Why consumers are looking for personal brands in ‘The Me Era’

Why consumers are looking for personal brands in ‘The Me Era’

Cannes Lions judge and Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of creative agency Tigress Tigress Meera Sharath Chandra believes brands need to understand a new consumer mindset to succeed. In her new e-book, The Me Era, she describes this new mindset, reveals what she thinks is driving it and how brands must behave in response. Just.Marketing asked her to explain a bit more.

JM: You say we are 'bang in the middle of the Me Era'. Could you define what you mean by this from a marketing perspective?

Meera: “A decade ago, the marketing trend was to address a tribe-with-a-common-vibe. It was about the community and social media fanned the possibilities of creating and targeting like-minded groups. But increasingly, we find that consumers – while enjoying that social support structure – have a powerful need to be known as clearly-etched personas within that groundswell.

“In my view, it is about recognising the individual bouquet of traits, desires and affinities that shape a consumer’s responses and choices. Marketers could talk to the ‘Me’ – the personal brand – in a more lean-forward way, especially with the advent of newer technologies. The book has several examples of brands that are successfully doing so because they have spotted the changing dynamic”.

The relationship between brand and consumer has now evolved beyond mass customisation and hyper personalisation, you say in 'The Me Era'. You say there is a role reversal here. Can you explain the implications for marketers?

“This is, in fact, a handbook on how to tap into the marketing opportunities during the role reversal. It is not enough to identify individual consumer mindsets. It is now becoming imperative to help build and shape personal brands. Every consumer identity is at a unique cusp of time and place, experience and aspiration, need and purpose, self and world. For brands, this is where the two factors of deep resonance and high relevance come into play.”

Can you also explain what you mean when you say brands must now address the relationship we have with ourselves?

“The days of seeking external affirmation alone are behind us. This is the era of self-worth, self-fulfilment, self-expression. There is a shift. It seems like our benchmarks are set not by others but by ourselves. Our pride perhaps lies not in loud popular applause but silent personal triumphs.

"The better life isn’t necessarily the expected choice but a highly individual decision. My brand must become an intrinsic part of my evolution – encouraging progress, enhancing goals, enriching potential.

"My brand must celebrate the bond I have with myself before it forges a relationship with me.”

In a fascinating statement, you say there is no personal truth to be mined in the tons of data now available. So does this mean customer segmentations have no value?

“Segmentation does have value, granular understanding has exponential value. A highly individual, personal truth cannot be found among a vast group or a set of customers. It is an insight into the mind of one person. It derives its meaning in its relevance to one person. It has to result in the betterment of the life and dreams of one person.

“That is the kind of understanding that will help a brand have meaningful dialogues with its franchise-of-one.”

You call for brands to 'etch our identities, speak to our beliefs, underscore our differentiators, share our mission.' Which brands do you think do this well currently – can you give any examples of actions that exemplify your point?

“I admire a few brands that have been championing this, not just on occasion but consistently. I have picked two examples straight from the book for you.

Dove’s Self Esteem and Real Beauty communication celebrate the right to be not-so-perfect, to be you. From Evolution and Onslaught to Real Beauty Sketches and now the Show Us campaign, the brand consistently calls out body image and social comparison issues and reframes what we want to see in the mirror.

“Nike does this ever so well too – What Are Little Girls Made Of, Dream Crazy, What Will They Say About You, Equality Has No Boundaries – just a few insightful messages that turn us into self-starters with a vision. In recent days, We Are Never Too Far Down To Come Back spurs us to battle our way through the tough times we are facing.

“I also must spotlight the importance here of purpose-led brand communication – because consumers resonate with marketing ideas that fight their fight, echo their beliefs. Diversity, inclusion, equality, sustainability are all missions that consumers identify with and actively support.”

Could you explain how the pandemic has affected all of this?

“While the book was written to endure beyond the pandemic, it does have concepts that are evident during these challenging times.

“For instance, the relationship we have with ourselves that we spoke of before, has come to the forefront during the lockdown. Social media is replete with images of self-discovery, finding a new passion, smart ways of coping, home décor, cooking and makeovers hacks – even advice on how to stay mentally strong when we are physically distanced. The ‘Me’ has found new outlets of self-expression.

“Again, for many of us, the pandemic seems to have pushed the reset button. The lockdown ‘Me’ seems to have a wholly different view on priorities, health, work-life balance and what matters most. We are now altering our financial habits, we are more invested in family and home. Travel has come down drastically and the online world is our main recourse for work, entertainment, communication, social life. In this context, defining one’s intent in a changing world is everything. These are times when personal brands can lead the way as powerful influencers.

“The pandemic has become a leveller. Suddenly we share a common problem, we jointly face an uncertain future. Yet, these are times when character and resilience can be best exemplified. The ‘Me’ can be empowered to take on the odds. Brands can play a significant part in keeping the worried and restless consumer energised and positive. There is a powerful relationship to be built when we fight a common enemy.”