Forrester predicts: consumer 2018

This blog post comes live from the 2008 Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas, October 28-29, 2008. The October 29 keynote consists of “Consumer 2018: Separating Fact from Fad” by Forrester Principal Analyst Lisa Bradner. Lisa addresses a thorny question: what will consumers be doing 10 years from now? How do you recognize the absolute truths about consumers versus passing fads?

Lisa contends that in the analog world, marketers have done a pretty good job at making things convenient for consumers through mass marketing, witnessed by the ease with which products can be mass produced, marketed, and distributed to your local Target. But too many companies are trying to apply a mass marketing approach to digital, which is why the web is awash with spam. Consequently, many consumers navigate the digital world without marketers. For instance, six out of 10 are influenced by peer reviews.

Consumers trust themselves and each other. But they don’t trust marketers. So how do marketers adapt?

The answer is fairly simple: follow consumer behavior — don’t try to “manage” it. To help the marketer, Lisa introduces the four “Ps” of understanding consumer behavior in the digital world: permission, proximity, perception, and participation:

1. Permission: consumers derive comfort by managing with whom and when they engage. Example: is a closed, invitation-only shopping community.

2. Proximity: consumers tap into networks and affiliations based on on content and association. The notion of curated content is important here. Example: Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast content curator connects people with common interests. Daily Beast brings proximity to its readers.

3. Perception: consumers inhabit multiple personas. Marketers need to engage the persona consumers are willing to reveal and allow consumers to manage their own perceptions. Example: Apple enables consumers to customize our iPods however we want, and we pay Apple for the privilege.

4. Participation: consumers participate in order to feel connected. Example: Sprint and and Suave have collaborated to create In the Motherhood, a community managed by moms for moms.

Consumers use these 4 P’s to manage their fluctuations between core need states. We cannot “control” them. We have to let consumers guide us.

Lisa’s closing thoughts: if you’ve gotten permission from consumers to participate in their world, ask them to share their experience with others. Consumers will act as brand advocates for you – if they like you.

So what do you think of these four P’s?