Media consumption has altered but consumer behaviour has ‘endured’, says insights firm

Adam Nelson: "We don't need to keep reinventing the wheel"

Adam Nelson: “We don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel”

Businesses are “running around the like headless chickens” in the mistaken belief that consumer behaviour has changed along with the way people consume media, a seminar has heard.

Adam Nelson, associate director of insights consultancy Flamingo, declared that while distribution has changed and disrupted business, the fundamentals of consumer behaviour have remained largely the same.

Speaking on the evolution of new media at an event in Singapore, Nelson said there were “enduring” characteristics which have “evolved” but not necessarily changed.

People have always connected, always shared and always formed communities, only they do so now on different platforms, he said.

Separately, Nelson accused brands of being “lazy” in their approach to the shifting media landscape and of not reacting fast enough. He argued that “vested interests” may have played a role in the failure to adapt.

Nelson, who was joined on stage by fellow Flamingo associate director Scott Teng, said it was unnecessary to “recast the world every half decade”.

“It’s great for project turnover and billing and selling social media ninjas and digital gurus but if we take a step back, there’s an awful lot underneath this noise that endures,” he said.

“This isn’t to decry that things haven’t changed. It’s to provide a counter balance of the need to recast the world every half decade.

Flamingo_logo“It’s exhausting to constantly have to reinvent the wheel and really expensive for clients to re-commission stuff and send us out to often find out the same things.”

Just because the digital world has enabled consumers to say and do things on different platforms doesn’t mean we are “thinking new things or doing different things”, he said.

People still watch TV, be it streaming or through regular channels, read news content and listen to music, he said.

Teng argued the Facebook fan page is nothing new – it’s simply a new version of the fanzine.

Companies are too often too quick to believe that “everything has changed”, including consumer behaviour which just “isn’t the case”, Nelson said.

“I do agree there has been disruption, of course there has. But everyone is too keen to start running round like headless chickens and panicking that the sky is falling down because they have been too slow to evolve their businesses,” he said. “Let’s make a distinction between business disruption and behaviour change.”

What has changed is the ability to forge communities and share with people on the other side of the world.

“It has led to an end of geography,” Nelson continued. “You now have communities that have reach and scale. For those who deal on the media side of things it has totally changed how you think about targeting, how you think about buying and how you think about seeding messages.”

Speaking later to Mumbrella, Nelson said businesses are “projecting their neurosis onto people” in their belief the consumer has fundamentally changed.

“I think they are seeing their business model challenged and they are believing that is because people are doing fundamentally different things,” he said. “But they are just doing it through fundamentally different spaces. There is a case of almost needing to stop projecting your neurosis on to people.

“Consumer behaviour is constantly evolving, but this idea that the whole world has changed is one that isn’t particularly useful or helpful. I think we need to understand what has endured and how new technologies have allowed behaviours to evolve and grow.

“People have always wanted to connect, people have always wanted to share. The biggest change is that everything is a lot more joined up, but what people are doing is not fundamentally different.”

Nelson, who recently located to Flamingo’s Singapore office from London, claimed businesses were effectively “lazy” and had become too comfortable repeating the “same models” of marketing.

Scott Teng

Scott Teng

“People developed a vested business interest in doing things the same way, whether that’s a traditional ad agency determined to keep making the 30-second spot because that’s where there margins are, or a newspaper determined to keep investing in its print edition because it bought that hardware to print it.”“Even 10, 15 and 20 years after you could see this coming, this change was a supertanker, a slow steady approach,” he said.

They are now being “caught out”, he added.

Teng added the problem is probably more acute in the west where businesses have already invested in “what are essentially outmoded ways of doing things”.

He said that will lead to a “greater resistance to change” while firms in Asia “are more nimble”.

Steve Jones


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