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Inspiring the consumer: You can’t do that on television

I can remember the first time I was afflicted by consumerism. The Sears Wishbook, fresh from its plastic wrap. Me with a felt tip pen circling Barbies and pajamas with Care Bears.

Flash forward a decade, I leafed through Seventeen and took note of teen lit book recommendations, Farah Fawcett shampoo, Kissing Potion rollerball lip glosses and Lee overalls. It was all there in print – and if Jennifer Connelly was using it, I should be too!

In my early 20s I was guided by the fragrant and fluorescent laced power of the mall, my cool friends in big cities and older grades, and the blast of evening TV ads proclaiming perfect French L’Oreal skin.

I hit 30 and by then, had served a decade in the retail marketing trenches and moved behind the lens of consumer engagement. And this is essentially why I am so intrigued by the motivations of today’s consumer. Most specifically, what will incite them to buy something, or perhaps not. How do brands stay relevant or become obsolete within a year. And beyond culottes and serum – I also mean fishing lures, excursions to Gibraltar, electric cars (ok hybrids), coconut water and ski gloves.

What’s most fascinating about today’s consumer landscape, aside from the need to be new (and understatedly cool), every hour, is the challenge for brands to do much more above and beyond anything they have ever had to do to entice, engage and retain their customer. Creating a brand moment is hard work. It’s no longer about locking down the celebrity ambassador for a campaign and air brushing the ad into a puffy nude pink lip (fell for that once or twice). It’s about creating the aspirational moment across all channels. And much of this is rooted in influencers and ‘affiliations’. I refer to it as affiliations because this is more or less the undefined territory where brands are made. Backroom conversations about a product you love. Your conversation with a friend on the bus overheard by a stranger. Sharing a discovery on your own Instagram feed with friends – who trust your opinion and judgement.

But in many of these cases, you first heard about it from a larger scale digital influencer… you tried it or saw it… and so you will share it and spread the word more organically. Old school word of mouth. It’s been around for years and this is the future of consumerism in many respects. The sophisticated, discerning, visually aware consumer of 2018 requires far more than a billboard to be inspired.

What does this mean for brands? Well, the great news is that we are vocal, opinionated, curious, self-aware, proud Canadians, looking for moments of inspiration and generally buried in the glow of a computer after 9 pm. So what inspires us to double click on that brushed gold fixture in our basket?

According to Forbes, 30% of consumers are likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger.

Now more than ever, consumers are turning to influencers to learn how a product performs and decide whether it’s something worth investing in.

But I would argue that beyond that influencer endorsement you need a level of micro approval to drive that word of mouth conversation in your own small community. Oprah’s book club gone community access cable.

We are looking for an authentic endorsement from those we trust… who are likely getting inspiration from bigger online forces in the form of bloggers, podcast hosts and their guests, digital influencers, and content creators and small business owners. As a marketer, I find the prospect of carving out the right community of brand influencers exhilarating.

People want to improve themselves, live better lives, and arguably, be inspired through aspiration. Where that comes from is sometimes the person sitting next to you on the bus.