2015 Year in Review: Trust Your Inner Consumer

From Mobile to Social, Your Intuition Is the Compass for Brand Building

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Let's start this 2015 recap and look ahead with a painful admission: Despite a promising early courtship, my relationship with the Apple Watch fell apart.

The blame rests on a perfect storm of irreconcilable differences. Daily charging stretched beyond my capacity for habit change. My iPhone competed for attention. My eyes wandered to larger-text-size devices. I had early doubts.

Which leads me to the year-end phrase that pays: "Trust your inner consumer." Whether trying to figure out mobile or privacy, your "inner consumer" is the undisputed compass and lucky charm of winning brand building. Don't click without it!

User experiences and shopping

Inner consumer realities played out repeatedly in 2015, starting with mobile. My thumbs stole market share over fingers. Voice search out-screamed thumb search. I pressed laptop and desktop screens with embarrassing regularity.

My share of time further consolidated to a handful of "can't-live-without" apps. I wrote dozens of online reviews, several dedicated to overpriced, dysfunctional headphones (You know who you are).

I dabbled in gif builders (fail), embraced WeeChat and Facebook messenger hieroglyphics (I mean, emoticons), live-casted on Periscope, tested new shades of Instagram, and earned long-overdue "notes" on my MyAlptitude.com Tumblr site.

My online purchases long-tailed to frighteningly frequent small increments, including too many iTunes items already available on Netflix or Spotify. After losing several toy drones over the hills of Switzerland, I revised my assumptions about grocery delivery.

"Sharing economy" models like Uber, AirBnB and Fivver appealed to my "inner consumer" value pursuits. These cascaded into my work pursuits, as I zealously championed "sharing" principles via internal social media.

While I skipped running a marathon this year, my friends kept me on the track via social media "shaming" anytime my Nike Plus running updates went dark. (Merci!)

Email got the best of me in 2015. I clicked unsubscribe over a hundred times, but I'm convinced that only made things worse. U.S. presidential candidates unleashed a hailstorm of "brother can you spare a dollar" email noise.

The great ad-blocking revolt of 2015 left me scratching my head and feeling a sense of déjà vu. I mean, marketers gasped in horror, but does anyone out remember the 100 million pop-up blocker downloads in 2004. Hello!

Backyard content awakenings

2015 was the year marketers bear-hugged the word "content" as though it suddenly appeared from outer space. But my "inner consumer" always knew it was right in front of us.

My kids and I produced over 50 iMovies dedicated to various experiences. We put a green screen in our garage, and upgraded to Final Cut Pro. My 10-year old daughter started a content series about teaching French, and her twin brother joined the mine-boggling (get it?) army of Minecraft video creators.

2015 was the year our kids posed a clear and present danger to Nielsen, Ipsos, and Gfk as sources of consumer insight. Watching them on Xbox One's "Let's Dance" reminded me I don't know jack about the future of TV, or even digital health. And back to Minecraft -- what on (sustainable) earth is going on here?

TV -- or video, or whatever you call it -- actually got better. Netflix won me over with "Narcos," and Amazon content pleasantly surprised. I'm still feeling digitally insecure after watching the intoxicatingly dark "Mr. Robot."

External vibes and the way forward

My "inner consumer" possessed me as juror for the Cannes Innovation Lions. I networked as a brand guy, but pretty much voted as a consumer. And in the end, "Simplicity conquered technology," as I noted in an Ad Age column.

I finally made it to SXSW and absolutely loved the vibe, not to mention the breakfast burritos. While speaking at the annual U.S. Naval Academy leadership conference, I learned all about the fun (and peril) of Yik Yak from the midshipmen.

Alma mater P&G invited me (and especially my "inner consumer") back to present at its "Brand Building in the Third Decade of Digital" conference. My infinitely repeatable point, building on an earlier column, is that leaders today need to manage, not resolve, tension.

Just consider the tension between ROI and intuition. Yes, we need data-bolstered "proof" that things work, but we also benefit from first-hand experiences to inform smart decisions. I dub this the work-life advantage.

So as another year of gadgets, technology platforms, digital capabilities and better-mousetrap watches unfolds in front of us, there is one piece of advice I promise you can take to the bank: Trust your inner consumer.

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