Consumer Engagement Trends 2018

In the context of fast-paced evolution, 2018’s consumer will become increasingly sophisticated, providing new typologies that, until now, were only just beginning to emerge in the eyes of brands. Thus, in the face of the social experience of consumption, we will see more and more consumers who prefer their relationships with brands to come from a point of individualism, discarding the traditional masculine/feminine dichotomy. We will see how brands react to a post-gender consumer that does not fit—and does not want to fit—these social stereotypes. After several years of millennials capturing all the media attention, we may see other sociodemographic typologies emerging with strength in the upcoming months, especially those involving the elderly and children. The first is a logical response to societies in which people over 60 are becoming more important and where the digital divide is gradually disappearing. In the case of children, brand interest is clear—but that interest also implies a responsibility: To contribute to the education and values of society’s mini-consumers.

These new and increasingly sophisticated consumers will also transfer some of their new obsessions to brands. They will then measure companies according to evolved criteria, including the importance placed on sustainability and transparency, as well as basic axes of trust. Additionally, they will lend increased importance to perceptions of authenticity as a rejection of the boom of influencers and advertising identity crisis. They will focus on things that have been labeled “healthy,” whether food, cosmetics or lifestyle habits.

Finally, new phenomena will influence consumer engagement strategies, such as the definitive boom of the cryptocurrencies and the technology hidden behind them, which will substantially modify many sectors. It will also change co-branding, as brands will find more and more opportunities (rather than risks) in collaborating for a common benefit.


In a hyperconnected society, the importance of educating and instilling values cannot be a task left solely to parents and teachers. Brands also play a role and can strengthen core values, contribute to personal development and help children become better adults.

We see more and more examples of how brands, while recognizing the valuable influence their products have on children, make efforts to educate them for a future where, in many cases, the key will lie in how they can cultivate trust and what tools they have for their growth. This is the case with McDonald’s, which is fostering inclusion and health education to promote its range of gluten-free products. Thus, through focused efforts on communicating its popular Happy Meal is now also available for children with celiac disease, the company can position its children’s menu as food that makes all children happy. Its new slogan? ”If it couldn’t make all children smile, it wouldn’t be a Happy Meal.”

In addition, Grupo Arcor (Argentina) recently launched a new line of breakfast cereals called ”Los Guardianes del Planeta (Guardians of the Planet).” It features a team of four heroes, each with a special skill with the mission of protecting the planet and the environment.

“Our marketing is for the whole family and targeting   heads of households (adults, parents, guardians), as well as people of 12 year or above, whom we reach with information and product options to consciously snack”

Sebastián Delgui, Director of Corporate and Government Affairs, Mondelez International Southern Cone

The link between brands and children usually occurs, as is logical, through its most playful aspects. Children feel, for example, attracted to social networks; They learn by having fun and breaking with traditional frameworks. This is where the playful aspect needs to be focused on sharing values, responsibility and other important concepts. Brands must be able to train their communities through tools that encourage innovation and learning. For example, Disney created an online game based on the movie “Big Hero,” which teaches children how to program. Called “Code Baymax,” it allows children to become familiar with basic programming concepts and overcome obstacles hand in hand with the movie’s well-known characters.

The value of transparency

According to a study called What matters now, by Hamel (2012) in 1975, the weight of intangibles on average company value in the S&P 500 was 17 percent. More than 30 years later, these now account for approximately 87 percent of that same value.

Without a doubt, trust is one of the assets brands value most highly, as it is key to consumer behavior. According to the Nielsen Confidence Index, which measures perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances and immediate buying intentions, global confidence increased in the second quarter of 2017, as optimism also increased in several markets around the world.

“In fact, sometimes, the consumer knows the answer to your questions. In reality what you are looking for is a genuine vote of confidence with which you feel that you are not hiding reality and that by sharing your concerns, brands are doing something to improve your value proposition”

Andrés Felipe Tróchez, Manager of External Communications Nestlé de Colombia

This apparent optimism has been accompanied by growing interest in product traceability and brand relationships with the actors that form its value chain. In this way, certain industries, such as food and cosmetics, are under a cultural spotlight. Consumers now want and demand greater transparency due to beliefs related to nutrition, ethics and the environment.

