The New Mainstream Consumer

New Research by Wolff Olins and Flamingo Reveals Emerging Consumer Behavior and Insights on How to Profit from the New Relationship between People and Companies

Sep 17, 2013, 00:01 ET from Wolff Olins

NEW YORK, LONDON and DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Wolff Olins, a global brand consultancy, in partnership with Flamingo, a global insight and brand consultancy, today unveil new research on fundamental cultural shifts leading people to demand a new type of relationship with organisations they engage — and presenting companies with a huge opportunity to deliver to consumers, through their brands, what we're calling a Fair Exchange.

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Consumers no longer simply consume. They're active, skeptical, creative, entrepreneurial. Being an activist consumer was once a minority pursuit, but technology has made it mainstream. Based on research with top behavioral experts and social anthropologists, as well as consumer groups, the report suggests three behaviours that are moving from the fringe to become common everywhere. In the old power struggle between individuals and corporations, the battle lines are being redrawn. People are reshaping their relationships with companies by:

  • Sidestepping Institutions. Everywhere in the world people are questioning authority and finding ways to circumvent it. People probe, compare, mistrust and even boycott corporations and quickly find alternatives.
  • Making, Not Just Consuming. They are harnessing a multitude of new ways to adapt things, mix things up, create and sell things, build businesses.
  • Taking Back Time. More than ever, people are using time on their own terms, multiplying the intensity of experiences and time with others, rejecting noise in favour of quiet. In exchange for data, people want greater freedom over their time.

Whether a FMCG, telco, retailer, bank or cultural institution, there's a growing need for a new kind of contract with consumers. The opportunities, for those ready to seize them, are huge. The report presents strategies for how brands should get started:

  • When people are sidestepping traditional institutions: be in the place they side-step to.
    A brand needs to see itself as not a sole operator or an isolated institution, but part of an ecosystem and on the side of the people. Share a distinctive sense of purpose, and find ways for everyone to take part in it, and to enlarge it.

  • When people are making, give them skills, knowledge and tools to make, share and even sell their own things.
    Give them ingredients, rather than the finished article. When technologists pursue the 'minimum viable product', companies should consider also building a 'minimum viable brand' that people can adopt, adapt and improve.

  • When people want to manage their own time, let them timetable their interactions with your brand.
    By being more generous, flexible and open-ended the return and rewards for companies could mean even deeper insights from customers into what they want, when and how.

"In a world of unpredictability, more people want interaction, feedback, and control. And as people take more into their own hands, we're hearing a sense of uneasiness from business leaders about what that means for managing their brands. Our findings showed us that amidst these cultural shifts, the role of brand is now to help create relationships of fair exchange - where consumers and companies meet as equals, where each contributes, where everyone gains," Karl Heiselman, CEO, Wolff Olins.

"Our lives are as much characterised by scarcity of time, space and the care we give to others as by the more familiar tropes of abundance, technological empowerment and hyper-connection. Out of this context emerge three behaviours that demand we re-think what we mean by 'mainstream'. And their effects are amplified as never before – people, ideas and movements mobilise and pollinate quicker than ever in hard to anticipate, uncontrollable ways," Kirsty Fuller, Co-CEO, Flamingo.

'The New Mainstream' is part of the Game Changers series, Wolff Olins' annual exploration of what's driving change in business. Read the report in full here and keep up the conversation via #NewMainstream.

Research Methodology
Wolff Olins and Flamingo interviewed cultural anthropologists, professors and authors including Douglas Rushkoff (Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now), Dale Southerton (Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture) and entrepreneurs, retailers and CEOs of innovative brands, and a 'super-panel' of consumers to uncover the factors, trends and behaviours that affect services, organisations and brands in today's world as what were once niche trends become mainstream. The report also cites recent quantitative research from the UN, BBC, MIT, IDC, Harris Interactive and others.

Findings span Mumbai, Rio, London, New York, India, Japan, Lagos and many places in between and we discover that this 'new consumer' isn't everybody, but they could be anybody. Not simply a Western, leading edge 'techy' phenomenon, the new consumer is an entrepreneurial 60-year-old in Toronto, a social networked mother in Bombay, an urban migrant as agile and pro-active as any tech-savvy teen. Disruptive global examples are examined including Zipcar, Tripadvisor, Bitcoin, the Jugaad spirit, Weixin and Coursera.

Notes for editors –
To arrange interviews with Wolff Olins' principals for deeper insights into the report and implications of its findings please contact:

Wolff Olins, EMEA
Dionne Griffith on Tel: +44 (0)20 7551 4541 or email

Wolff Olins, the Americas
Julian McBride on +1 (212) 505 7337 or email

About Wolff Olins
Wolff Olins is a global brand consultancy that is ambitious for clients and optimistic for the world. Its clients are leaders in all categories including technology, culture, media, retail, industry, and non-profit organizations. Wolff Olins helps clients to create game changing work by developing unique brand experiences, products that drive demand, and creatively led business strategies. For more information, please visit our blog, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Wolff Olins is a part of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group Inc.

About Flamingo
Flamingo is a global insight and brand consultancy. They came into being to deliver incisive, creative brand thinking, illuminated by profound people insight and cultural understanding. What characterises Flamingo is a spirit of opportunity. Flamingo believes in unlocking potential and are open to ideas wherever they come from, to inspire clients with a sense of the possible, and how to achieve it. Flamingo have offices in London, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo. For further information please or contact: Simone Williams on +44 (0)20 7348 4950 or email Flamingo is a part of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group Inc.

About Diversified Agency Services
Diversified Agency Services (DAS), a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) (, manages Omnicom's holdings in a variety of marketing communications disciplines. DAS includes over 200 companies, which operate through a combination of networks and regional organizations, serving international and local clients through more than 700 offices in 71 countries.

SOURCE Wolff Olins