Essay: The new consumer – metaphors and visual communications

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  • The new consumer - metaphors and visual communications
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The day of “one size fits all” is long gone. And organisation must transform themselves on a parallel track to accommodate these new consumers. The new consumers are most definitely a new breed and need to be addressed in a new way. And thus, for Marketers to get attention of these consumers they have to look for different and unique methods. Marketers have to address new consumers directly and give attention to their needs. As organisations grows to understand consumers better creating exciting satisfying experiences, even experiences will soon become commodity. The element of change is absolute given and learning is a continuous action. These new consumers are having an impact on the marketing strategy. Thus, resulting in Organisations to adopt new ways and go beyond just engineering experience.

Who are new consumers?

The new consumer is an individual. Joel Winter, senior vice president of the marketing of Kraft Foods, put it very nicely. “The mythological homogeneous America is gone, we are mosaic of minorities.”

The new consumer will check everything, they will compare the products and they want to understand what the advertisers are saying. Television, Internet, computers, games and cinema are daily part of their lifestyle. (paujen and O’dell,1997)

The consumers involvement which includes customer control and participation (bateson,1989) and level of contact (chase,1978) will have an impact on the individual’s attitudes towards motivating behaviour to achieve outcomes.

The new consumer is independent. The new purchaser is free. Simple access to unlimited measures of worldwide information has enabled purchasers. They are no more subject to getting data from their own particular contacts or from sales representatives; they can discover data for themselves. A CEB study uncovered that among B2B clients, 57% of procurement choices were ordinarily made before a client even conversed with a supplier. In the event that business people are no more the principle purpose of contact with clients, in what manner would we be able to convey messages to them?

The new consumer is involved. The consumer has urged a very welcome trend towards the vernacular in commercials. Consumers are free to play active role in the sales and production process. They only need to seek information about the products in which they are interested in and then use technology to their advantage. This has led advertisers to promote their products with unique ways, which is real and less cosmetic. For example, kelloggs are all running tv campaings rooted in humanity, they are brimming with behaviourial insights that connect their products to real life. (Ress,1999) Nike too, seems to have abandoned its high octane celebrity fests in favour of parochial vignettes. Its new ads ask “ordinary” people “what are you getting ready for?” And Toyota, message ends with a riff from ‘Everyday People’

The new consumer is more informed. With access to unprecedented amounts of information, knowledgeable consumers can make more informed decisions. (CK Prahlad, V ramaswamy, 2004) Consumers can also access information on firms, products, technologies and performance and price from all around the world. “Thematic Consumer Communities” in which individual share ideas and feelings without regards for geographic or social barriers, are revolutionizing emerging markets and transforming established ones. As people learn, they can better discriminate when making choices as they network, they embolden each other to act and speak out.


The crux of marketing strategy is to give business an advantage in a competitive market. The success of implementing strategy is measured in economic terms by: sales volume, market share, profits, listed stock prices etc. Over the decade marketing disciplines has experienced changes in terms of its dominant focus, thought and practice. At each stages of it evolution the discipline has taken a new course by bringing to light pertinent area of marketing and generating important insights that continues to shape further research. ( V. Kumar , Richard and Susan, 2013)

Strategy to Sell Product to Informed Consumers

As the consumers have changes a lot and they seem to know a lot more than ever before about products and services. In this reversal of traditional customers engagement, the paradigm of teaching your customers about what you do has flipped and now customers walk through the door knowing exactly what they want and what they should pay for it. Which leads us to the question, what is driving the change? Are people getting smarter or there are other forces that are forcing the change? ( Daniel Newman,2014)


In digital economy people want to do their own research and exploration for the product and services they want to buy. While some may propose this is a hunch, it is definitely not. This pattern is settled in hard information that says purchasers are regularly somewhere around 70 and 90 percent of the path through the business process before they ever draw in a merchant, as indicated by exploration firm Forrester. (Daniel Newman,2014)

As a rule the purchaser endeavors to abstain from drawing in the merchant all together, and if the sellers would coordinate by permitting a whole exchange to happen online then they would. What’s more, regularly this on the web, modern commercial centre is as of now in movement. Today we purchase houses, autos, innovation and other extravagance things with a couple mouse clicks. These things are immediately handled and conveyed by a man however who knows, some time or another soon they may be bundled by a robot and conveyed by an automaton. This purchasing conduct isn’t constrained to simply top of the line things, individuals are swinging to innovation to buy regular items like foodstuffs, family unit merchandise and stimulation and have them conveyed to their entryway or their gadget without even a delay. In reality, this previous year one in five buyers never left the lounge chair to finish their vacation shopping. I hypothesize this number will ascend in the coming year. With the computerized world keeping on developing and buyers depending more on it for buys, little organizations will need to grasp these progressions and make some of their own. All things considered, there is uplifting news . The advanced economy puts little business on more level of a playing field with their enormous partnership partners. It takes into account the fast advancement of addressing client needs through computerized, social and trade stages. Think what EBay accomplished for little e-tailers 10 years prior and how Amazon ascended from namelessness to end up the biggest retailer on the planet. While these stories may be the few, they are workable for all in light of the fact that what these organizations did was exploit what is conceivable.


-Know your customers

-Get discovered

-Utilize grass root tactics

1) KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS – For most of the business it comes to knowing your customers and understanding the ideal target audience, if you sell product that people like to buy online, then it is important to be where they are. It can be direct e-commerce on your site or selling through a market place like amazon, CNET or eBay, than be sure to be there. (Daniel Newman,2014)

2) GET DISCOVERED – It’s about how your company is found. As we know that people are doing the research. This is the trend that is being propelled by content marketing, which is in the form of blogs, videos and infographics. The company should be generating information that helps buyers through the buying process. And also make sure that the consumers have found, seen and heard about the company.