A strong example is renewed concern for animal welfare, an idea raised more than a century ago by Upton Sinclair with his 1905 publication of The Jungle. The Jungle raised awareness about the abuse of workers and failures in the U.S. meatpacking industry. In addition, it created the tension that ultimately gave rise to the entities responsible for ensuring the “behind the scenes” for products, such as the Food and Drug Administration.

In this sense, consumers believe there are links between their own health and the conditions in which animals are raised, crops are managed, resources are used and even the fair treatment of both the animals and workers that take part in the production processes. Consumer welfare trends demanding transparency have led brands to show their processes, tell their stories and convey the legacies they want to leave behind. Companies such as Nestlé understood the need to meet consumers’ expectations, and it therefore shares the significant efforts it has made to provide traceability for their products. This has made them into pioneers for opening the doors of their processes (e.g., where does the Klim milk come from?). What is clear is that consumers are increasingly aware and hungry for information. The brands that understand this and are willing to see and hear their consumers are the ones that will successfully connect with their publics on a post-transactional basis, thus generating much-desired trust.

Green consumers

Consumers are increasingly aware of product sustainability; Recent studies by Nielsen and Deloitte show they are willing to pay more for products and services seen as sustainable or coming from socially and environmentally responsible enterprises.

A Unilever study argues this trend is higher among consumers in emerging economies than in developed markets. While 53 percent of buyers in the United Kingdom and 78 percent in the United States say they feel better when they buy products produced sustainably, that number rises to 88 percent in India and 85 percent in Brazil and Turkey.

Social marketing through the European Union’s “eco-label” and other awareness campaigns are helping consumers make informed decisions that potentially contribute to environmental conservation. Companies are also realizing that building a sustainable supply chain has the potential to attract new consumers. Tata Global Beverages, for example, first identified the need to develop a sustainable supply chain after interruptions in the availability and prices of its tea supply. Now it seeks to certify an increasing share of its tea supply under the Rainforest Alliance, which sets environmental, social and economic standards for the industry.

With more food needed to feed a growing population and environmental challenges ranging from water scarcity to herbicide resistance, the food and beverage industry, including companies such as Nestlé and Unilever, is setting the pace for sustainable agriculture. Unilever, for example, reported more growth for its sustainable living brands than for the rest of its business in 2016. Furthermore, these brands accounted for more than half (60 percent) of the company’s total growth that same year. And last September, Nestlé announced it would supply 100 percent of its corn and wheat demand for cereals and pet food with national production in Mexico by no later than 2022.

If we apply sustainability ideals to the automotive industry—which, in this case, focuses on the fight against climate change and pollution—we can expect consumers to favor electric cars over diesel and car sharing over driving their own. After the emissions scandal involving Volkswagen, traditional carmakers are discussing the end of diesel in the next decade. For example, Daimler increased its capital spending program and plans to develop premium electric cars—a segment currently dominated by Tesla. Volkswagen has announced that by 2025, 25 percent of its vehicles will be electric. The role sustainability plays as a filter in the eyes of consumers has proven decisive in the purchase decision. Companies should attract these new “green consumers” by making it clear how they can make a difference by acquiring their products or services.


Just as consumers got used to the sharing economy, in which we naturally share cars, houses or holidays, brands have joined the wave, increasingly sharing efforts with other brands.

The economic crisis boosted co-branding, but this is not the only cause. In a context where brands have become humanized, it is normal for them to take on human behaviors, such as socializing with other brands. This is the case with Airbnb and Lego, which recently launched a contest to win a stay at the Lego House in Denmark. This initiative allows brands to promote each other’s positive values, strengthening the credibility of both and increasing their market reach.

Joint development of new products is also a trend, as in the well-known case of Apple and Nike. Almost a decade ago, the two brands designed a sensor that acts as a personal trainer, and in 2017, they released a new version for the iPhone. This cobranding has the most potential because, in addition to the income generated by the new product, both brands take ownership of one another. In the case above, Nike enjoys an association with innovation and Apple with the values of sports and fashion.

