On a relaxed February evening, MII members were treated to dynamic debate, interesting insights and new connections. With every seat filled, the event kicked off with welcome drinks and friendly introductions from Shane McGonigle, CEO of MII, and Richard Carr, Accenture Song Ireland Lead. Then, surrounded by the comfortable opulence of the Stella Theatre we listened with rapt attention to ‘The Rumble Theory’, presentation by Accenture Song followed by a lively and engaging discussion with David McWilliams, Economist & Broadcaster, and Emma Sharkey, Chief Strategy Officer for Accenture Song.
The Rumble Theory is a fascinating response to the high rate of change facing businesses and brands today. With consumer behaviour transforming now faster than ever, where can we turn to keep ahead of the curve rather than chasing our tails. As Sharkey put it; “Rumbles, like thunder are indications that something is coming. Find the rumble and you’ve found a potential hotspot of change.” By looking out for patterns, spikes and highlights taking place, it’s possible to draw some interesting correlations. So, what specific rumbles did MII learn about that will help us prepare for their eventual transition to roars?
People today are exploring the limits of what can be changed by coming together. An interesting example of this is the rise of the Digital Union. Unions are becoming mainstream again but this time it’s in a digital capacity. While the basic principle of uniting to collectively create a point of leverage remains the same, the digital union can manifest itself in new and unprecedented ways.
Some manifestations are informal and spontaneous like GenZ actively sharing salaries across TikTok and Twitter to create a new wave of pressure on employers around pay equity. Other examples are more organised like ‘Crazy House Prices’ which uses community led crowdsourcing and social shaming to bring accountability to the housing market in Ireland.
So what does this rumble mean for the future? Well in essence, it’s no longer about brand communities but brand by communities. Brand/Consumer power dynamics are shifting and becoming less about connecting with an individual and more about partnering collaboratively with another powerful organisation. It was fascinating to hear McWilliams explain that in his experience speaking to businesses, people can oftentimes seem to forget their consumer. If brands don’t take the time to understand what is going on in people’s heads, they just can’t understand why people decide to buy.
Communities are feeling empowered to make changes on a large scale and are recognising their evolving capacity to problem solve in new and creative ways. As a brand it’s imperative to recognise the shift in power dynamics and recraft your strategy to approach both the individual and the digital union or community. As McWilliams so insightfully put it on the night;” The economic cycle is nothing more than the expression of the sociability of humans. Up and down up and down. We infect each other, we get giddy together, we get depressed together.” By choosing to cooperate with communities, brands can create opportunities based on real needs shared by an engaged audience.
Redressing Women’s Wealth
In the current climate it is no surprise that there are many rumblings happening in relation to money. But, since wealth management is significantly behind other categories in terms of achieving gender parity, we were heartened to hear the focus of this rumble in particular – that of redressing women’s wealth. Women have reached a point where they are demanding change against a system that wasn’t built with them in mind.
Most of us are already aware of the ‘pink tax’ which has always seen women pay more for consumer goods, but now recent inflation has disproportionately hit products that are marketed at women and further impacted their discretionary spend. Since this information is now easier to find than ever before is it any wonder that women are voicing the very real need for change.
An interesting example of this rumble is the Financial Advice Gap. In the face of institutional barriers and biases, women are looking to non-traditional institutions to fill a very real advice space. Lifestyle publications like Grazia and social media platforms like FinTok are frequent destinations where women feel empowered to take control of their personal finances. However, it is important to note, these are unregulated spaces powered by personality versus expertise, and could potentially be further disadvantaging women when it comes to money.
This means that while the financial gap being filled from lifestyle brands is potentially putting women at a disadvantage, it is also pointing to a huge relevancy issue in the financial sector. An opportunity is therefore being created for brands to step in and help the finance industry achieve gender parity quicker.
Businesses can begin to look both internally and externally to identify potential areas for redressing the wealth balance and communicating it to the already open ears of consumers. Depending on your business and brand, potential opportunities can range from being as big as new service offerings, to a smaller scale like offering financial advice and planning to employees geared towards redressing the financial advice gap.
The Internet of Ownership
It may sound simple, but the fact remains true that sometimes it’s just fun to own things. Despite the backlash that crypto and the token economy has received recently, the promise of the ‘internet of ownership’ is exciting and people are ‘buying’ into this digital consumerism.
McWilliams hit the nail on the head when he said;” When you launch a product or an idea into this seething mass of humanity- Us. You can never preordain what is going to happen because we are too clever.” This assertation was backed up by the research shared by Sharkey that non-fungible token (NFT) sales increased 41.96% from the previous month, according to data recorded on 1st February, with the number of digital collectible transactions rising by more than 22% in the past month. The ‘T’ in NFT is a consumer’s token into an exclusive community, something that people have always found enticing.
People are playing with their sense of self when it comes to their online and offline world. Accenture’s research showed that 37% of people describe their digital lives as just ‘their lives’ and don’t distinguish between the idea of my ‘real life’ and my ‘digital life’. So interestingly the idea of ownership of “things” online and the ability to represent yourself more realistically online has become more important than ever.
For your brand and business, it’s important to recognise that this rumble means people are buying things to express who they are, potentially making people’s connected wallets a brands ticket to next generation loyalty. Passion brands perhaps need to be more cognisant of this. The saying “would you wear the t-Shirt”, is increasingly moving towards “would your avatar wear the t-shirt”?
A very sincere thanks to all the team at Accenture Song Ireland and David McWilliams for sharing their insights with MII members. Please contact here for the report. It was great to have the opportunity to network together in a relaxed and engaged environment. A special thanks also to the staff at the Stella Theatre for their warm welcome and impeccable hosting.
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