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WWD Beauty Forum: Consumer Craves Connection

Today’s consumers are smarter, more involved and more frustrated than ever before, said Madonna Badger, during her Power Point presentation.

Today’s consumers are smarter, more involved and more frustrated than ever before, said Madonna Badger, founder of Badger & Partners and Beautylab, during her Power Point presentation.

“After buying just about everything three times over and being surrounded with more stuff they could actually ever need, people have finally become numb to material things,” said Badger, who referred to the modern shopper as a proactive, connection-seeking ‘prosumer’ (part consumer, part producer). “Creating for selling sake has no meaning to these prosumers,” said Badger. “Today’s prosumers will not accept marketers pushing content on them; they are our co-creators, our co-innovators.”

In a time when most goods have been invented and reinvented over and over, how to create innovation? How to speak to the savvy and stressed prosumer? “People are craving meaning and purpose,” said Badger, who stated simply that for today’s shopper, “innovation is empathy.” To this end, Badger cited car company Hyundai as an example of this less tangible, more emotional form of modern innovation. In early 2009, Hyundai launched its Assurance Program, which spoke directly to customers’ fears by offering the opportunity to give the car back to the company if they lost their job. “[Hyundai] saw the brand through their consumer and realized they were afraid to buy a new car,” said Badger. “They were the only car company that actually had an increase in sales in first-quarter ’09.”

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When it comes to beauty brands, Badger said the consumer process must be reverse-engineered so the client’s emotional needs come first. “[We must] experience the brand in its entirety with all our five senses, just as our consumer does,” said Badger, who named iPod, Bare Escentuals and MAC as brands that have successfully harnessed and reinvented niches in their respective categories. “[The consumer] makes beauty choices emotionally…it makes sense to create the same way.”

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Furthermore, Badger said, while focus groups and statistics are important for product creation, they are not necessarily the tools for shaping the personal experience the consumer is seeking. “We must quiet down statistics, logic and rationality and dial up experience and connection,” said Badger, who names the Internet a place where brands can take their DNA and empathetic message directly to their customers. “The medium of mass communication might be the most intimate conversation you have with your consumer yet,” said Badger. “Digital is just the delivery system, connection is the important part.”