Movistar and Disney also joined forces this year to release a new television channel called Movistar Disney. This alliance between two leading entertainment brands reinforces Movistar’s position as a unique television platform and Disney’s as a leading company in the creation of quality content.

“Co-branding with different brands allows us to connect with communities that we do not usually dig deep into. At Hilton Panamá we are working along this line with toys brands (for girls and boys), technology brands and sports brands to mention some examples. On their side, by partnering with a luxury brand such as Hilton, our partners reinforce their positioning as quality brands by having these initiatives”

Andrés Korngold, Director of Business Development at Hilton Panama and at Waldorf Astoria Panama

In Latin America, Hilton Panama and Barbie’s co-branding efforts had far-reaching impacts in 2016, when the hotel company built a room for fans of the famous doll. The agreement generated huge economic benefits for Hilton Panama, which rented the room to avid fans, and boosted brand visibility and deepened relations with Barbie’s customer base. Meanwhile, parallel to these events, other, more conventional collaboration models have increased—the co-branding of knowledge, for example, which consists of sharing customer information with companies offering different products but to the same market segment. Airlines and banks have been developing this strategy for a long time, and it has allowed them to enter many new markets.

Though co-branding represents an opportunity for brands, it also has its risks, and some attempts have resulted in failure. This was the case with Milka and Philadelphia cream cheese; In this case, the chocolate brand damaged the cheese one, which had formerly positioned itself as a healthy alternative.

Brand partnerships can project differentiation and innovation, making it a great win-win tactic for attracting attention from new users and reinforcing connections with household names. But to succeed, alignment and complementary goals between the brands associated are essential.

The blockchain revolution

We have all heard about cryptocurrencies and their imminent rise, but few are familiar with the concept of “blockchain,” the technology developed by Satoshi Nakamoto to create bitcoin in 2009. This technology has already been applied to not only cryptocurrencies, but many other fields as well. Everything from international currency transactions handled by financial industry leaders such as American Express or Santander to online games about raising virtual kittens (Kryptokitties) now use blockchain.

The blockchain is possibly the biggest advance in record management since the invention of double-entry accounting. It consists of a database in which each new registry (block) is encrypted, given a temporary stamp, made indelible and unmodifiable and stored not centrally, but distributed across thousands of computers. Blockchain technology is not only applicable to financial transactions, but also to document management, intelligent contract creation, process management and data in general. In theory, it could be used to perform any task requiring computing capacity. Its advocates say it performs more efficiently, quickly, reliably, safely and cheaply than centralized computer systems.

“Everything indicates that in 2018 the blockchain will no longer be a newness confined to proofs of concept and innovation projects, thus becoming popular in the corporate world. After the impact caused by cryptocurrencies in financial markets, it is expected that more industries will adopt the blockchain to transform and even create new business models. However, the biggest challenge remains the scalability of networks, which needs to guarantee performance, security and governance without losing its flexibility. It is a complex equation that will demand a lot of dialogue and dedication from the ICT industry and its professionals”

Alexandre Scaglia, Communications Director for Latin America at CA Technologies

Thus, it may become the great “disintegrator” of digital services. With advanced blockchain systems with good usability, the average consumer would not need a bank to lend or send money to any person; It would make peer-to-peer transactions instantaneous, secure and cheap. There are initiatives based on blockchain technology, both in development and in operation, to offer consumer services in many sectors:

  • Real estate. Used everywhere from online services such as classified ads to registering transactions. It could replace public state registries and notaries.
  • Traceability of products, food and supplies in supply chains. Guarantees origin, safety and quality of food and authenticity of luxury products.
  • Data storage. Takes the cloud out of the hands of technological giants alone, decentralizing and distributing it across many actors.
  • E-commerce. Helps virtual stores where buyers and sellers are empowered to compete with current e-commerce giants, using more flexible and decentralized systems.
  • Energy distribution. Allows citizens in small communities produce, buy and sell energy among themselves, without intermediation from electricity companies.
  • Academic certifications. Eliminates need for paper diplomas, replacing them with decentralized and secure databases.
  • Shared private transport services. Provides alternatives to the current popular centralized taxi services through apps.
  • Music, books and copyright management. Provides an alternative to the intermediation of large online stores and traditional rights registration institutions.
  • Loyalty programs and CRM. Allows more efficient client management platforms that can be related to each other, offering common or interchangeable advantages between companies.
  • ID cards. Has enabled several countries to finalize the application of blockchain technology to improve the security of the digital certificates and identity cards citizens use to identify themselves to administrations and third parties.

