Joining the Dots of Individuality, Brands & Researchers

The scale at which we view people is one of the most topical marketing debates:

  1. Do we view people as similar entities via sophisticated mass marketing?
  2. Do we view people as segments who we can target?
  3. Or do we view people as individuals?

Whilst Byron Sharp and Mark Ritson profess we should focus on points 1 (Sharp) and 2 (Ritson), Join The Dots suggest that we should focus on the third point – individuality.

But what is individuality and what does it mean for brands and researchers?

What is Individuality?

Individuality is the ability to distinguish ourselves from one another. This is intrinsically linked to self-expression as it is self-expression that drives individuality. Individuality is also closely linked to freedom – as without freedom people do not have the ability to express who they are. Whilst this definition is global, its application varies across cultures. For example, the US is the world’s most individual culture. This is largely because core to American culture is the concept that you have the freedom to live your own life. Conversely, Poland is highly homogenous. This reflects Poland’s governance under the communist regime and the migration laws they enforced. And individualism doesn’t just have geographical boundaries – demographic limitations exist too – as it is much more resonant among Gen Z vs. Baby Boomers.

What Does Individuality Mean for Brands?

Individuality is a double-edged sword for brands. Practically, it provides them a challenge – as everyone wants to be different. To be able to offer every person a ‘truly’ individual product or brand experience is simply not commercially practical for most brands. However, the pursuit of individuality also offers brands creative opportunities. It has meant that there is a greater desire between Gen Z and brands to collaborate at ground roots level. This demonstrates a brand’s willingness to get to know their audience on a much closer level. The geographical differences in individuality also mean there is great opportunity for brands to lean on the notion of localisation. However, brands need to approach these opportunities with caution. Individuality seeking Gen Z’ers are wary of brands that try too hard and enforce trends upon them. Therefore, brands need to make sure they truly collaborate – and not try to dictate – how they integrate with the individuality trend.

What Does Individuality Mean for Researchers?

If people are pursuing individuality, this makes it harder for researchers to deliver a well-rounded, aggregated image of a brand’s audience. However, the desire of self-expression means that people riding the trend of individuality offer researchers great potential collaborators with whom to understand ground roots culture. After all, as researchers, we are continually chasing people to share their opinions with us. The geographical and demographic boundaries of individuality also means that we need to be more careful about how we merge cultural and demographic information. Yes, it sounds basic, but clearly we need to respect these drivers of individuality more than ever. With regards to culture, in a world obsessed with foresight and prediction, we need to respect the past as much as we do the future. Why? Because this is where the foundations of individuality appear to be rooted. Furthermore, with tomorrow’s most valuable consumer – Gen Z – driving the individuality bandwagon, we’d do well to understand as best possible the history of the trend that’s driving many of their buying choices.

For more information on the culture and trends behind individuality, download more insights from Join The Dot’s Individuality Report here.