The Grocer recently published a shorter version of this article by We Are Social's Editorial Director, Charlie Cottrell. They've been kind enough to let us reproduce it below.

Today, shoppers are surrounded by purchase choices, never more than a click away from having whatever they desire delivered to their door and biologically programmed to be lazy. They’ve got the power to influence everything from taxis to tampons and they’ve got that power inside their watch. How on earth can FMCG brands stay relevant to such an Unreasonable Consumer?

I opened the We Are Social FMCG Social Summit by warming up the stage for Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, who gave a brilliant keynote speech about the importance of purposeful content and great storytelling to achieve scale and impact. Other cool bods who spoke were Jerry Daykin from Carat, who shared the great news that social marketing DOES drive sales - even if people haven’t clicked ‘like’ on a post; Claire Jerrold, Digital and Social Media Manager from Heineken, who talked about putting the consumer at the heart of your campaign (j’agree, Claire); Kassy Dignam from Britvic who shared her brilliantly frank advice for using social media channels to help you communicate changes to devoted brand-fans, and Dan Burdett, Global Brand VP at Mars, who told us to reign in our unicorns and to remember that fancy pants creative work still has to sell things.

Before they shared their insider insights, I talked a bit about the consumer landscape. In particular the rise of what we at We Are Social like to call, The Most Unreasonable Consumer of All Time.

Who is this Unreasonable Consumer?
Thanks to the internet, devices, apps and APIs, consumers are in a near-fantasy world of purchase choices. We can buy almost anything we like, from wherever we like and have it delivered to us, whenever we like. Think about the last time you had to search out a cab-rank in the early hours and barter to stop at a cash point on the way home; remember how furious that made you? Quite right! We can demand cabs come to us now; we can listen to any piece of music ever recorded – immediately; we can have cheese delivered to us within the hour. We’re living a little bit like Kimye, and now we’ve had a taste of it we’re never going back.

What this means for brands is, more and more, consumers call the shots. If you won’t give them what they want, how they want it in the absolute most convenient way, then someone else will. The key to staying ahead of the competition is to understand what it is the Unreasonable Consumer wants.

Get to know the human: behaviours, emotions and boredom triggers
A good way to do this is to do some research into their behaviours, habits and needs. These are much more useful indicators of what people want than reductive pen-profiles and demographic buzz terms. Look at what people do; when they shop for different kinds of things; how they talk about that shopping experience; how they talk about their lifestyle in general – and you can find ways to make your brand relevant: for example, consumers are time-poor; impatient, prepared to pay for services that simplify their lives; they’re tech-savvy and they relate to brands who share their values – what could you do with some of those nuggets?

One challenge facing FMCG brands is there’s generally less of an emotional response triggered by the purchase of FMCG products compared to say, party clothes, or vinyl. The less emotionally rewarding something is to do, the more we want that job to beserviced for us. So this leaves two options for FMCG brands to ponder – either dial up the emotion or dial up the service.

Dial up the emotion
You can dial up the emotion by working out where there is something in your brand story or your sector that triggers people’s ‘feels’. Whiskas did a good job of this with their Kitten Kollege. It picked up on the fact cats give people the warm-and-fuzzies and created a destination for advice for cat-lovers, supporting them all the way from picking a kitten, through each of that cat’s life-stages. This helpful (and cute) content opened the door for Whiskas to talk about its actual products. The focus though was very clear: consumer need, first; product message, second.

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Coca-Cola ran an emotionally rewarding and brave campaign that showed the brand could move on from just making ads that say ‘happiness’ to doing something to create happiness. It built a phone booth for low-income construction workers in the UAE that let them pay for phone calls home with bottle-caps. 40,000 people used it. It was a truly global, heart-warming story that came from values the brand says it shares with consumers. That’s an important bond to forge when 72 per cent of your customers also buy your competitor.

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Dial up the service
What do people hate doing? Is there any way you can make it easier – or better yet, do it for them? Groovy.

People hate taking time out of their day to do boring essential stuff like grocery shopping, and queuing and schlepping bags home – even online shopping is too s.l.o.w. – so Amazon has created Amazon Dash buttons, a precursor to the full-future internet-of-things smart homes we’ll all live in soon. 100 essentials from cleaning products to cosmetics and coffee have dedicated buttons you can stick around your house, hit when you’re running low, and through the magic of Amazon Prime, the stuff will get paid for and sent to your house. You don’t need to earn loyalty when you’re uber convenient.


Segue. Uber is the company that has responded probably best of all to the needs of the Unreasonable Consumer, and now it wants to give you more with the launch of Uber EATS (in the States, Paris and coming to the UK soon). It will get you food from whichever restaurant you like, and faster than other similar services you thought were good before. Fast, fast, fast! The Unreasonable Consumer hates to wait.


“DEAR LORD! It’s all too much!”
Fear not. There are simple, common sense ways to understand and respond to the Unreasonable Consumer.

Here are three suggestions to get you started.

1) Listen to the right things
The great thing about all our digital and social activity is, every action we take leaves a little data footprint. It might be a purchase, an ‘OMG NEED!’ comment on someone’s Instagram, or a complaint to customer services or a rant in a forum; the Unreasonable Consumer is vocal. Make sure you and your agencies are holding a glass up to the right walls. Don’t just track your own channels and hashtags – put your Miss Marple hat on and think about the other places you might be able to pick up information.

2) Start with what the consumer wants
It’s very hard to change people’s habits. It’s much easier to watch what they do (or what they wish they could do) and see how you can piggyback those things instead. You might really want them to care that you’ve got three new variants of toilet roll out but they won’t unless somehow you can make that toilet roll all about them.

3) Remember – people are complex
We have loads going on in our cool modern lives – which means we’re called upon to wear many masks. In the same week we might be a bored commuter; a busy parent; a slacking-off-browsing-eBay employee; a drunk person; a hung-over impulse-buyer; a thoughtless relative with 24 hours to buy a birthday present. Each of those guises responds best to a particular kind of message. So, think about the different masks, tailor your marketing to suit one and stop trying to make us all Julie; a mid-30s working mum who likes X-Factor.

If you're interested in hearing more insights from We Are Social, we are hosting a free Travel Social Summit on Thursday, 30 June 2016 from 17:30 to 19:30 at We Are Social - Alphabeta 14-18 Finsbury Square, London, EC2A 1BR - View Map

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