NEW YORK — Market researchers make their livings coining new terms to identify consumers. Cocooning, the last important behavioral trend, was discovered in the late Eighties. It refers to the lifestyle and buying habits of consumers said to be inwardly focussed and interested in creating a sense of safety by surrounding themselves with things that enhance their comfort.

While the world is no safer place today, trend watchers such as Pamela Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of "Why People Buy Things They Don’t Need" (Paramount Market Publishing, 2002), have identified a new group: butterflies, who are driven by a need to reconnect with their social, political, commercial and cultural worlds.

According to Danziger, butterflies make up about 40 percent of the luxury market, which she defines as households with incomes of more than $100,000. Another group called luxury aspirers is driven by a need to buy and display purchases, but its members haven’t yet reached the status level they hope to attain.

Cocooning was identified by futurists such as Faith Popcorn, who cited a fear of rising crime in the malls as one of the reasons consumers were spending more time at home. She urged stores to focus more on "fantasy fragrances and other small indulgences, such as bath oils, candles and ice cream," adding that consumers would be seeking "pleasure with a revenge."

Butterflies have no need to flaunt and are motivated neither by status nor exclusivity when buying luxury goods. In their democratic view, luxury is for everyone. Prototypical butterflies include Bill Gates, Ted Turner and Meg Whitman, ceo of eBay.

The group, according to Danziger, is not necessarily swayed by traditional advertising. Rather, butterflies want to engage in a dialogue with the companies that sell them products. They’re big on service and want to feel that companies are being responsive to their needs. They also appreciate firms such as Starbucks that support community initiatives.

Unlike cocooners or aspirers, butterflies are the least materialistic, most highly evolved consumer group among luxury buyers. They place a premium on free time, hiring housecleaners and lawn maintenance services so they can do more important things. Paradoxically, they spend the most on luxuries, about $14,675 a year on average, according to Danziger. Cocooners spend only about 65 percent of that. What they buy is also different. Cocooners spend most of their money on home-related products, while butterflies devote the biggest share of their discretionary budget to fashion, jewelry, accessories and watches.Finally, consumers that are ready to spread their wings and open their wallets.

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