Engaging the Liquid Consumer in Advertising & Design


The consumer of today is a “liquid consumer,” meaning they no longer use simply one device, website or medium. Marketers and advertisers must adapt to serve this new liquid consumer.

If Norman Rockwell were around today, he’d have to portray a rather different family scene, where we might see the family using mobile or tablet devices. Perhaps we might see one family member watching a VR film using the Google Cardboard VR viewer received from their home delivery subscription to The New York Times.

If you didn’t receive the complimentary Google Cardboard, don’t worry. The VR viewer is inexpensive, which enables marketers to experiment with VR. If you have one and download The New York Times’ award-winning VR app, you can view compelling stories from them, GE, and Mini, with more to come.

“Nature Is Inspiring Our Industrial Future” lives in the VR space, bringing a different experience to print and digital readers. “T Brand Studio and GE partnered to create a multi-faceted content suite that features our first-ever Virtual Reality film. Combined with a Paid Post, original reporting, illustration, animation and interactive elements, the experience shows how nature inspires GE’s digital industrial technology.” To see the full paid post, visit: http://nyti.ms/1Mhz6LR

[Related: Learn how to design for the contemporary consumer in Robin Landa’s book Nimble: Thinking Creatively in the Digital Age.]

Reaching a target audience with a TV commercial aired during a linear television program isn’t the best bet for reaching Gen Z—in fact, it’s the wrong bet. Gen Z and many others have migrated to small screens. Although some people are passionate about specific channels, such as Snapchat or Facebook, most will follow their passion to media channels that offer worthwhile content or cool experiences. GE’s chief marketing officer Linda Boff understands that. At the 2016 Modern Marketing Summit in New York, Boff told the audience that GE has rapidly innovated using new technologies, experimenting on new platforms with first-to-market activations.

Why is GE expending their energy in that way? In our 24/7 digital age, audiences create their own path of consumption.

When we conceive advertising now we must be experience focused and media agnostic. The idea comes first, which generates the strategy for the right media channel. We need to exploit each channel or device for its capabilities to provide a rich and rewarding user experience and find people where they spend their time.

Media is something you use, not just watch or read.

Just last July, test-driving a new car involved going to a dealership. For a limited time last August, Hyundai’s “Prime Now. Drive Now” program allowed people in Los Angeles and Orange County, California, to use Amazon to set up a 2017 Elantra test-drive appointment.

Some big brands understand just how liquid consumers are, trying to identify new audiences on new and emerging channels. To find ways to reach audiences, eBay in partnership with Deep Focus and Moment Studio built a “social incubator” engine (a finalist in the Shorty Awards), to test and learn in real-time across fourteen platforms, including StumbleUpon, We Heart It, Reddit, Snapchat, Periscope, Imgur and Flipboard.


It’s a new brand frontier dealing with the liquid consumer. Marketers, advertisers and designers must ask themselves:

  • How can the brand be empathetic to the ways users are using the platform?
  • How does the content on a channel drive conversions or conversations?
  • How do you provide value or interesting experiences for consumers and customers?
  • Can a brand, such as Coca-Cola, harness fan engagement, or your voice?

Marketing has to be predicated on its relevance to people on whatever media channel they use. Any brand experience has to be worth someone’s time. And if people are living with their mobile devices in their hands, then brands better be there, structuring multi-faceted and immersive experiences in a time-constrained world.

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