What is Aspiration?
It implies a striving for something higher, a hope or ambition of being something more or achieving something greater. It is also the key driver for consumer decision making.
As designers, product developers, service providers and buyers, aspiration is what we aim to offer our customers and clients. What we create must align with what they aspire to be and what they want to achieve. It’s not the product or the service itself that they buy, it’s the emotion that surrounds it they buy into. It is aspiration that drives purchasing decisions.
Why do you need to understand customer aspirations to focus your product offering?
The first step when developing, designing or sourcing an offering is to identify your target audience, to create a persona for the end user. From there, every touch point of communication – logo, packaging, language and tone of voice, visual merchandising, social media, digital strategies, advertising and promotions – must be considered in light of who your target audience is. Effective marketing is about how you communicate your message in a way that wins the hearts and minds of your ideal customers. Your goal isn’t to sell a product, it is to sell a lifestyle dream. When you sell aspirations and create a subliminal connection that speaks to the heart of the consumer, customers follow.
Why are aspirational segments are the most important aspect of trend identification?
Understanding and focusing on aspirational segmentation is crucial in these uncertain times. They reveal not only how different people aspire to exist, but more importantly, how they wish to be perceived. These aspirational segments are the most important aspect of trend identification today. In a world of self-curated media, these aspirational segments are quickly developing into aspirational communities, or tribes, that unify and drive both individuals and group styles. And with social media playing such an important part in communication strategies, where our ‘feeds’ are full of products that reflect our personality profiles, it’s even more important to focus on aspiration and lifestyle as opposed to product, price and brand.
Global and community trends are driven by confident strong statements from designers and businesses, those who own who they are. If you are trying to be too many things to too many people, your message is diluted, and you will end up appealing to few. A consumer journey starts with function – a need or want to find a solution. Function is followed quickly by style or aesthetic – do I like how it looks? And then it moves on to value. Not price, but perceived value. If you focus only on function and value, you will miss out on the unquantifiable factor that is emotion. And understanding the emotional triggers is based on knowing and understanding who your target audience is, and what your brand messages are.
When used in conjunction with demographic and psychographic profiling, aspirational segments provide an excellent opportunity for you to focus on the exact persona who will purchase your product or service. If you lock into the emotional drivers behind each of the key aspirations that align with your offering, you can create truly authentic, focused and commercially viable product concepts and designs. Your aspirational segment will drive every touchpoint.
When designing a product or service, which aspirational segment are you appealing to?
- The Ordered: Aspires to be structured and strategic and seeks comfort and order. Functional design suits their mindset, and they admire architectural lines. They see value in design and feel comfortable with more classic, long lasting items. They are more likely to wear, or aspire to wear, Armani than Versace. This persona is not generational or income-related, it’s a state of mind.
- Nostalgic: Seeks comfort in the past and celebrates history. With a retrospective focus they value revisiting past design trends and like to explore vintage.
- Escape: Has a relaxed and friendly vibe that is collaborative and welcoming. They seek good times and enjoy travelling and the outdoors.
- Playful: A sense of cheerfulness with a rebellious undertone. They love colour, humour and whimsy because they love to be noticed and they value light heartedness.
- Opulent: Desires luxury and loves expressions of glamour. They are sophisticated and worldly, often well-travelled and they see value in a visual, cosmetic expression of themselves.
- Grounded: Aspires to an earthy, spiritual and healthy lifestyle where there is meaning and connection. An independent thinker, they value authenticity and artisanal-based product.
Once you have a clear picture of your consumer tribe you can create the aspiration communication strategies that will appeal to your ideal buyer – The Innovator, The Pragmatist or The Decorator.
What are the communication strategies for your customer?
The Pragmatist is concerned with function.
Image via Wayfair
They’re not particularly interested in aesthetics, what they purchase doesn’t need to coordinate and match or be appealing to the eye. It just needs to function, fulfil a need and provide a solution. These Pragmatists make up the largest part of the consumer market but the spend per item is of a lower dollar value.
The Innovator creates their own style.
They will mix and match – choosing a sofa from Space Furniture and a coffee table from Ikea – and it will look fantastic. They have the confidence to pair antiques with contemporary, uber brands with high street labels and create their own look.
The Decorator wants to express their personality through the things that they surround themselves with.
A post shared by Amber Lewis (@amberinteriors)It is this consumer who will spend the most on the products that are aspirational for them. When you’re talking to The Decorator you may also reach The Pragmatist if the product and price is right, but you will only reach this most sought after consumer – The Decorator – if you sell the lifestyle that goes with your product or service. Show them how wonderful it feels to make this purchase. The Decorator needs a visual of the aspiration so they can picture your product in their home or in their wardrobe or imagine how your service will enhance their world. If you speak to The Decorator, appealing to their aspirations, you will reach the Pragmatist and the Innovator at the same time.
What brands are doing a great job of appealing to their customer’s aspirations?
So who is doing it well? Ralph Lauren for one. He knows who his customer is, and he knows the aspirational triggers that keep his tribe loyal.View this post on Instagram
Three Birds Renovations knows exactly who their customer is and deliver the perfect messaging to build their tribe.View this post on Instagram
Greg Natale sells his style, he has always made a strong bold statement. He knows his customer and his tribe has found him.View this post on Instagram
Pottery Barn, West Elm and Anthropologie are all examples of retailers who have a fantastic understanding of their client base and communicate with their aspirations very effectively.
If you are not speaking to the aspiration, you are missing out on the opportunity to create something special.
When you communicate to the aspiration psyche, it will follow that your tribe will increase and in turn your sales will increase. It is so easy today, as buyers, product developers and interior designers, to forget to focus on aspiration. We get so consumed by data and process, which are important of course, but we lose sight of what the customer wants. We need to remember to consider the aspirations of our target audience when designing or sourcing products, developing design stories and formulating our service offerings. We must put ourselves in our customers shoes and inspire them. Remove our own aspirations and desires and focus on the desires of the customer.
Remember whilst the quality, design and efficiency of your product or service is vitally important in terms of delivering on your promise, selling the aspiration and creating an emotional connection with your consumer is the key to creating, building and maintaining your tribe.
If you’d like to learn more about MC&Co Trend and how we can help you align your offering to customer aspirations, don’t hesitate to book 15 minutes with me below.
Michael Cleghorn Schedule time with me