When the stars of the Glorious Thirty finally decide to die!
27 Aug, 2019
Mass distribution and mass consumption are dying
The observation is there: mass consumption has a good hit in the wing and mass distribution is dying with it. And our little Generation Y heart is delighted (we will explain why later).
Carrefour (French retail group) is reducing its workforce through various departure plans, Auchan announces the sale of 21 of its sites and Casino resells stores to E. Leclerc and Lidl… These news which have been punctuating the economic landscape for some time show us that the hyper and supermarket format is in the red… in the hyper red.
One would think that their local structures would nevertheless be spared. Because even if consumers turn away from large formats, you have to keep shopping! However, a study by the Observatoire Société et Consommation revealed in January that the U Express, Carrefour City and others were the big losers with a negative store traffic dynamic. Thus, even the small formats of large chains are disowned by consumers….
It must be said that supermarkets are perceived by consumers as one of the main factors responsible for plastic seas and the pollution of the planet. And we can see it with World Environment Day on June 5: the planet is tired of it and our lifestyles must change radically if future generations are to survive.
It looks like the supermarket model is about to be buried?!
From small gestures to new activism
On the consumer side, there is a real social movement with a return to authenticity. Consumers are in search of meaning, to find and rebuild the social link that has disappeared with the model of mass distribution: dehumanized and massive.
More and more people are turning to crafts, AMAP (French association: Association pour le Maintien de l’Agriculture Paysanne) and other short and local circuits with a strong desire to eat better, in a responsible way and benefiting everyone and the planet. And this is felt because these “segmented formats” see an increase in their attendance and benefit from a positive perception.
This movement is also generational, with the millennials and generation Y being more in search of new alternatives while the quinquas are still mainly shopping in supermarkets and supermarkets.
Let’s talk about generation! The X’s and baby boomers have a new reason to look at the younger generations with round eyes. And yes, in addition to not wanting to work like them, we don’t want to consume in the same way! And food for millennials is important, in our Food & Beverage study we pointed out that 90% of them consider good nutrition to be one of the pillars of well-being and 42% of vegans are between 15 and 34 years old.
The explosion of new diets is also an indicator of consumer engagement. These have always existed, but with various factors such as food scandals, ecological awareness and the Internet as a magnificent amplifier. These alternative diets may have reached a large population and helped to raise awareness that there were other options for mass consumption.
This awareness goes beyond the simple diet and also affects the lifestyle: vegan, natural life, minimalism or even zero waste are trends that encourage consumers to question their lifestyle globally.
And even if we do not embark on such impactful approaches in our daily lives, the advent of DIY (Do It Yourself) over the past 10 years is once again a visible link in the process of social change that is taking place.
photo by Chelsea shapouri on Unsplash
The “homemade” is far from touching only the housewife with her knitting and sewing. All aspects of the house are concerned: decoration, homemade household products, homemade cosmetics or even cooking with the boom in cooking shows and recipe tutorials. But we can even go further with the development of vegetable gardens according to the principles of permaculture or with the interest of many of these neo-gardeners in peasant seeds. And for all this, once again, the internet is there and everyone is giving each other the best deals with emails and Instagram messages.
Wouldn’t the Internet actually be the common denominator of all the points we have just discussed? If we take the example of committed people, we see that the new activists are no longer NGO professionals but teenagers who blow up YouTube’s counters by organizing “Clean Walk” to clean up their city or by mobilizing the Web to defend humanitarian causes such as the “Love Army” to help the Rohingyas and in Somalia.
But it is also young people like Greta Thunberg who are committed to the climate and who, thanks to their convictions, their actions and the relay that social networks can play, end up challenging our leaders at COP24 and Davos.
As has already been said, we are not the first to write it: the consumer has therefore become an “actor consumer”, but is it not ultimately an extension of the notion of citizenship? Because in addition to his daily actions, the consumer keeps a real impact on society with his wallet and he knows it! Could this impact now be as strong as the vote?….
So, in the face of the inefficiency (not to say inaction) of our governments and consumer expectations, companies have a place to play to help bring about change!
According to the Earned Brand 2018 study, this is also a consumer expectation because more than half of the people surveyed worldwide (54% vs. 49% in France) believe that brands can do more than governments to solve social problems. And in France, 48% believe that it is easier to get brands to take charge of societal issues than to get public authorities to take action in this area.
Values and commitments but no talk for companies
As the Harvard Business Review puts it so well: “In recent years, brands have only thought of their communication through their products – a legacy of mass consumption that is increasingly being called into question. ». It is now necessary for companies to focus their communication on brand values and commitment in order to invest the space left by governments.
But be careful in this process (as we already pointed out in one of our speeches), companies are expected to make a sincere and selfless commitment. Because commitments focused solely on the company’s market or not involving a real position will have the opposite effect to that expected. The image of Benetton, which communicated against racism with its ads highlighting all skin colours, suffered from the brand’s inaction, which never carried out any real humanitarian or anti-racist actions with NGOs, which it considered irrelevant.
However, today, communication around brand values is more effective than product communication1. Especially when we know that 65% of consumers buy a brand according to their conviction.
Thus “Commitment must not be a constraint, but a driving force for brands that become “purposal brands”, which deliver globally the same message on all touchpoints.” explains Amélie Aubry of Elan Edelman2. This is what brands like Nike have been doing in recent years with strong positions such as their last campaign in September 2018 with player Kaepernick.
This resounding campaign enabled the brand, by taking up the fight against police violence and gender equality (let us not forget the version with Serena Williams), to strengthen its credibility with its target, which is itself directly concerned by these issues.
This campaign proved to be a real success for Nike and, although it was controversial with the American alt-right, sales did not fall as predicted, with stocks even reaching a record high at the end of September! We can see it: committing to it works! And fortunately, brands have not waited for us and already have this commitment at the very heart of their identity. To name but a few, we can talk about Veja or Patagonia, both of which are ecologically and socially committed.
But other DNVB (Digital Native Vertical Brand) have also embraced this trend, even if they were not born engaged. If we take the clothing sector, which was strongly shaken by the Rana Plaza scandal in 2013, we have to admit that more than 5 years later, the companies directly concerned have not made the necessary changes at all and that conditions have even deteriorated…
collapse of the Rana Plaza building
On the other hand, the Sézane and Balzac Paris brands largely highlight their responsible commitments, whether in the choice of materials, the recycling of these materials or the monitoring of their production processes, the proximity to teams abroad and their good working conditions and remuneration.
In addition to its responsible commitments, Sézane has launched a solidarity programme TOMORROW to support concrete actions in favour of access to education, culture and the fight for equal opportunities. We said sincere and selfless? Well, that’s it!
It should be noted that these statements and the communications conducted around the company’s commitment cannot be complete without taking into account the importance of Employee Advocacy. As the employee is the first vector of positive communication on the values of his company, it is essential that it is put at the centre of actions. Because going in the direction of the consumer without taking his employees on board is equivalent to a ship with a big hole in the hull! It is vital that they are able to relay their company’s commitments in a relevant way.
Optimistic by nature, we will end this article with a “victory” of an action that has moved the lines and in addition to a supermarket chain! Carrefour’s “Forbidden Market” campaign, which defended farmers to market seeds without going through the Gnis catalogue.