March 14, 2013

Creative - The Hypothesis And Ramifications

This week, I presented numerous website home pages to you.  I associated the pages with the demographic that tends to shop those pages.

I conclude that there are three predominant creative presentations for our customer cohorts. This is the start of my hypothesis.
  1. Judy = Merchandise-Centric Presentation Style.
  2. Jennifer = Story-Centric Presentation Style.
  3. Jasmine / Jadyn = Relationship-Centric Presentation Style.
These are my opinions, but I think my hypothesis surrounding the opinions is reasonable.  Businesses catering to Judy are, in many cases, businesses that pre-date the internet.  Back in 1995, it was costly to use print or television to speak to customers, so you have to present everything you possibly could present.  In catalogs, you had no choice but to feature as many skus as possible.  The legacy of this style of creative strategy lives today, as we saw with QVC's website.  Those who run businesses that cater to Judy are hard-wired to present everything.  Judy, of course, is hard-wired, having forty years of purchasing experience.  This is a co-dependent relationship.

Jennifer.  Remember, over the course of the past two years, I've shared with you that Jennifer likes to hunt for the best item at the best price with the best promotion.  So when every company offers the same merchandise at the same price with comparable promotions, we're left with almost nothing to differentiate between businesses - except for the stories businesses tell.  It's my hypothesis that we see cleaner presentations and stories because we have to differentiate ourselves.

Jasmine / Jadyn:  The world changes once we get to the under 35 cohorts.  With Judy, businesses tell her exactly what to buy.  With Jennifer, businesses tell her a story about why she should buy. With Jasmine / Jadyn, the story is shared.  Businesses tell Jasmine / Jadyn what to buy through stories, then ask Jasmine / Jadyn to provide feedback on the story, to help shape the story.  This is a shift in tone.  The co-creation that happens here results in a lot of data being exchanged between parties.

Data sharing is different across the generations.
  • Judy = Shared via co-ops and database providers.
  • Jennifer = Shared via Google and Microsoft.
  • Jasmine / Jadyn = Shared via Social and Mobile.
With Jasmine / Jadyn, data becomes integrated with the creative presentation.  This is new, different, interesting, and maybe a bit frightening.  But we have to know this, if we want to have a relationship with Jasmine / Jadyn.

My hypothesis, then, is as follows.
  • Judy requires a merchandise-centric presentation.
  • Jennifer requires a story-centric presentation.
  • Jasmine / Jadyn requires a relationship-centric presentation.
  • The style of presentation attracts or repels customers across generational cohorts.
  • When we repel various customers, we attract others, and as a consequence, we optimize our creative treatment among those who stick around and buy merchandise.  This is called "hyper-optimization".
  • When we "hyper-optimize", we make it very difficult to shift from selling from one generation to another generation.
There are two very important ramifications to my hypothesis.
  1. If we shift to tactics that are required of younger generations, we repel our core customer, causing us short-term pain.
  2. If we fail to shift tactics, over time, we repel younger customers, causing us long-term pain.
Catalogers, in particular, are trapped in both ramifications.  Anytime the cataloger tries to change, the core customer rejects the change.  The cataloger is forced to hyper-optimize, then, to appeal to the core customer, and this hyper-optimization leads to catalogers repelling younger customers, trapping the catalog brand.

If you're a catalog brand, you kind of have to make a choice, don't you?
  1. Maximize the value of the core customer, following the cohort into retirement.
  2. Or, create a new brand that appeals to a younger demographic, using profit obtained from the core customer to fund exploration into a creative strategy that appeals to a younger demographic.
Now, could I be wrong?  Absolutely!  Could a business catering to a 57 year old customer change, and cater to a 27 year old customer?  Absolutely!  Anything is possible.  Nobody knows what the future holds.

Ok, time for your thoughts.  Is the hypothesis right or wrong?  If it is right, how would you recommend businesses deal with the ramifications of the hypothesis?  If it is wrong, how would you modify the hypothesis to more closely align with reality?