Seismic Change in Consumer Behavior

Why do your consumers seem so different than they used to?  One reason:  They are!

And as a result, marketing and branding will never be the same, either. So if you are still reaching out to consumers with the same tactics and the same messages you were using a few years ago, you’re missing the mark.

In short, five seismic forces are reshaping society, and along with it, today’s higher ed consumer:

  1. Chronic under-employment
  2. Social consumerism
  3. Rich media on demand
  4. Educational commodity
  5. Deeply conflicted society

Chronic under-employment
Global recession and lasting under-employment have made consumers cost and value conscious. More deliberate and analytical in their choices: Can I afford this? How long will that last?  Where is the best value?  It’s not, as many have assumed, that consumers are afraid of spending money, but they’ve become more focused and critical about what their money can and should buy – they want lasting value.

Social consumerism
Consumers are connected in ways unimaginable five years ago. They talk about you, and expect you to pay attention to what they have to say. They make decisions based on what they hear about you in social spaces, and are not shy in sharing their unvarnished views about your performance. Here’s the takeaway: Talk fast, talk often, talk honest.

Rich media on demand
Consumers are incredibly connected and accustomed to all types of information on demand, immediate access to more about whatever it is they’re looking for. Computing is mobile. Data, connectivity, video, and choices are mobile. Our future is mobile.

Educational commodity
College education used to stand above the fray, apart from crass consumerism and worth whatever it cost. It was a life-changing gateway to a brighter future. But in an age when MBA graduates drive taxi’s and manage fast-food shops, a college degree has lost lustre. Competition from profits and non-profits alike, exploding costs, and the acceptance of distance learning has turned a college degree into a commodity that consumers “shop” for, no different than other personal services. Consumers shrewdly evaluate perceived benefits and outcomes versus cost.

Deeply conflicted society
Most of us still believe in the tenets of what used to be called the Great Society, yet we are beginning to sense that we just can’t afford it anymore. Most espouse the ideals of civility, courtesy, and respect, yet it’s a shock when we’re actually treated courteously and respectfully. Civil discourse is anything but civil, and giving may still be better than receiving, but not creating a fuss to get every farthing that’s due labels you a sap. The signs of deep conflict in values are everywhere. Consumers say what they want and demand everything they can get.

These seismic forces change the way consumers react to your market position, your messaging, your tactics, and your brand presentation. How are you responding?

Learn more about the changes in consumer behavior in this presentation (also see below), given in January 2012 at the CASE District VI conference in Denver.

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