When I did the original research for Shopportunity! we were searching for the most powerful consumer shopping experience. For women, it was straightforward: Her wedding dress. The basic syntax, which we came to term APPA, held.
· Anticipation. Think of all those viewings of Cinderella and all that Barbie Wedding paraphernalia.
· Pursuit. Once she’d been asked to marry, she went in hot pursuit of the perfect gown.
· Prominence. The amazing significance her every desire was accorded, from the sales woman to her best friend to her mother: Bottled water? Champagne? Just let us know.
· Appreciation. No, not in the “you’re a beautiful bride” meaning of the word, but in the financial context. The dress simply becomes more valuable once she’s worn it, stores it away and brings it out to show her daughter, thus beginning the ‘anticipation’ phase all over again.
For guys, the APPA construct holds every bit as gravitationally, but for a far different purchase. Think. Think. Think. What could it be? It’s his first car: freedom and the open road. He’s played with cars since his Matchbox days: Anticipation. Freshly minted license in-hand, he heads with his father to the used car dealership: Pursuit. Sure enough, he is the certified center of attention: Prominence. And, just as surely, even though he sold the car long ago, if you ask him over a beer he can probably tell you what that car would be worth today, if only he’d put it up on blocks in his dad’s garage when he went off to the navy, or moved for his first job, or needed a more, hmm, “mature” vehicle.
When Mazda came out with its Zoom Zoom campaign, I knew it was brilliant: Sits right on that excited little kid voice, chock-a-block with aspiration and transgressive frisson of ‘when-I-grow-up’-ness.
That was then.
I suspect all this car buying power as illustrative of independence and autonomy is about to erode. Indeed, it already has. Perhaps it started when seat belts and car seats became de rigueur. Not a complaint, mind you. But a definite change in meaning. We’re looking at two key aspects to the evolving meaning: Think about self-driving cars. No self-directed, driving down the old lonesome highway liberation there. Think about car sharing as the new norm. We no longer badge ourselves by the brand and model, we are branding ourselves as advocates of a sensible means of communal transportation.
Big Auto. I just gotta ask: Are you ready? Beyond investments in Uber? Are you ready? To be a commodity instead of an emblem?
I imagine one day in the not too distant future, we’ll do another round of research with consumers on the topic of shopping and for both men and women it will be “first cellphone.”