No Gender About It: Reaching the Values-Based Buyer

Why did campaigns like the American Express "My Life. My Card." and the Kleenex "Let It Out" efforts so resonate with consumers? It may be the same reason that the recently launched Rockport "Choose to Walk" campaign (as critiqued by Stuart Elliott in the New York Times) is likely to also be a success. Something in each of those efforts rings true, feels "like me," or otherwise touches the soul of the core customers for those brands—and that may well include you.

Each of those campaigns has dialed into the values of its market—those things beyond the given baseline expectations for fair price and high quality. Today's consumers are really looking through any superficial brandwash in search of recognition and appreciation for who they have chosen to be as people. It all boils down to social values.

Research cited in a recent GreenBiz.com article by Sarah Fister Gale confirms that the new consumer is sticking to his/her beliefs and social values:

The 2008 Good Purpose survey from public relations firm Edelman overwhelmingly shows that buyers plan to remain loyal to products that they perceive to have strong social value.

According to survey results, 68 percent of consumers say that even in a recession they would remain faithful to a brand if it supports a good cause; nearly seven in 10 would be prepared to pay more for eco-friendly products.

Now, here's the thing: a person's core beliefs or values are not gendered. He may buy Brand X because he loves its green approach, and she may buy Brand Y because it reflects her belief in community—or vice versa. Social values are being raised up; they are becoming more of a priority and something that all consumers are using as a filter in their very deliberate purchase processes.

In order to reach these people, marketers have to make sure their brands reflect what their customers really want from the values perspective. This is indeed a more challenging battle than traditional advertising, but brands don't have much choice in the matter.

Certainly, the women these companies have been serving have been nudging them toward this values-based exchange for years, but there seems to be that much more urgency now that both genders are more careful about how they spend their money in tighter times.

Traditionally considered to be peripheral and perhaps irrelevant, the topic of social values was avoided by many businesses—they stuck to the usual facts and figures rather than "dilute" their brand message with such nonsense. But, women and men both are now demanding more accountability on a broader spectrum of "attributes," and brands must identify and reflect their authentic values throughout to make an impression. If they do it well, consumers will—just as with the American Express, Kleenex, and Rockport campaigns—see their own values within and respond.

[With this post, we are joined by Cool Friend Andrea Learned, who also blogs at her own website, LearnedonWomen.com. She has a Manifesto, "Beware the Gender Trap," at ChangeThis, too.]