Next time you hear bitcoin has gone up, remember that, whether it is a bubble about to explode or not, it was the spearhead of a technology that has been as disruptive to industries and consumers as the internet itself.

The post-gender consumer

For decades, thousands of brands around the world have built strategies based on a binary perception of gender, especially in sectors such as retail. However, today’s consumers—the youngest first and foremost—are rejecting the traditional labels of “masculine” and “feminine,” opting instead for a more fluid concept of gender. This is forcing major international brands to position themselves (or de-position themselves, depending on how you look at it) as having much more flexible, both in product lines, communications and marketing.

“The majority within the new generations, no longer understand the gender divisions, and, that is why, they no longer characterize the communication or identity of the product. It would be a big mistake for brands to ignore this scenario or to be intimidated by the resistance that arises given this reality. At Coca-Cola, we have created creative and funny stories and we have incorporated new symbols that represent this thought”

Rodrigo Simonnato, Manager of Corporate Affairs at Coca-Cola FEMSA Brazil

In the upcoming months, we will witness a progressive change in brands in response to this reality; According to a study by J. Walter Thompson, 56 percent of consumers between 13 and 20 years old use gender-neutral pronouns. In addition to this, more than a third of Generation Z no longer believes gender defines a person, as was once widely accepted. We have been looking not only at how brands that traditionally focused on male consumers recently began targeting women, but also on how icons such as Barbie began to include boys, as well as girls, in its marketing content. Brands will have to adapt to the fact people’s personalities and interests will determine their consumption habits or brand loyalty, far beyond their traditional socio-demographic fit. Thus, transversal products will have much more to gain. Additionally, the pro-equality movements for the transgender community have a lot to offer, as this community has traditionally been disregarded or even attacked by many brands’ business strategies.

Some of the biggest names in retail, a sector usually organized by gender stereotypes, have been the first to take action. John Lewis and Arket (owned by H&M) have already replaced the traditional classifications of “boy” and “girl” for children’s clothing, and other brands, such as Zara, Selfridges and Guess, are creating entire collections of products to attract consumers regardless of their gender. Another industry taking action is the children’s toy sector. This industry, which has traditionally been an icon of prejudice and gender roles, is gradually taking measures to encourage children to play with the toys that make them happy, regardless of the stereotypes associated with them.

Seniors, the new millennials

For a few years—in part due to Facebook’s growth and the boom of influencers on Twitter and Instagram—every time a brand created a campaign targeting young people, the obvious choice was to focus on social media. However, campaigns focused on the elderly seem to adhere to the slogan “they are not on the networks.” And until recently, this was true.

Throughout 2017, two trends substantially modified this reality. On one hand, the digital divide has decreased as older people have begun creating profiles on social networks and using tablets and mobile devices; We have even started to see campaigns and content targeting this group of people. Proof of this is the 11 percent increase in social networks’ use of people between ages 65 and 74, compared to 3 percent of the rest of the population (according to a report by Telefónica).

“Last year, when we started working on the scholarships “e die for living”, aimed at entrepreneurs over 60 years, we already had the feeling that it could be a very fertile territory and very grateful for brand actions. After seeing the results of the first edition, we realized that this trend exceeded expectations and that seniors, who until now have not received much attention from brands, are crazy for doing things, for enjoying, for living and for connecting with novel experiences that result in added value”

Beatriz Osuna, Brand PR manager of Coca-Cola Spain

On the other hand, social networks such as Facebook or Twitter are seeing how young people (between ages 12-17 and 18-24) are migrating toward more volatile, immediate and daring social networks such as Snapchat and Instagram, leaving the older networks fertile ground for a new platform of interaction between older people. This new social space for the elderly, together with a greater willingness and familiarity with digital and mobile devices (during 2016, use grew by 219 percent), is generating a community of seniors with young souls—people who want to live and share their experiences with the world. Digital interaction, which has seen a 182.5 percent growth in instant messaging use in 2016 and a 15 to 23 percent growth in people over 65 using social networks, has provoked seniors to, as millennials have been doing for years, live and then share their experiences.