3) UTILIZING GRASS ROOT TACTICS- Last step is not to forget the power of mouth for small business, If there is a happy customer, get them to help by spreading the good word. According to (Neilson,2009) more than 80 percent of the people will trust and act on a positive customer referral. The more you can get your customer to tell story about you the easier your next sale will be.

Another Important factor which new consumers have led marketers to follow is a good packaging.

Product packaging is an important means for communicating product and brand benefits. Visual metaphors are usually suited in this context as it attracts the consumers, however the conditions under which metaphors are effective are not yet understood.

In today’s market, consumer products are increasingly similar in quality and functioning. As a result, marketers and researchers show increasing interest for strategies revolving around design and framing of marketing communication messages ( Fransen, Fennis, & Pruyn, 2010; Tangari & Smith, 2012; Van Rompay, De Vries, & Van Venrooij, 2010). One such strategy revolves around product and packaging design. Indeed, good product design is considered an important determinant of a product’s success (Bloch, 1995; Creusen & Schoormans, 2005), mainly because design can create differentiation and identity for otherwise homogeneous products (and their corresponding brands) that usually receive limited consumer attention (Underwood, Klein, & Burke, 2001).

Generally, a metaphor is defined as the presentation of one thing in terms of another (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). In the context of packaging design, for instance, a recent line of Schwarzkopf hairstyling products comprised packaging shapes resembling the shape of a shark fin and a top (of another hair gel product) resembling a screw. In these cases, metaphors are used to trigger associations with power, resistance, or fierceness (constructs associated with sharks or screws) with the underlying goal to enhance excitement and consumer appreciation of product and brand.

In addition to testing for which types of metaphors providing explanatory information is most important, and how to best hint at a metaphor’s presence through promotional elements (i.e., an explicit slogan explaining the metaphor vs. a visual packaging cue merely drawing consumer attention to the package in which the metaphor is embedded), this research also seeks to explore whether differences between consumers in metaphor processing qualify effects of metaphor use. Before presenting the details of these studies, the next section elaborates on metaphors and presents a brief overview of relevant research.


According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980), “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another”. For example, in the metaphor “make your hair shine like a star”, “star” is the source domain and “hair” is the target domain, and the reader has to figure out which features of a star apply to hair. As the semantic distance between the two domains increases, more processing effort is required to understand the rhetorical figure (Mothersbaugh, Huhman, & Franke, 2002), which in turn increases perceived metaphor ambiguity. With respect to brand personality perceptions, metaphor usage has been mainly linked to brand excitement (Ang & Lim, 2006), a key attribute of brands in general (Aaker, 1997). In part, this relationship can be traced to Ortony’s (1975) suggestion that the main advantage of metaphorical communication lies in the ability of metaphors to render things more vivid. In line with this suggestion, research indicates that metaphor comprehension engages the imagination and evokes imagery (Paivio & Clarke, 1986). However, whereas Ang and Lim (2006) showed that metaphor usage in advertising heightens perceptions of brand excitement, it was also shown to induce perceptions of brands as insincere, arguably because metaphors, in contrast to factual non metaphorical statements, are literally untrue and inconclusive as they may allow for multiple interpretations (Black, 1979). However, metaphor usage has also been related to increased communicator credibility as metaphorizing requires creativity and intelligence (cf. Sopory & Dillard, 2002).

In addition, the foregoing suggests that effects of metaphor usage are heavily dependent on whether the incongruence presented by the metaphor can be resolved. Hence, the positive effects on consumer appreciation and perceptions of brand excitement that previous research attests to (Ang & Lim, 2006) may only surface when consumers can indeed process the metaphor, and hence may depend on the provision of information that helps them in doing so.


The foregoing suggests that a metaphor should neither be too straightforward nor too ambiguous or complex. In the former case, the metaphor does not present a real challenge, in the latter case, cognitive elaboration may not result in comprehension of the metaphor (i.e., people do not get the message), consequently reducing the positive effects of metaphor use (Brennan & Bahn, 2006; DeRosia, 2008; McQuarrie & Mick, 1999). For example, McQuarrie and Mick (1999) showed that (complex) metaphor use in American ads does not have positive consequences for people who lack the cultural knowledge to fully understand the ad. In general, consumers are likely to perceive a metaphor as ambiguous when it allows for more than one interpretation, is intellectually more challenging due to a greater distance between the two domains, or is less conventionalized (e.g., through cultural history and folklore, shark teeth are arguably more easily associated with fierceness or power compared to teeth of other, equally destructive, animals). As discussed, taking metaphor ambiguity into account may even be more important in packaging design, where metaphor usage is less commonplace or more subtle compared to, for instance, advertising.

In order to lead consumers to recognize and resolve a complex or ambiguous packaging metaphor (and to ensure that its meaning comes across as intended), the provision of explanatory information may thus be warranted. In line with this suggestion, research indicates that adding a short description or a title to an artwork (often also incorporating various types of visual metaphors) increases understanding (Leder, Carbon, & Ripsas, 2006; Russell, 2003) and positively affects the aesthetic experience (Millis, 2001).

The latter study also indicates that incomplete information may be even more effective than information fully explaining the metaphor, suggesting that part of the fun to consumers indeed lies in cognitive elaboration (Philips, 2000). Taking these findings one step further, merely highlighting the design of the package (e.g., making use of a visual packaging cue, such as a “design edition” logo) may also prompt consumers to take a closer look at the package, thereby creating opportunities for metaphor recognition and interpretation (without presenting the answer to the challenge provided by the metaphor). Especially when considering that the amount of attention that consumers pay to nondurable goods is limited (Schoormans & Robben, 1997), drawing explicit attention to packaging design may be important to get the message across.

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