When you invest in global consumer companies as we do, you have to develop a framework to understand the consumer's state of mind—and one of those frameworks I casually refer to as “The Amazing First Date.”
This framework is based on American psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in order of priority. According to Maslow, an individual's base needs (such as food, shelter, water, security, and health) must be met before he or she can focus on higher needs (such as love and belonging).
In my experience, companies that were successful during most of the 20th century focused primarily on meeting consumers' base needs. They provided quality and predictability.
But that's changing. More and more, companies that are successful are focused meeting consumers' higher needs as well.
Today, not only do consumers want the quality and predictability a traditional brand represented; now they want the feeling the brand provides. They want the brand to inspire the emotions of a first date.
Moreover, consumers want their higher needs met in an interactive way. One survey, for example, asked millennials how brands can remain relevant. The most-cited response was that a brand should remain open to the opinions of customers and change accordingly. The second-most-cited response was that a brand should remain in an open dialogue with its customers through social channels.