Embracing Imperfection

July 1, 2004
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Embracing Imperfection

Trying to figure out your core consumer is a daunting task. One reason is the “yin” and the “yang.” We live in a world of paradoxical trends, says Robyn Waters.
Waters is the Executive Director of Trending and Consumer Experiences at LAGA, a brand strategy and design agency.
In front of a packed house of nearly 300 attendees, Waters kicked off BrandPackaging’s “Packaging That Sells II Conference” with a discussion on “Enchanting Paradoxes—Capturing The Consumers’ Imagination.”
Here are her seven paradoxical trends that may help your marketing strategies.
1. Retro futurism. As technology overshadows our world, many consumers are enticed by things “reminiscent of a slower, simpler and saner past,” Waters says.
Examples of this trend include comfort food, the Mini Cooper automobile and dodge ball.
Marketers should examine their portfolios for any “old” products, brands and concepts that they can reframe or re-envision, Waters advises.
2. Less is more. “Wabi Sabi is the Japanese tradition of celebrating beauty in what is flawed,” Waters says. It’s the art of imperfection.
Mundane objects turn into art. Examples include rusted mirrors, aged fabrics and misshapen ceramics.
3. All-American ethnic. “When Lipton does Thai and Tombstone does Mexican, you know that Americans have adopted a ‘melting palate’ for tastes, cultures, flavors and experiences that were once considered ethnic or foreign,” Waters says.
4. Counterfeit authenticity. All the world’s a stage when you have an engaging consumer-centric experience to offer. Las Vegas, with its “virtual Venice” and “fiberglass France,” is counterfeit heaven.
“The experience economy rewards those that can deliver the ultimate experience over the best product, even if it’s counterfeit,” Waters explains.
5. Healthy indulgence. We want our cake…and want it to be good for us. “Nutritional schizophrenia reigns and the overweight consumer is king,” Waters says. Organic becomes mainstream and Cheetos snacks goes organic.
6. Packaging paradoxes. “It’s what it’s ‘in’… not what’s inside that counts,” Waters says. Wine comes in a “box,” in a bottle with a screw cap and in a can.
What happens when the package is even cooler than the product inside? “Good things,” Waters says.
7. Going nowhere in a hurry. Timesaving devices are everywhere. But we never get to the end of our “to do” list. We spend so much time getting “somewhere” that we’re never really “anywhere.”

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