Fragmentation. It's a word we're getting used to.
As we've become more connected, everything around us seems to be fragmenting.
Yet with smartphones taking connectivity to a new level, 2015 is likely to demonstrate that we've not seen anything yet.
Fragmentation is accelerating, and brands will need to reinvent themselves for the future.
Take media proliferation. In many ways this has been the poster child for fragmentation. Different media types and channels have proliferated, accompanied by an explosion in the amount of content generated. Live TV viewing had remained remarkably resilient, but now the erosion in live TV viewing is accelerating, thanks to time-shifting and internet streaming. Consumers have become difficult to reach, and better informed. And with so much content, the opinions of family and friends are becoming ever more influential.
Markets are fragmenting. After decades of consolidating market share, major brands are losing share in market after market. And not to the next big brand, but rather to a plethora of small, niche brands and store brands, which better fit consumer needs and desires. And it's not just a phenomenon affecting the traditional packaged goods brands and retailers. Major fast food brands like McDonald's are losing share, while the major brands in the teenage fashion market have been particularly hard-hit.
And channels are blurring. For example, grocery is increasingly available everywhere, and at anytime: from farmers markets to supercenters, and from your finger to your door. FMI's "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2014" reported that nearly one in ten people don't even consider themselves having a primary grocery store, a threefold increase from a year earlier. And we can now stay in people's homes rather than in hotels, by booking a room through such services as Airbnb.
Underpinning all this is a key change in behavior. Enabled by today's connected world, consumers can increasingly pick and choose what's right for them, rather than accept a mass market solution.
This of course has thrown up many new opportunities to serve individual customer needs better. But it's not good news for the traditional mass market brand model, that relies on media to persuade as many people as possible to buy the products being offered. A new approach is needed that starts with inspiring the loyalty and passion of customers by delivering a positive and meaningful experience, and then encourages them to spread the word. I think of these as Loyal Brands.
With fragmentation accelerating, make 2015 the year to reinvent your brand...