Big Data Showing The Evolution Of Turkish Society & Marketing Consequences
As a Strategic Marketing Consultant working in more than 20 different countries, it has always been very interesting for me to compare the evolution and changes in one country to another. In the last few years, the south-eastern edge of Europe has been affected by numerous changes connected to a state of political, social and economic instability. Taking Turkey as an example, I can definitively say that happened more things there in the latest 6 years than in Norway, for example, in the latest 40 years.
I am a Partner and Regional Director of a marketing consulting firm called Garrison Group, based in Boston and present in more than 40 different countries. We believe that in order to create emotionally engaging brands, we have to understand customers as human beings first. Understanding lifestyles, needs, hopes and fears will allow us to create more impactful marketing and communication strategies. We call this approach: Human-Centric-Marketing.
In my job, everything starts by understanding the society and the evolution of people within that society or culture. The great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky once said, “Other players go to where the puck is. I go to where the puck is going to be”.
As Turkey is one of the regions under my jurisdiction, it has been quite an interesting journey to analyze people's behavior by utilizing Big Data and trying to understand “where the puck is going to be” in Turkey relative to the preferences and interests of Turks. Which in other words means: how a brand should evolve in order to stay relevant to our customers.
In terms of analyzing Big Data, we took into account all the information we could gather regarding:
o Demography/Geography/Social Economic (total sample 14,000 people)
o Consumption habits (4,000 Brands; 600 Categories)
o Shopping habits
o Media (TV, Radio, Social Media etc.)
Once we collect all this data, we run a Factor and a Cluster Analysis in order to group the people that answered in a similar way – like with like. The final result is what we call at Garrison Group: A Human Segmentation.
We compared the data collected in 2011 and the relative Human Segmentation with the one of 2017 in order to have a perspective on the changes occurred in the Turkish society. Some of them were expected while some others were very surprising.
1. Less Enjoyment-Driven
The first change we found was a considerable reduction in the importance given to enjoyment in the life of almost all the Turkish segments. I lived in Istanbul for several years and it is very impressive to see how places that were very trendy a couple of years ago, are now are closed or empty. You can almost feel that much of the Turkish population has become more pessimistic and less inclined to spend time outside as it is considered not as safe as it used to be. More in particular, modern and “show-off” places are perceived as more dangerous since they have been the objective of most of the terrorist attacks in the last years. This has generated fears and tensions among people who have gradually changed their habits trying to spend less time in places that were usually dedicated to fun. I could clearly see this during my last trip in Istanbul: modern and show off places like Reina and Anjelique closed to leave space to more grounded places in Karakoy or Arnavutkoy that now became the new trend district of the city.
2. More Afraid To Express Their Opinion
The second major change occurred between 2011 and 2017 in Turkish society is related to the sense of freedom perceived by the population, in particular, the freedom of expression. Indeed, the responses of the analyzed sample tend to be less extreme and the number of "I prefer not to respond" has increased exponentially compared to 2011. By asking the sample their degree of agreement with a series of need states, the difference between 2011 and 2017 is evident. The number of strong and sure answers where people stated that they "Strongly agree" or "Strongly disagree" massively dropped, on the other hand, the less convinced answer like "Neither Agree or Disagree" become much more popular. It appears from the data that people tend to think twice before expressing their opinion, and when they do, they prefer not to expose themselves completely and often give vague answers.
3. More Modern, More Independent Women
Last of the main changes we have found at a general level in Turkish society is the role of women, who have become more modern and emancipated as a reaction to the changes happening in the Turkish society. Turkish women are increasingly dissatisfied with the role that the society wants for them, and the majority of them are reacting to these social pressures by drastically changing their attitude towards life in order to obtain more independence and freedom. They strive for gender equality. By having a closer look at the data, we can observe that the percentage of females in the traditional segments decreased dramatically, only 37% of “Traditional Guardians” and 41% of “Traditional Nesters” are female (they were 67% and 49% in 2011). On the other hand, Turkish women started populating more modern segments such as “Fulfillers”, that went from 29% of female to an astonishing 69%!
How the data surprised us and how to learn from common mistakes?
Garrison group is a data-driven company. All the strategies we develop for our customers are supported by mathematical-statistical analysis. Surely our feelings and our perceptions are important for the success of our projects, but before relying on an intuition we always verify that it is demonstrated by the numbers. The powerful thing about working with Big Data is that they allow us to be sure that our beliefs are correct and reliable, but they can also be a ruthless judge who shows us that our assumptions are often wrong.
Commonly we tend to think that the more traditional segments are close minded and opposed to economic and political progress. Thus, they are happy with the current situation. What our data has shown us is that, even in some of the most conservative segments of Turkish society, there is discontent within the current social and political environment, therefore they desire a change and are ready to accept some of the modern values because they see them as a way to bring prosperity in the country.
We tend to think that modern brands are only for modern people. The data collected in Turkey in 2017 gave us a clear picture of the consumption behavior of traditional segments in relation to modern brands and the results were absolutely surprising. These segments can be grouped into three main attitudes toward modern brands. In the first group, there are people not willing to buy modern brands regardless of their income, they just refuse any kind of product that goes too far from the traditional Turkish values. The second group is composed of people with low income that are often reluctant to declare their willingness to buy modern products and brands not because of their beliefs but simply because they cannot afford them – they say that they hate the I-Phone, for example, but the reality is that in many cases they say that because they don’t have the money to buy one. The most important group for us is the third one; a group composed of traditional people who generally have a higher socio-economic status and that are fascinated and extremely happy to buy products and brands that represent progress and modernity. Companies that are able to leverage this Modern-Traditionalism (people that have traditional Turkish values, but are open to a more modern lifestyle) trend will help to unite a country that is becoming more and more polarized.
What are the key learnings from this evolution from a marketing perspective?
More authenticity and less ostentation!
From this evolution, we must draw some important conclusions and consequently adapt our marketing strategies to meet the new needs and release the new tension points of our target market. People's aspirations are changing, and so are role models. Ostentation is increasingly seen as boorish and dangerous. The core of the Turkish population is now looking for more authentic entertainment opportunities that reflect more traditional values. Being aware of this change leads us to also change the messages and the overall communication that we will use to engage with our customers.
Addressing the empowerment of women!
Among the changes in the Turkish society there is a very important element to take into consideration when building branding and communication strategies – the role of women in Turkish society. One of the most important insights that marketers can learn from this evolution is that Turkish women are looking for something that allows them to reassert themselves as free, autonomous and self-determining human beings. There is great potential for brands that offer to help women to express themselves and to break these limits that they perceive society is trying to impose on them. A brand that is not 100% aligned with its target and that is not adapting to its changes is a brand that, at best, is leaving opportunities (and lot of money!) on the table; at worst it is destined to disappear and be substituted by emerging brands that are meeting the new needs by engaging with their target on a deep emotional level. Confirming this theory is the fact that Biscolata (Solen Company) which purpose is to promote Women’s emancipation, in the last years is achieving amazing results in the confectionery industry. Solen has seen the changes in society and has taken steps to integrate their Biscolata brand within the needs and tension points of their most important consumers. It’s a great lesson for all of us.