The rise of ‘bothism’ and what that means for your brand

In the current digital era, with 24/7 access to a global offering, the world has become our playground. With one click or swipe, we can get any product or service delivered to our doorstep, almost immediately. This has created a ‘what you see is what you can get’ consumer rationale, with consumers expecting brands to cater to their needs, without compromises. They simply wish to ditch the ‘OR’ of compromise, and expect an ‘AND’ story, combining both ends of an equilibrium, a concept also coined ‘bothism’.

Bothism on the rise

The rise of ‘bothism’ is present in all sectors and has been amplified by COVID-19. Today’s consumers want sustainability AND performance, the convenience of data (support) AND privacy, the attire of a global brand identity AND the ‘personal touch’ of local brands, tech support AND digital detox, ownership AND access to products and services…

Let’s consider the fading of the sustainability performance trade-off. As people started to explore close-by nature during the COVID-19 lockdown, their awareness around ‘nurturing nature’ and appetite for sustainable consumption only increased. However, sustainability does not imply compromising on performance. Consumers expect brands to take care of the planet while delivering a high-quality offering. Ecosia, a not-for-profit search engine, well understood this consumer friction. The brand uses ad-generated revenues to fund planting trees, but at the same time focuses on performance. As a result, Ecosia got included in Chrome’s default search engine list in 2019. Despite the drop in online advertising revenues due to the pandemic, Ecosia has continued to grow its global user base with 25% in June 2020 compared to June 2019, indicating the consumers’ appetite for this ‘AND’ story.

Another trade-off to consider is data (support) versus privacy. With almost the entire world population confined to their homes during lockdown, people turned to the internet for work, education, information and entertainment purposes, resulting in a 47% increase in broadband data usage. At the same time, the pandemic has stirred up the debate on data privacy, as big tech companies such as Apple and Google start developing applications for tracking the spread of the virus. As the use of these apps involves a direct trade-off between effectively controlling outbreaks versus potential privacy invasion, many consumers worry these tools could be misused.

To set up for success, brands need to drop trade-offs – the ‘OR’ – and engage in a compelling ‘AND’ story.

Visionary brands create an AND story

Consumer value is thus no longer solely delivered on the outer sides of an equilibrium but especially in the overlap. This growing need for ‘bothism’ – a term gaining in popularity in marketing – makes brands accept that two seemingly contradictory ideas can coexist.

This is also the idea behind ‘Beyond Meat’, a producer of plant-based food that smoothly blends sustainability and performance. On their website, the brand explicitly claims there is no need to compromise: “We deliver the meaty experience you crave without the compromise. Our products offer greater or equal protein levels than their animal counterparts, no cholesterol, less saturated fat, and no antibiotics or hormones.”. The fact that consumers highly value their offering is reflected in the brand’s explosive growth with a 135% sales increase from 2018 to 2019.

Brands need to understand more than ever when and how such an ‘AND’ story is relevant in consumers’ lives. It’s not about following every consumer whim or instantly giving them everything they want. Dealing with ‘bothism’ means brands need to understand how they can be relevant, depending on the consumer context or the occasion. It’s about keeping an ongoing finger on the pulse, and listening to their needs and wants to create a relevant offering. Or should we say, a relevant ‘AND’ story?

Curious how structural consumer collaboration can aid your brand in creating relevance through a compelling AND story? Download our latest digital bookzineBetter Together: from consumer intelligence to consumer intuition’.

From Consumer Intelligence to Consumer Intuition

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Tom De Ruyck
Thoughtleader Future of Research
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