Brands and networks are engaging with this new context through familiar cases such as the Nos Morimos por Vivir (We Die to Live) scholarships from Aquarius, aimed exclusively at people over 65 who created their business in partnership with young entrepreneurs, or the growth of “Instagrans” (active social network users over 65 years old). Seniors were considered a difficult-to-access market niche until now. In this new reality, a world of possibilities has opened up. Now brands, which have formerly focused exclusively on capturing the attention of millennials, can add value to a growing population group.

Obsession with the authentic

Contents developed and processed through a large number of filters lost their level of impact to consumers a long time ago. New generations of young people are always on, always connected and always receiving a flow of information and limitless options; As such, they have developed new ways to verify content authenticity and determine whether it deserves their attention. A good example is a survey conducted among 1,450 women, in which 86 percent admitted wanting recommendations from real people. In this survey, 58 percent said they use YouTube to get these recommendations, 52 percent use Facebook, 50 percent Pinterest and 46 percent Instagram.

Brands must become more authentic. Additionally, the reign of Photoshop and the traditional idea of photographs, where reality is blurred, is coming to an end. A new taste for the authentic, with content based on real people that tells true stories, whether those of employees or consumers, is reinforced by a growing lack of interest in everything related to produced content. Consumers find it harder to connect with, especially in an era replete with the immediacy of Instagram or Snapchat.

“Only brands with soul occupy a significant place in the current attention economy. It is the authenticity of the stories they tell that gets them closer to their audience -that above all are people- making them feel privileged and involved; willing to accept the same causes and the same flags; feeling part of the construction of the next chapter”

Isabel Borgas, Head of Corporate Communications & CSR at NOS

People increasingly seek to talk with other people more and with emotional stereotypes less. Potential reach will become less relevant in ambassadors’ strategies. Moreover, beyond the need for celebrities or influencers chosen by a brand to have a real and authentic connection with company and its narrative, what matters is that they create deep ties with the audience. These ties are much stronger and the public will trust them more when shared content is true. These factors are going to affect purchasing decisions and consumer loyalty, heavily influencing target publics.

The obsession with authenticity and what is real, puts phenomena such as youtubers or influencers closer to the word-of-mouth consumers experience with their circles of friends. It has also driven the takeoff of microinfluencers, who, though they have fewer followers, maintain higher levels of loyalty and engagement. The opinions and messages transmitted by these microinfluencers are seen as reliable, real and true. Therefore, if a brand manages to find ambassadors whose values are aligned with the brand’s, someone who really identifies with them and shares genuine content, they will have true allies for authenticity.

“Oneconomy:” the lonely consumer

What if sharing went out of fashion? “Solo” consumption is making its way up in the world. A concept that originated in Korea, the trend has expanded thanks to Western society’s approval to the convenience of being alone.

Younger adults feel the effects of living under a lot of pressure in a fast-paced society, which is aggravated by global uncertainty and rapid digitization. Consumers increasingly prioritize individuality and personal care, and as a consequence, the concept of a “Oneconomy”—economy of one—has emerged as a growing force.

“It is in the essence of Hitachi to link the latest technology with people’s lifestyles. We live a revolution of consumer lifestyles”

José Juan Dominguez Frias, Global Brand & Digital Marketing Division Director at Hitachi

The desire to have products and live experiences solo is increasing; In fact, it is no longer a desire, but a necessity. These lone wolves are redefining what are considered key life achievements, such as marriage, children, a home and a car.

