Tightness of norms

– When a category has a lot of structure, processes, social rules

– Risk averse behaviors and a greater tendency to choose the tried and tested

– When choices made are rooted to things such as identity

– When there is resistance to change

Eg. Banking, education, jewelry, personal care (women) as a category

Looseness of norms

– When a category is open to different ideas, points of view and non judgment

– When it isn’t governed by set choices, protocols

– When consumer behavior patterns are unpredictable or suffer from a low sense of control

– When the category definition itself is evolving and changing

Eg. Snacking, accessories, electronics / gadgets

And then there are categories which could be under shift

– Eg. Food, gifting, entertainment, lending/finance or travel and tourism which is moving from tight to a loose set of norms.

– Eg. Health and fitness, photography or personal care amongst men which is moving from say a loose to tight set of norms.

As marketers, if we were to deeply understand the predominant norm structure within which our category operates, it could have far reaching consequences.

Not only in helping us find newer opportunities for product development but also interesting communication and positioning spaces for brand building.

As an example, for a category where the structure is very tight, imagine a brand that is built on empathy and freedom of thought – imagine a hospital that is friendly and vibrant or an educational institute that helps a student explore and learn, question and challenge.

Or in snacking which is a very loose category, a brand is built on a clear set of codes and rules around measured ingredients and type of ingredients allowed – like Protein chips.

This understanding could also help predict how the category may be shaped in the future and implications thereof on the business.

Eg. Food, which earlier was highly structured and routine based, is now open to all sorts of innovation, not only at home but also what people eat outside – giving rise to say fusion food or a range of sauces, condiments and spice mixes.

Finally, knowing norms can also help marketers trigger action by highlighting the contrast existing within the category. Make a consumer feel a need to make a change.

A small note – the above examples were only illustrative in nature, the idea was to spark thought and we would love to hear contrary opinions or different points of view (We are an open culture in that sense :))

Well that’s it for this week,

Until next time, Happy Reading.

Quote of the week – “Not all products address need gaps, some just elevate the quality of life and then people realise that their current state was just not good enough”

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