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A story of values


Shopping bagsWe are experiencing a time of lifestyle activism on a mass scale.

Activism is everywhere, but not all activism has the widespread participation to turn into a movement.

While activism has been a defining characteristic of sub-cultural groups forever, lifestyle activism is now mainstream.

Lifestyle activists are people who vigorously advocate their particular choice of lifestyle.

This is not about brand advocacy but advocacy for a value set that can alter and determine personal brand choice.

En masse this advocacy is leading to new categories in mainstream FMCG and retail.

So, how and why have activist values and behaviours become mainstream?

Firstly, there is the emergence of sub-categories within mass market retailers that once wouldn’t have been able to buy shelf space, or dare to mix in the mainstream.

Secondly, the retailers getting cut through and brand advocacy are the ones that specialise and focus on a target consumer rather than try to be everything to everyone.

Finally, lifestyle activism is a response to and driving force for cultural shifts that drive momentum for change.

Here are three mass lifestyle activists we’re seeing.

1. Home chefs

Values driving this purchase behaviour: Creativity, connoisseurship, and achievement

Emotional needs: Self expression, accomplishment, and social prestige

Spin off categories: Emergence of fresh with a capital ‘F’, designer cooking ranges, and celebrity branded packaged food

Futures: Pop up restaurants hosted by a different home chef each night.

Definitely the most obvious example of this trend is the home chef craze. Thanks to Jamie Oliver and a myriad of other celebrity chefs, the desire to cook restaurant quality food at home has hit the masses.

Next emerged the TV shows, Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules, which are in turn being copied with household and workplace competitions.


2. Supply chain ethics

Values driving the purchase behaviour: Fair trade, environmental responsibility, and animal rights

Emotional needs: Justice, social prestige, and responsibility to future generations

Spin off categories: Sustainable business development in developing countries

Futures: Mandatory labeling of supply chain integrity.

In the post GFC era with lessened esteem for traditional values of capitalism and a growing economic divide, consumers are starting to protest with their wallets.

First it was fair trade coffee and free range eggs, then came the establishment of sustainable suppliers in developing nations, palm oil awareness, free range pork, and the local movement.

Consumer sentiment is strong enough that it is becoming a point of differentiation for mass retailers.

In 2013, Sainsbury’s launched the #valueofvalues campaign to educate consumers about why its product is slightly more expensive than Tesco. Sainsbury’s eggs are from cage free chickens and their fish fingers are from sustainable fisheries. Worth the extra pennies.

Watch this space with Jamie Oliver and Woolworths.

3. Value Design

Values driving the purchase behavior: Status

Emotional needs: Self expression and social prestige

Spin off categories: Fashion brands in discount department stores, and new value design brands like Bailey Nelson and Muji

Futures: Design driven own brand products that stretch across categories and are faster followers of innovative global brands.

Good design has been democratised. When Stella McCartney went into Target, discount department stores never looked back. Check out the latest Best and Less pop up!

The value design trend emerged from other sources though. It sprung out of new luxury, especially Louis Vuitton, and the surge in the wealthy population of China.

For instance, when Burberry went ‘masstige’ for Britain’s bogans. The sheer volume of luxury product that went into production and hit the streets for a wider consumer base has produced a greater expectation for good design among the masses.

Ikea built its business on good design for everyday households.

The overarching insight is that consumers are demanding more significant needs to be met in every facet of their life. Consumers are rejecting being treated as a homogenous set and require products that reinforce their personal values.

More and more categories are offering significant social signalling opportunities. The ways for people to express themselves and drive the esteem of others.

It has never been more important for retailers and producers to search emerging cultural trends to see where the next innovation could come from.

Be agile and innovative in the design of products, services, and experiences that are in tune with the zeitgeist. And for the high bar – if you enable a group who might not yet have a voice, you could start a revolution.

Clair van Veen is a strategist and acting GM at strategic design agency, Designworks. This is her final column in a third part series following the creator to purveyor to consumer.

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