TREXIT AND THE POWER OF THE PEER NETWORK

 In Branding

Today Donald Trump is named president elect.

For the second time in 2016 the world has been sideswiped by an election result. What should have been a relatively obvious outcome has been upended by the people that matter, the consumer. The system thinks it knows best, but the user is not so sure.

With Brexit, and once again today with Trump as president elect, we are taught the valuable lesson about society’s desire for a new order. Some of it is born from uncertainty and fear, but much of it is also driven by the consumer’s need and want for change.

The Old Ways Won’t Open New Doors

Disruption is all around us. Every industry faces significant change driven by significant technological advances and possibilities. No sector is insulted from the effects of the sharing economy, the invasion of flexible start-ups challenging the status quo or the omnichannel revolution. However it is the changing needs and demands of the consumer that is our strongest disruptive force.

Today’s consumer is more demanding than they have ever been before. As soon as the technology allows us same day delivery, then we expect it as the norm. Having been rewired through the smart phone in our pockets, we assume everything in life will be instant. We expect the interactions we have with brands and services to be frictionless and personalised, experiential and authentic. It is not just the rules of the game that have changed, it is the entire event. If you are to survive in this new consumer world, the old ways of working will simply no longer deliver growth. In fact I would argue that this is about survival (just ask Hilary today).

Power to the People

One of the strongest assets any brand has today are its consumers. We are all permanently connected to our peer networks, conversing, discussing and influencing opinion, sometimes directly and many times subconsciously. The power of peer-to-peer continues to catalyse change in many industries, driving growth in sharing economy products. Most consumers today seem more inclined to trust their peer network than the big-brand counterpart.

Take your average dog owner. When they go on vacation then can go the old route and put their loved pet in a boarding kennel where they will imagine him caged and lonely for the week. Or they can find a temporary foster family for him with DogVacay or BorrowMyDoggy, your pet minded by fellow dog lovers who will even update you daily on his stay with them. Who best to look after your pet and their interests than other pet owners? We inherently put more trust in the peer network.

In Amazon’s Seattle book store (yes the irony of them opening an actual book store having killed the small town book store industry is not lost on any of us), books are displayed based on the readers own ratings, with actual reader reviews on the shelf edge, books ranked by actual reader popularity as opposed to some publishers marketing blurb. Today we want to hear from those that matter, the user.

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You’ve Had Your Go, Now It’s My Turn

So why did Britain vote to leave the EU? Why have Americans voted to have Trump as their president? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that consumers feel it is time to take control of their own destiny. Allowing the establishment to continue to run things as they always have does not seem to interest the average consumer anymore. They seem hungry for that new order.

They see it all around them in their everyday lives. We no longer use our landlines to make calls at home, in fact we rarely use our cell phones. We reach for Skype, Viber or Instant Messaging Apps to communicate. Small businesses prefer to crowdfund instead of borrowing from financial institutions. We use AirBnb instead of the Hilton, Twitter instead of a daily newspaper. Why is it surprising that consumers want change from other aspects of their lives, and when given the opportunity they vote accordingly.

The Trexit results are about a new order, one where the consumer utilises the power they realise they hold. For a brand this is about embracing this new reality, to acknowledge that however you have succeeded in the past, it is unlikely to be your future.

You should take Trexit as the wake-up call it is. Consumers feel that the old ways are no longer working for them. They want something different, and clearly they will take anything but the establishment. Most who voted for Brexit in the UK are still a little unsure of what it will mean long term, but they knew they weren’t happy with the way things were. I am sure many of Trump’s votes came from those who were tired of the way US politics had gone.

Consumers want change. I know it’s hard to say at your next board meeting, but you might just have to be a bit more Trump than Clinton going forward, or certainly a bit of both…

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Ken Hughes is one of the worlds leading Shopper and Consumer Behaviouralists, blending his vast expertise in consumer psychology, social & digital anthropology, behavioural economics and neuromarketing to answer the question to which he has dedicated most of his career: Why do shoppers buy and how can we make them buy more? Click here to read more

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