  • The economy of one, flourishing in Asia’s big cities, is expected to go from being a niche to the norm in the U.S. There are great opportunities in the gastronomic and construction industries especially to meet the needs for lone consumers.
  • Lone consumers include millennials, members of Generation X, some Baby Boomers and all those who marry later, divorce or simply live longer.
  • Self-love, compassion, health and happiness are high on the agenda. These lead a healthy and hedonistic life, with consumption and spending habits focused on the present.
  • It is necessary to consider positive brand messages and quantity, production and price of goods and services for these lone consumers.

In the last four years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of solo trips; Also, dining alone in public is no longer considered taboo. The number of single-person households has increased fivefold since 1990, and continues to expand. Due to the rise of technology and falling cost of travel and entertainment, younger consumers have many more ways to spend their free time than previous generations. In response, brands are beginning to reform and change experiences around their goods and services. There are great opportunities in the construction and entertainment sectors, as well as those associated with online communications, personal electronics and household appliances.

Thanks to the widespread use of mobile devices, people feel socially connected even when physically distant. This new circumstance is transforming people’s way of socializing and spreading the concept of a “third space.” It is not your home or a second space away from it, but spaces of individual interaction. Inspired by hostels, hotels are expanding their third-space offerings and reducing the number of amenities in private spaces. Tru by Hilton, which opened in 2016, has created a hotel experience for younger guests with semi-private rooms, Wi-Fi access and wireless printers in all spaces.

In a society where marriage rates are falling and the age people get married increasing, the culture of “sologamy” with “weddings for one” is becoming popular. Singles do not want to miss out on the big day; They want to experience everything a traditional wedding has to offer, such as buying a dress, spending a day getting ready and having a souvenir photo album—but without coming out the other end with a spouse.

Connected health

There is a new health demand arising, one that goes beyond a natural and organic diet. Social networks have exponentially increased people’s desire to look fit and healthy, creating more perfectionistic and conscious user communities that will be loyal to brands offering alternatives that contribute not only to their individual well-being, but also connect them with their environments. They are eager to live not only more, but better—and also to share it.

The business categories that grew most rapidly in 2015 were related to health and well-being, according to NPD Group’s market research. Millennials lead the shift toward sporting and technological lifestyles, also increasing the market for experiences related to a healthy lifestyle. According to a JWT Intelligence study, it is likely that 50 percent of U.S. millennials and 47 percent of the U.K.’s visit stores with athletic facilities. These stores compete to increase their spaces, building communities through juice bars, organic coffee shops and in-store fitness classes. In the obsession with health, a search for sporting experiences has become a natural new way to socialize around well-being. Sports brands lead the evolution of retail experiences with paid wellness festivals that create brand loyalty and boost sales. Fitness festivals, such as the Be: FIT health and fitness event—one directed to the feminine market and that attracted more than 7,000 visitors a day at its London event—are booming. Another example is Sweaty Betty Live, where fitness fans started the day with yoga class and finished it with intensive Psycle HIIT training.

“At Repsol we promote a healthy lifestyle, an example of this can be found at our service stations. In this area we have created a new store concept called Repsol ON, in which we place the consumer at the center of the experience by designing a space that invites you to relax and recover energy with a range of products and services that takes care of the welfare , the organic and the handmade”

Pilar Nuñez Díez, Subdirector of Brand and Corporate Identity at Repsol

Technology giants including Apple, Google and Samsung are investing significant resources in the development of devices that will help close the gap between monitoring the collective physical state and real medical care. This is not tomorrow’s medical industry, but today’s internet. The U.S. telemedicine industry is expected to grow to $1.9 trillion in 2018, followed by India at $1.45 trillion.

The vitamins and supplements’ industry, a business already worth $37 trillion in the United States, calls itself the evolution of health and well-being. Nootropics, also known as smart drugs, stimulate memory and increase performance, offering nonaddictive cognitive enhancers to working groups in communities subject to the information excess characteristic of new generations. These combine supplements with an active lifestyle, good nutrition and good rest.


David González Natal
María Carolina Cortés Arce
Raimundo Díaz
Marlene Gaspar
Carlos Llanos
María Emilia Marta
Carlos Magro Martínez-Illecas
Fernando García
Hugo Valdez Padilla
Julio Alonso Caballero

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