Transactional business is over; brands must connect heart and soul. Today’s new consumer is more informed, more independent, more curious and more conversational than ever before. They want to be talked with — not talked to. It is about “share of heart,” not just “share of wallet.”

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These were key takeaways from the New General Market Forum, co-hosted by Drug Store News and Mack Elevation Forum, in April. The program, now in its second year, once again brought together executives from a number of purposeful companies — including Beiersdorf, Conair, Edgewell Personal Care, Hello Products, Henkel, Hyland’s, Kao, Lornamead, Mentholatum, Milani/Jordana, Paris Presents, Sundial Brands, Unilever and Vogue International — whose brands emotionally connect with today’s new consumer, building community and advocacy with their diverse consumer bases. Seeking a blueprint to better serve today’s key consumers, the group was joined by retail executives Jody Pinson, VP beauty merchandising at Walmart; Holly Schmidt, senior DMM beauty at Walgreens; and Chris Skyers, VP health and beauty care at Wakefern Foods, each of whom shared their vision for connecting with today’s New General Market.

Over the course of the multifaceted discussion, the group identified nine best practices for building connectedness and intimacy with the New General Market:

  1. Share of heart: The best brands build covenantal, inclusive relationships with their tribes, allowing their customers to develop loyalty and emotional investment;
  2. Values matter: The best brands tear down the walls of consumer segmentation by skin color and ethnic group, and look through the lens of deeper aspirations, values, shared need states and emotional benefits;
  3. Growth mind-set: The growth mind-set is a catalyst for cultural change and brand growth, and it is developed when brands are constantly in a state of improvement, refinement and addition. Only then can they address broader cultural needs through tailored products and experiences;
  4. Candor: Companies that play it loose with the facts or cover up the truth create trust issues. The most trusted brands — and companies — are honest about failure: They actively listen to the needs of their consumer. Engaging honestly with online reviews or personal complaints shows that the brand cares, and it shows the human aspects of the brand — for good or bad;
  5. Co-creation: Brands that listen deeply to their top customers, enlisting them to help design the next generation of innovation, are very special. Organizations that embrace co-creation are more aware of the customers’ changing needs, and give voice to their league of followers, encouraging loyalty;
  6. Community: A strong community allows brands to ask consumers what they need and how they feel, creates engagement and builds relationships. Communities gather around shared ideals; they are not just interested in brand attributes, but what the brand stands for;
  7. Influencers: Committed brand advocates are the best brand influencers. It’s essential to create engaging content that incites action — shareability — with your enthusiasts. They are looking for original ideas, relationships and connections that add value to their lives and their relationships;
  8. The story: Great brands tell stories about their causes that leave an imprint. Original brands stand for something unique and special, and consumers are compelled to share the brand’s story with friends and family; and
  9. Purpose: The new consumer doesn’t buy a brand; they join it. Brands must uncover their true identity, one that aligns with a higher calling and one that is resounding. The New General Market consumer is searching for brands that are original — brands that stand for something and brands that stand with others. Brands can’t create authenticity; they must walk in it. It is not created — it is revealed.

In this special report, Drug Store News highlights key discussion from the April 6 New General Market Forum, and examines the best practices a host of leading brands are implementing, not only to elevate their business, but to help win the hearts and minds of the New General Market consumer.