Since its entry into the English language sometime in the 15th century, “servile”, which comes from the Latin word for slave, has been viewed pejoratively. That all may change, at least in the marketing world. In a briefing this October, proclaimed servility to be the wave of the future for winning over consumers. By their definition, servile means “turning your brand into a lifestyle servant focused on catering to the needs, desires and whims of your customers, wherever and whenever they are.” That actually sounds pretty close to the original definition, although this time it’s the consumers who are the masters.

According to, the brands that will win in the coming years will focus on the following three points:

  1. On Demand. In urban environments, the choices can be daunting. Restaurants, transportation, shopping and culture provide endless ways to entertain, but at the same time, the sheer volume of options can be monumentally frustrating. Brands and services that allow people to exploit their cities in a way that revolves around their lifestyles are poised to rise to the top. Hopstop, for example, allows travelers to chart the best route using public transportation, while UrbanDaddy’s app allows the user to identify the best place to break-up with your soon-to-be ex at 3:30pm on a Sunday.
  2. Time Compression. Consumers have become more and more time-starved over the years. According to the Wall Street Journal, Americans left 424 million paid vacation days on the books in 2010. Brands need to recognize that their customers have less time to idly browse and are instead looking for ways that will streamline their lives and reduce their stress. A brand that recognizes this and gives consumers precious minutes back, whether from time-saving apps and services such as Fresh Direct to in-store checkout on the fly to aggregate purchasing such as the Gap has initiated for all its properties online.
  3. Equals. The time of putting brands on a pedestal is long past. While revering brands may no longer be the de facto standard, creating reciprocal respect is. Paid advertising, which previously was used to create resonance with consumers, no longer holds sway, with people’s distrust rapidly increasing. Instead, shoppers are turning to social media and online reviews to gauge a brand’s relevancy. With the increase in dialogue and transparency, companies have an opportunity to directly engage with their customers. That dialogue also levels the playing field, forcing those same companies to value each person in a manner that is respectful, authentic and germane.

The arguments raised truly have less to do with servility and more to do with a deeper understanding of the consumer psyche. Whether or not servility becomes the hot new marketing buzz word of 2013 remains to be seen, but it’s certain that companies that deliver to their customers in ways that integrate into their existing lifestyles, ease the increasing demands on their time and show a comprehension that sellers and purchasers are engaged in meaningful relationships, will be the true winners of the next decade.

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