Marketing for the Me Generation

How we spend our money isn't determined by class, but inner motivation, hears Clare Garner
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The Independent Online
SOCIETY has been re-classified. The marketing world, which once divided Britain into As, Bs and Cs, has found a new language to describe us: Inner Directed, Outer Directed and Sustenance Driven. And the rise of the Inner Directeds - whose primary aim in life is to "discover themselves" - is changingBritain's consumer behaviour.

"Value classifications" are the marketing world's horoscopes, foretelling who will want what in the future - and why. For example, Richard Branson is Inner Directed, Paula Yates is Outer Directed and Alan Sugar, for all his wealth, is Sustenance Driven.

According to Synergy Consulting, a management and marketing consultancy based in west London, Britons are becoming increasingly Inner Directed. Their mirror image, the Outer Directeds - who measure success by comparing themselves to others around them - have decreased since the Eighties. The Outer Directeds are showing signs of consuming experiences and ideas rather than products.

For the past 20 years the Sustenance Driven - who are traditional, family- orientated and non-risk-taking - have been declining in the West.

The classifications are based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the landmark theory of Professor AH Maslow which suggests that humans are driven by a hierarchy of motivations such as sustenance, security, socialisation, self-esteem and "self-actualisation" (that is, personal development and quality of life).

Synergy conducts a bi-annual survey in which questionnaires comprising 400 questions are sent to 5,000 people. The results are applied to a wide range of businesses in the food, drinks, retailing, automative and financial sectors. The rise of an inner- directed marketing environment is challenging companies to become vehicles for the expression of consumers' values.

One client is Shell, where Kathryn Pope, brand development manager, swears by the new classifications. For a recent Select Shop promotion, she sent out one of three mailshots to Shell's four million customers. The three versions were worded according to whether the recipient was Inner Directed, Outer Directed or Sustenance Driven. "We have had a significantly higher response than normal," she said.

Inner Directeds are sub- divided into Self Explorers (17 per cent of population) and Experimentalists (eight per cent). Outer Directeds comprise Conspicuous Consumers (20 per cent of population). The Sustenance Driven group is divided into Belongers (19 per cent of population), Social Resisters (seven per cent ), Survivors (22 per cent ) and Aimless (seven per cent).

The latest questionnaire, to be sent this month, is expected to chart another increase in Self Explorers and a slight decline in Social Resisters and Survivors. As the Maslow model suggests, we are not born Inner Directed; rather, we move towards that goal, like Buddhists to Nirvana.

Self Explorers are tolerant, self-aware people who will turn down a bigger pay packet if it means doing work they don't find interesting and worthwhile. Anita Roddick is cited as a classic example. They have an active antagonism towards status cues and believe in being "true to yourself". In 1994, 11 per cent of the population were Self Explorers. In 1996, that figure had risen to 17 per cent.

Experimentalists are unconventional, technological, creative, self-confident, physically fit and risk-oriented. Richard Branson is "a definite" Experimentalist, who may, in time, blossom into a Self Explorer, according to Synergy.

Between 1994 and 1996, the number of Social Resisters fell from 12 per cent to seven per cent. Social Resisters have a need for control and see the world in black and white terms. Margaret Thatcher and Terry Waite are prime examples, according to Synergy. This group is expected to continue to decline.

Conspicuous Consumers, typified by Paula Yates, Ulrika Jonsson and Michael Portillo, are acquisitive, competitive, assertive and conscious of appearances.

Belongers are on the cusp of Sustenance Driven and Outer Directeds. John Major is the perfect "Belonger". Modest and sensible, they are dutiful citizens with a penchant for gardening, fishing and crosswords. They are the "silent majority", accounting for 19 per cent of the population.

Survivors are class conscious, community minded, awkward if treated badly, but quietly hardworking if treated well. They desire passive entertainment and enjoy the comfort of the familiar. Alan Sugar, says Synergy, is a Survivor extraordinaire. There is a slow decline in this group. Aimless are, well, aimless and of little interest as consumers. They are increasingly split between the over-55s and under-21s.