New Tools for Understanding Lifestyles in Emerging Economies

As more organizations try to address potential opportunity in the BOP and tiers just above, many are running up against a major obstacle: understanding the lives, needs and evolution of the people who live within these economic tiers and cultures in a way that isn't just a two-dimensional set of base assumptions. Some take the easy but faulty route of just making up some cardboard cut-out descriptions of the poor, applying some basic insights taken from Prahalad or elsewhere, and rush off to reset pricing and packaging to address an income level, not a person, and then consider their work done.
Others take a more traditional approach, creating standard segmentation models based on income, other demographic data and possibly some current consumption habits. Given the targets of this segmentation—consumers whose behaviors and needs are changing as their economic, social and technological worlds evolve quickly in the modern era—are living in more connected, dynamic and globalized contexts, basic segmentation models may tell you something about where they are, but not where they are headed in the near future. They also ignore or give very sparse attention to the myriad external trends that shape these wants, needs and capabilities—the very factors driving change. 


Given new tools we've developed, we may be able to do is develop a more detailed picture of their context, consider the external factors shaping them and this context, gain insight into internal drivers, and better understand these new lifestyle archetypes our work and observations tells us are taking shape now. We've used such a tool in the past to map emerging lifestyles both at the high end (what we used to call early adopters, but who now show up all along the "use" spectrum), and among different kinds of innovators at the lower end of the economic spectrum. What it uncovered was eye-opening, showing us where new and quite unpredictable lifestyle areas are emerging, pointing us toward new product and service concepts that presume certain levels of change will take place, allowing us to do more future-forward new product ideation. 


We are interested in pointing these tools toward emerging economies to develop maps of emerging lifestyles that take us beyond the cardboard BoP personas or snapshot segmentations. Our observations, research and insights gathered to date tells us we are looking at w whole new set of technology-influenced lifestyles and contexts—across Asia to Africa and Latin America, and in particular in the "grey area" markets between the BoP and developed markets where change is happening fastest now. We can see it already from the street and media, but bigger steps need to be taken to put flesh on the frame of hypothesis.


If you are interested in joining us to launch this exploration, drop us a line, let us know and we can tell you more about it. Ultimately, we'd love to build a world map of these future lifestyles to see the global patterns and local differences more clearly. We are open to pilot markets where we can deploy and tune the toolset—using both primary and secondary insights—while looking to a larger exercise down the road.