There's no question that people today engage with brands, navigate categories and make buying decisions on their own terms. They won't -- and don't -- typically walk along the path that brands paved for them long ago. For marketers to successfully connect with consumers in this new environment, it's important that they understand and design to people's "desire lines," as this will be crucial to driving further brand growth.
Desire lines are a fairly well-known concept in urban planning and landscape design that refers to the natural ways people inhabit and navigate spaces, often in opposition to how designers and planners thought they would or should. You've likely seen these in action: They are the foot-trodden paths we see cutting across lawns and around trees and other obstacles, circumventing or shortcutting sidewalks and roads. In other words? People found a better way to get from point A to point B.
At Starcom we've made desire lines central to our approach because they are a powerful metaphor for the ways people -- empowered by the digital world -- are carving new paths through categories and towards brands. Future business success depends on predicting, understanding and designing towards people's desire lines.
If you look closely at any given desire line, it is underpinned by distinct motivations that reflect what people are looking to accomplish. This isn't always simply about making the journey shorter or faster. We see desire lines that are about saving money, reducing complexity or making a journey more social, among other motivations.
Desire lines are continuously evolving, but there are several behaviors we've been monitoring closely in 2018 which we believe will continue to heavily influence marketers in the year ahead:
These specific desire lines may have implications for a brand -- or not. If we examine desire lines six months from now, surely we will see new behaviors emerging. Regardless, there are two key questions every brand needs to be asking themselves today and in the future:
Facing these questions requires a significant level of bravery. It means putting the will of people and their mercurial motivations and unpredictable behavior before everything else. It means evolving your approach to brand communications, and longer term it could force you to make shifts to your business model to avoid being completely disrupted. It's a people vs. brand-led way of marketing, and in the world of the empowered consumer there is no other way to succeed.
Photo credit: Werner du Plessis/Unsplash
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