I think it’s fair to say everyone’s pretty busy. For all its merits, the one thing technology hasn’t done is taken over responsibility for meeting work deadlines, getting in a couple of gym sessions a week or (and admittedly this does rather depend on who you ask) raising our children. But in an attempt to mitigate against this, the tech does now exist to make the incidental parts of our lives – maintaining a household, paying bills, catching up with friends (though again, shaky moral ground) – easier.
Which is why savvy consumers are starting to realise the power of the subscription, and why clever marketers are rapidly addressing their business models to respond to a growing trend for the cross-off culture – where people will do some research, choose a product, order it on a rolling contract and then cross it off their To Do list for the foreseeable future.
Utilities bills, entertainment and charitable donations have been taken care of this way for decades, but we are now seeing it affect everything from health and beauty products (razors, personal care, makeup and fashion) to food and drink (meals, veg boxes, beer and wine) and beyond.
But as brands clamour to enter the subscription market, what does the future of the model look like and what is the USP marketers should be trying to achieve?
Ultimately a subscription should reflect our lives. It should be flexible – with the option to skip and pause – it should be convenient, offer plenty of choice and, crucially, an abundance of control.
Brands must work out a way to live in a modern consumers’ world, reflecting and responding to human behaviour and expectations.
One area that I predict will see a surge of subscription programmes being offered in the next few years is among the ethical brands. Environmentally aware, socially conscious, plastic-free brands are firmly in the spotlight and as more and more consumers look to adjust their purchasing habits to better reflect their ideals and preferences, it is game on for brands looking to tap into the zeitgeist.
We know from our whitepaper report ‘Solving Subscriptions’ that subscriptions are widely adopted by millennials and young people, and through sheer good fortune this is the same group of people who research shows care most about brand purpose and value. They are also the demographic who are keen on ‘badging’ – aligning themselves with a brand whose purpose they agree with, endorse, aspire to or want to emulate. By signing up to a subscription with a brand that reflects their own green credentials they are telling the world – their social circle and beyond – a bit about what they stand for on a personal level.
Combine these attitudes with the key drivers behind ethical brands and you have yourself a sales opportunity.
And let us not forget that these are far from opportunities reserved just for established brands. As more and more sustainable brands crop up every day it is now possible to successfully market a product without mass awareness, a big advertising budget or a physical store.
With the right expert advice there is no reason why a good cost-effective marketing strategy, combined with a highly effective approach to data analysis, can’t drive an emerging brand up through the rankings and help it hit its sales targets.
In the last few months here at The Kite Factory we have kicked off relationships with some great brands that truly reflect the growing appetite for a more wholesome way of living. From ethical bank Triodos to organic baby food brand Little Freddie, we are thrilled to be making inroads with this important diversification of products. And with our heritage in charity and fundraising we are already lucky enough to count the likes of WaterAid, UNICEF and Comic Relief among our client base – organisations that are wholly focused on creating a positive future. We see ourselves as key partners in helping our clients deliver that future by helping them maximise their budgets, by ensuring every single touchpoint, big or small, is leveraged to maximum effect.
However, regardless of how popular your message, how on-trend your values or how green your footprint, creating a meaningful connection to a consumer’s life is still the key to long term success. Whether a brand wants to drive subscriptions or simply increase its day-to-day sales, it is imperative that they build a level of trust in order to earn a place in peoples’ lives.
Being honest and upfront from the outset, treating existing and potential customers – and their data - with respect and integrity, and working hard to deserve their custom is the holy grail for every brand. Blend these basic essentials with a targeted, effective media plan and there is no reason why strong, long-term relationships and healthy business growth shouldn’t be the only outcomes.