what is good for you. The brain releases four main ‘feel-good’ chemicals depending upon your emotional activity – endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine.
As these chemicals are constantly metabolized, so we always seek more happy chemicals. Materialistic Traditional Economics feeds on these short-lived happiness peaks and valleys,
while Buddhist Economics seeks to maintain fluid happiness through end-to-end experience journeys.
The same end-to-end consumer journey can be developed for your brand, leading to greater loyalty, a stronger brand and more fluid engagement of happy consumers. If you make active-lifestyle consumers happy, they’re buying and building your brand community all day.
A RELEVANT & AUTHENTIC END-TO-END BRAND JOURNEY
Our agency’s end-to-end engagement model supports a brand journey that addresses emerging consumer brand interests, Buddhist Economics and purpose-driven brand community building.
Most importantly, it focuses on engaging consumers to curate and harvest insights and sharing, injecting an essential element in your brand’s experience promise.
EXPLORING END-TO-END STRATEGY
Growing your brand community requires a well-designed invitation for consumers to engage. Designing products and brand experiences that coalesce and strengthen your brand promise increase your community equity for the consumer and encourage them to share and invite others into the community.
Regardless if your brand is a rapidly emerging digital brand, omnichannel, factory-to-consumer or a heritage brand, designing a purpose-driven brand experience will make your brand community feel good, be happy and much more transparent, authentic and self-sustaining. True-self.
Scott Mitchell is CEO and Founder of Adventure™ – a marketing firm that generates traction for active-lifestyle brands using a unique combination of end-to-end strategy, collaborative product design and award-winning creative execution.