LONDON/DUBAI: Mainstream consumers are increasingly taking on behaviours previously associated with activists and brands need to forge a new relationship with them, a new study has argued.

Brand consultancies Wolff Olins and Flamingo interviewed cultural anthropologists, professors, authors, entrepreneurs, retailers and CEOs of innovative brands, as well as conducting a panel of consumers to uncover the factors, trends and behaviours that are affecting services, organisations and brands.

The New Mainstream report suggested that three behaviours were moving from the fringe to become common almost everywhere and that there were major opportunities for those brands that could address them.

Firstly there was the sidestepping of institutions, as people question authority and find ways to circumvent it. The study suggested that brands should be in the place consumers are sidestepping to.

"A brand needs to see itself as not a sole operator or an isolated institution, but part of an ecosystem and on the side of the people," it said. "Share a distinctive sense of purpose, and find ways for everyone to take part in it, and to enlarge it."

Secondly, people were no longer simply consuming but were making things themselves. Brands could therefore give consumers ingredients rather than a finished article – a "minimum viable product" that people could adopt, adapt and improve.

Thirdly, consumers were seeking greater control over their time and were "rejecting noise in favour of quiet". Brands should relax and let people timetable their own interactions with them, said the report. By being more open-ended and flexible they could glean deeper insights into what consumers wanted, as well as when and how they wanted it.

"Amidst these cultural shifts, the role of brand is now to help create relationships of fair exchange, where consumers and companies meet as equals, where each contributes, where everyone gains," said Karl Heiselman, chief executive of Wolff Olins.

The "new consumer" isn't everybody, but they could be anybody, noted the study – an entrepreneurial 60-year-old in Toronto, a social networked mother in Bombay, or an urban migrant as agile and pro-active as any tech-savvy teen.

Data sourced from PR Newswire; additional content by Warc staff