OK, I will attempt to link McDonald’s, George Carlin, the latest customer segment buzzword, and potential marketing implications in one blog. No promises….
Recently, two colleagues were laughing about the late George Carlin’s famous bit on "stuff." You’re probably familiar. To paraphrase, our purpose in life is to gather stuff and find a place to keep our stuff. That’s all a house is…a place to keep our stuff. Other people’s stuff is "bleep" but our "bleep" is stuff. It’s hilarious and incredibly insightful.
But are we reaching (buzzphrase alert) a tipping point? An interesting trend garnering attention is "Transumerism." Neither the term nor trend is new. However, the lifestyle is shifting from one defined exclusively by travelers and luxury experience/next-best-"stuff" buyers to renters. Renters of gadgets, luxury items, and experiences, sure, but just about anything else too. Some actually prefer not to own for specific reasons (environmental, etc.).
The economy explains the increase in some aspects of transumerism but not all. It existed before the downturn. In fact, some expect transumerism to continue en masse.
Obviously this presents huge implications for consumer marketing and the slew of advertising, branding, and communications agencies that support such efforts. What about those of us focused on the B2B world? And does it stop with consumer behavior? My gut tells me "not quite." Just look at McDonald’s. (I admit it. I wrote this blog to legitimize that segue.)
The fast food giant will promote its annual Monopoly game on Jay Leno’s new show this fall. However, the chain is foregoing a traditional media-buy ad campaign. Leno himself will push the game during the show for one month. According to the VP of marketing it’s a "one off" because "…the media marketplace and the economy are different than in the past." I think we would all agree, but we’re talking McDonald’s here. This might be telling, which at last, brings me to the final sub-thread in this "blog."
On our side of the fence–the marketing communications, brand consulting, ad agency side–and in the B2B world to boot, we’ve seen this too. Whether it be financial stress, reorganization, or general shifts in priorities, clients are choosing to do things a little differently. One could argue that there are traces of transumerism even if not by preference. Companies want, and need, very specific things for a very specific time. This is not different. The difference is that the specific time is shorter, possibly tied to a peak season or opportunity, and the committed investment lighter. Invest in what they need and want now, get the best experience possible (revenue, leads, awareness), and hold for the next prime opportunity/experience.
I don’t think we yet know if this is a long-term issue or opportunity on either side of that fence. It has definitely forced change, which can always lead to improvements or simply a fresh approach–revised procedures, additional offerings, new competencies. At Oden we’ve tried some new things as well. Some have been fun. Others have been this blog.
What I am fairly certain of is that this "transumer approach" will for the most part continue in corporate marketing as seamlessly as with personal accessory rentals. It will not go away because of an economic boost. That might actually be a paradox–permanent transumerism. Either way, marketing communications firms should be ahead of the curve, make adjustments, and refine our positions to continue delivering value.
I only wish Mr. Carlin were around to riff on a term like "transumer."