The agile consumer is an empowered consumer

This post is based on ideas from my latest book, The Agile Consumer. To learn more or purchase the book, you can read more on my website.

In my earlier book, The Agile Brand, I talked about how brands can create deeper connections with consumers by “letting go” of some control of their brands and involving their customers to help shape some of their decisions, products, and even how they position themselves, while staying true to their values. These deeper connections come from understanding that modern consumers have derived value from experience, not the sheer act of consumption. 

We have a very large set of consumers around the world who have the potential to be creative, who are becoming less afraid of ambiguities, and who have the luxury of being able to devote time, money and energy into improving their lives.

All of this adds up to what I refer to as the agile, or empowered consumer. No longer can a brand have a monopoly simply because of market share or advertising dollars. Instead, agile consumers have taken power back from large corporations.

We can summarize the empowered consumer in a few ways: 

  • They have more access to more things, which sparks creativity and new ideas

  • They demand personalized experiences, products, and services that are tailored to their needs, challenges, and desires

  • They have the agency to switch, leave, cancel, and modify their experience because of their access plus the variety of competition and options

With all of the above, someone working on behalf of a corporation might be tempted to think this is a bad thing. But it’s really not. It certainly means that it’s not as easy as simply being one of three products on a shelf and spending more on advertising than the other two brands. But remember how powerful word of mouth marketing is. An empowered consumer has the ability to benefit a brand much more than an advertising campaign ever could on its own.

The facilitator-maker relationship

I’ve often talked about four earlier stages of evolution in the relationship between brands and consumers, starting with a very abstract concept of a company and product or service represented by a mark or logo, and evolving to a more mutually beneficial relationship, this has evolved over centuries.

I believe we’re now entering a fifth evolution that actually started fairly soon after the fourth. We are, after all, in a time of accelerating change. So, it makes sense that all things, including the brand-consumer relationship would evolve at an accelerating pace.

This power dynamic can be rather simply illustrated in the chart below:



As consumers have access to increasing varieties and options, and their agency to research and spend their money more wisely increases, the power that a few corporations or brands have over them decreases.

In this scenario, the brand, which was primarily thought of in the past as the “maker” of things, has now shifted to being a facilitator. The consumer is now the “maker,” facilitated by brands. Consumers now have the power and the agency to choose what they want, when, where, and how they want it. Brands are there to provide services and facilitate the creation of consumers’ experiences.

To hear more thoughts on this changing power dynamic and evolving relationship, be sure to pick up my latest book, The Agile Consumer.

This post is based on ideas from my latest book, The Agile Consumer. To learn more or purchase the book, you can read more on my website.

Greg Kihlstrom