Competing on the Currency of Joy … It’s Not just for Millennials Anymore


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Nielsen recently released a report in which the continued decline of at home cooking was brought to the forefront. This finding is mirrored by a report from several years ago, which found that for the first time away from home spending on food surpassed grocery spending. There are approximately 73 million Millennials according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but given these percentages clearly the phenomenon cannot be explained by Millennials alone. In fact it’s a continuation of a decades old trend where eating out rather than being the exception is a weekly rule.

Eddie Yoon, a colleague of mine and noted business growth strategist, recently outlined his prediction that cooking would likely go the way of sewing soon – if it hasn’t already. Yoon argues that grocery shopping and cooking are in a long-term decline and are shifting from a mass category to a niche.

A quick Google search will highlight the declining home purchase rates, the explosive growth (albeit on a small scale) of micro-housing options, and one is forced to ask the question … is there something deeper/ bigger going on here?

It stands to reason there is. I believe that culturally we are shifting to an economic model fundamentally driven by the sourcing of Joy over Function. What we are observing across key categories of basic life fundamentals – how we live, how we clothe ourselves and how we eat – is that if the brand/product does not bring us sufficient joy, we outsource it, we downside it or we fundamentally opt out of it. And while that can send shivers for many of us marketers, the reverse is equally as exciting. For those in the category, they have opted in; and, for many, they have opted in because sufficient joy and satisfaction is still being delivered to them in the value equation.

For marketers, this shift translates into clear opportunity if properly understood and harnessed. In the age-old value equation of benefits over price, the definition of benefits is shifting. While a balance between functional and emotional benefits was once the recipe for success – with many consumers leaning towards the functional –marketers must be aware that today’s consumers are more and more motivated by the emotional benefits.

Consider the reality that as fewer people fundamentally ‘enjoy’ the category, two things are true. One, that subset that continues to derive joy from the category and product experience are better engaged on the more emotive, currency of their ‘hobby-type’ engagement in the category. Two, the other growing majority that is not currently rewarded with joy from their experience will either opt out of the category and no longer be a customer target, will opt only at the most functional level which spells disaster for pricing power or requires a completely re-wiring of the joy sourcing for them in the category. The latter is the only opportunity for profitable growth among this group, and requires a curious marketer intent on understanding and speaking to the Job that cooking was for these consumers in their day.

We can play out an example of this in clothing, where Stitch Fix, while satisfying a range of needs has certainly brought the joy of clothes shopping back to the consumer for whom in-store shopping has begun to steal the joy from the experience.

As much as we monitor volume, revenue and profit, marketers across industries would do well to monitor the in-flow and out-flow of Joy in their respective categories. Joy is the essential currency in these key ‘life staple’ categories as the shift in decision making criteria is sure to make its way to an ever-increasing range of verticals and activities.

Linda Deeken
Linda Deeken is the founder of Deeken Strategies, and an affiliate of Eddie Would Grow, where she focuses on growth strategy and activation. Previously, she was the Chief Marketing Officer of The Cambridge Group and a consultant at Oliver Wyman. She has been published in Harvard Business Review, among other publications, and has been a key contributor to several books.


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