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Scenario 3) Hybridmodern consumers

Part VI: Potential Business Implications

Chapter 12 Branding Scenarios

12.3 Scenario 3) Hybridmodern consumers

Through our analysis of the theory and the investigation of our empirical findings, we see indications that contemporary consumers possess characteristics from both Postmodern and Hypermodern consumer culture, hence we argue that the consumer culture is currently in between these two –isms, demanding new ways of communicating and branding. One of the great challenges is the degree to which they are influenced by either Postmodernism or Hypermodernism. This especially depends on three factors: the social setting, consumption situation and/or product category. Some consumers are Hypermodern when it comes to food products, but Postmodern when it comes to fashion. Some are mostly Postmodern in one social setting, but Hypermodern in others. Some are Hypermodern when the consumption situation is public, but Postmodern, when they consume alone etc. Nevertheless, all consumers have one thing in common; regardless of purchase intentions or lack thereof, they must consider CSR certified products, as they will gain even more shelf space in the future. In order to push this change, we will come up with specific suggestions to brand CSR certified fashion to the Hybridmodern consumer.

115 The Hybridmodern consumer might be at a relatively high moral stage, acknowledging that freedom and justice for all are very important factors to consider; also in terms of which products to consume. However, as stated earlier, even though they have a high level of moral awareness, consumers might act differently in a given purchase situation due to interference from other factors, e.g. Reference Groups and identity, but also tangible factors such as price, availability, and quality.

The Hybridmodern consumer is very complex, as the consumer culture is affected by both Postmodernism and Hypermodernism. Regarding Postmodernism, the consumer is still consuming in order to express their identity and individuality; acting as co-producer through adding value to the product, to experience through consumption, and to enhance their social status. Moreover, as previously stated, Postmodern consumer culture still holds great significance when it comes to fashion. Hypermodern consumption is not used just to create social status, but as a part of the social links between consumers and/or their Reference Groups. Two main factors of Hypermodern consumption are emotional consumption and self-gratification, as consumers want to live with the objects they consume, not display them (c.f 5.2.3 - Phase 3). In addition, they have started thinking about the future and through mindful consumption they get a feeling that they make a difference. This mixture of Postmodernsim and Hypermodernsim makes it difficult for companies to navigate in this jungle of values and different consumption patterns. However, through our research, we discovered that the Hybridmodern consumer is not ready for CSR certified products to be communicated using the Hypermodern (what Holt calls post Postmodern) Branding Paradigm, as they are in need of authenticity and lack of economic incentive from the company in order to see the brand as trustworthy. This authenticity can speak to both the individualism (Postmodern trait) and the emotional consumption (Hypermodern trait). Thus, the consumer is not ready for companies admitting that they have to earn money on their CSR initiatives; it must be branded entirely as

“the good deed” to humanity. However, this contradicts Kranker as he states that we are entering what he calls Corporate Social Responsibility 3.0 where turning a profit on CSR activities is okay.

When discussing how to brand and communicate CSR certified products to Hybridmodern consumers, the CBBE model, must be kept in mind (cf. Figure 10). First of all, the company must ensure Salience, which can be done by explicit communication in the media and guarantee availability of the product. Communicating CSR must be positive and captivating,

116 which can be done by using positive storytelling (cf. 3.1.3 Branding), as it affects Imagery and, later on, Feelings and Judgement. It must however be kept in mind that the company’s key stakeholders; the employees, must be on board for message to seem more trustworthy. If it is only seen as a part of a marketing strategy it will come across as deceitful. This also concurs with the Inside-Out Approach by Morsing et al (cf. 9.2 Branding & CSR).

The message must be delivered in a simple and tangible way to ensure a minimum of Cognitive Dissonance due to Proximity. In addition, the CSR initiatives must have an immediate and visible effect so the consumers feel that they actually make a difference (Pedersen, 2011) (Eder-Hansen, 2011). By using Radical Transparency, the company shows that the purchase makes a difference (Kranker, 2011), e.g. by using 2D barcodes on the brand- or price tag. This can minimize or eliminate the Cognitive Dissonance created due to high Proximity and Temporal Immediacy and increase awareness and positive associations.

Moreover, this type of explicit branding is also helpful for the Hybridmodern consumer when using the product as an identity creator and an extension of their self in relation to Reference Group(s), as it increases the possibility of linking CSR to the clothes and thereby to the person wearing it.

Returning to the CBBE model, Performance and Judgement are also important to address, as the empirical data found that consumers avoid purchasing products they do not need or that are of inferior quality, regardless of CSR initiatives. Therefore, a CSR certified fashion product must also excel in Performance in order to create purchase intention. Both Imagery and Performance also influence Feelings and Judgements, so in order to generate Resonance in the long run, branding for both the right and left side of the CBBE model must be included.

In order to speak to the consumers’ individuality within a social setting some of the methods from the Postmodern Branding Paradigm can be used with benefit when promoting CSR certified fashion; subculture membership, which speaks to the Hypermodern side of the consumer, and endorsement, which is more Postmodern. These can be employed in order to brand a product as a value resource used to build the consumer’s identity (cf. 8.1 The Development of Consumer Culture), which can also lead to self-gratification; a Hypermodern value.

117 However, companies must be aware of the danger associated with taking the subculture to the extreme, like NJ did by branding their jeans on the country of origin. This is a branding strategy, which companies must be careful using, because it can add yet another factor to be considered in the decision-making process, which can increase Cognitive Dissonance, or it can directly elicit harmful associations. In the case of NJ, neither consumers nor department stores wish to be linked to the regime of NK, thus bringing in political statements can become too extreme for the consumer when purchasing clothes. A reason for this unfortunate reaction towards NJ is that their whole project was lying outside the social norm of what is acceptable, thus their idea failed (see Figure 16 below).

Figure 16: NJ’s Placement in Relation to the Social Norm

As for endorsement, it can go both ways; if the company finds an endorser, who speaks to the Hybridmodern consumer segment it can be a good strategy to implement, however, using an endorser/spokesperson also generates the Avoidance group, as there might be consumers, who do not want to be associated with a specific person.

In sum, the empirical data show that traits of the interviewees correlate with both the definition of the Postmodern and Hypermodern consumer. In addition, the importance of social setting, Reference Groups, and consumption situations are very important in relation to branding, as social links and identity hold great significance. Hence, the company must firstly find a segment, as aiming at all Hybridmodern consumers will target none.

NJ Social norm