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Indication and thorough understanding of the spirit of the times is the initial step towards striking the right chord with consumers. It all revolves around filtering out the relevant environmental factors from the overwhelming amount of things happening in this turbulent timeframe (The Doors of Perception). If we zoom in on these environmental factors and the effects these have on people we quickly reveal what drives the consumer. If we zoom out, there are four PRINCIPLES OF PROGRESS through which we can give an answer to consumers’ (latent) needs. Or, even better, anticipate these.


CULTIVATE COMPASSION for common ground and inclusivity

This principle is about launching a dialogue, looking for fresh and innovative ways of collaboration, building bridges. Restoring contact between people in a divisive world made up of filter bubbles and inequality. This demands a more holistic approach; acquiring an overview, being aware that each link has its own discrete value, thinking and acting with a focus on inclusion. This applies from product development and marketing to communication and staff policy. And all of course easier said than done!

Thinking and acting centred on inclusion however is absolutely vital when reaching out to consumers, when striking that meaningful chord. The launch pad here is to clearly map out the parameters within which you work. Invest in ‘really understanding’ what drives people. There are numerous ways to approach and investigate this.


In my role as strategic consultant I endeavour, in a joint process with the client, to answer the following: To whom are you relevant and at which moments? What is the context? What shared values can be defined? What sort of culture is in place and how do you adhere to/respect this?

We have recently seen a number of examples clearly demonstrate that if you do not think and take on board these questions you risk making some considerable and costly mistakes. Before you know it your brand could become the target of a boycott. Something Gucci experienced with its blackface pullover. And then there was Dolce & Gabbana in China and their commercial for a Shanghai fashion show, in which a model attempts to eat pizza with chopsticks. Or take H&M, forced to apologise for their ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ jumper. But you can also hit the bullseye. My own favourite is the Halal fried chicken bus stop. During Ramadan the food vanishes in the daylight hours, only for the fried chicken image to appear after sunset. By flagging up that you know exactly what’s going on in your target consumers’ world, you not only find a place in their heads, but also occupy a recess in their hearts.

Altruistic business models

Another key element of Cultivate Compassion is to research your own individual significance in your consumer’s world. Can you add or contribute something to a shared goal? Can you resolve or prevent a problem? Endeavour to make your actions reciprocal: not only take from them, but also give something in return. We have noticed examples of this in a growing number of altruistic business models, such as The Good Roll [toilet paper, parts of the profits are invested in sanitary facilities for people who lack these], Marie Stella Maris [for every litre of water sold, someone elsewhere in the world is given access to clean drinking water] or at Brabantia, who planted a tree for every rotary dryer sold [over a million trees have been planted]. These are just a couple of the many great examples.

Would you like to know more about applying the PRINCIPLES OF PROGRESS and Christine Boland? Click here for further information.

Posted in consumer trends.

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