US Insights

Microculturalism: Harnessing unity in uniqueness to serve a hyper-individualized market

Rob Callender

Associate Head of Polycultural & Inclusivity Insights

Brands 11.28.2018 / 15:00


Brands must forge deeper, more personalized relationships with consumers.

Exclusive new research from Kantar Consulting finds a huge disconnect between businesses and the consumers and talent they’re trying to engage. Many organizations don’t realize they have a problem, but the gap between brands and their customers is only likely to become more pronounced with time.

During the polycultural era, diversity embedded itself into the fabric of mainstream society. The next social paradigm is proving more radical, challenging pre-existing notions of race, age, and even gender. This emerging paradigm—microculturalism—will see the proliferation of diversitywithindiversity, where limitless identity markers intersect uniquely for everyone. It’s a unique test for marketers who believe success means reaching as wide an audience as possible with a single, broad-themed message. The “total market” strategy is already showing its limitations: Majorities of many key groups today feel poorly understood by brands.

Micro Culturalism Graph

Moving forward, consumers will continue to explore new avenues in culture, elevating aspects of their identities that they once overlooked—or even tried to downplay. The resulting hyper-individualized micro-cultures may result in small groups with particularly strong ties, but they’ll also likely mean further fragmentation, a fraying of the weak ties that traditionally held society together, and likely rising extremism. In fact, this shift is already well under way: Just over a decade ago, two-thirds of consumers said most of the country generally shared their worldview. Today, less than half say the same.

Micro Culturalism Chart

This move toward microculturalism has important implications for brands. As consumers continue to hone and refine their identities, they’ll grow less comfortable aligning themselves with the impersonal imagery of big corporate brands. Large brands will be pressed to change their orientation to better reflect consumers’ own distinctpersonalbrands. Buyers will evaluate brands not in terms of whether they’re “for me” or “not for me.” Rather, the decision will come down to brands that are “me” versus “not me.” The future will belong to brands that create meaningful connections with consumers based on a deep, hyper-personalized understanding of individual needs and wants. 

Expect four main principles (and their attendant challenges) to dominate your brand’s strategy.

Universalism in some areas: Universal design, unparalleled functionality and good aesthetics will not only bring products to under-served customers, it will make those products and services better for everyone else, as well.

Data-driven specificity and hyper-personalization in others: In areas where consumers require more personalized products, messaging and service, technology—such as Big Data, AI, and augmented reality—will play an ever-increasing role.

Tolerance, respect, and acceptance everywhere: Businesses will be pressed to generate a culture of inclusion to ensure safe, welcoming shopping environments, workplaces, and social platforms.

Always bringing people together via unity in uniqueness: In an era of fragmentation, businesses have an opportunity to bring people together. This starts with clarity around brand purpose, mission and values. And it’s an opportunity to celebrate the one common thread in a microcultural environment: everyone is unique.

As part of its pioneering work on identity and inclusion, Kantar Consulting has developed a framework that points the way to microcultural success inallbusiness areas. This includes consumer touchpoints such as marketing communications, retail design, and consumer research. But it also includes internal brand-building, such as company values and code of conduct, recruitment, hiring, training, and advancement.

Success means going beyond just knowing what will happen—or even what it means to the marketplace. Success means understanding what, specifically, you can do to seize opportunities before your competitors have even identified them. Kantar Consulting can help businesses plan for the coming microcultural era.


Source: Kantar Consulting

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