the egg+ snowflake zeitgeist

two global consumer trends shaping lifestyle, travel and technology

YouTube video of Egg + Snowflake speech.

In August, 2010 I delivered the keynote speech at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA)/Airline Experience Association (APEX) trade show, the largest annual gathering of international airlines, electronics, technology and media companies. My address discussed two consumer trends shaping lifestyle, travel and technology. You can watch my 40-minute speech (in 3 parts) on YouTube here.

design = culture

As a trend-watcher I look for cultural cues in design because design mirrors culture. For example, I’ve noticed that there are two distinctive movements dominating design today; one is a soft, curved, rounded egg-like, exemplified by the iPod. The other is an angular, geometric, faceted look illustrated by the Nokia Prism phone.  These two design represent a visual language that is reflecting two distinctive types of human behavior.

Example of Egg & Snowflake paradox: relaxation drinks vs. energy drinks.

Whenever there is a trend there is also a counter trend, like these two divergent design styles. The pendulum swings both directions concurrently: fit vs. fat, modern vs. retro, local vs. global, fast food vs. slow food, and so on. To that end, globally across all cultures I’m seeing two types of consumer “personas” emerge, mirroring these two design approaches; consumers are taking on two distinct paradoxical sets of behaviors broadly classified as “egg-like” and “snowflake-like.”

“Eggs” and “Snowflakes” are metaphors (like the “Fox” and Hedgehog” metaphors), which can be used as a short-hand when you talk about consumer behavior. The intuitive characteristics of eggs and snowflakes will help you remember their traits, of which there are five key points of difference (the “5Cs” of consumer behavior): Competitiveness, Change, Connectivity, Consciousness and Control.

eggs vs. snowflakes

Example of Egg & Snowflake paradox: brands with subtracted-value vs. added-value options.

Eggs and Snowflakes have some commonalities. They are white, organic, symbolizing purity and perfection, delicate, transformative, sensitive to their environments with clear nuclei. They share some common ground which is why consumers oscillate between being Eggs and Snowflakes. Consumers are capricious, with unpredictable attitudes and behaviors. They have multiple personas throughout the day. So their behavior, the brand they seek, the types of experiences they desire and their use of technology shifts depending on which mode – dare I say mood – they are in at the time: Egg or Snowflake?

meet:  eggs

  • In terms of competitiveness, Egg are in a non-competitive mode. Retreating. They’re seeking comfort, nurture and protection. The opposite of competitive alertness, they are on “pause”.  For Eggs, being in an airplane can be a sanctuary.
  • When it comes to connectivity, Eggs are not connected to the outside world. They’re disconnected. They’re focused on living in the moment or focused on their inner voice and what’s going on in their heads. Eggs are the passengers wearing “noise cancellation” headphones. They’re content listening to music on their iPod or snuggling up with an iPad, browsing the web. They may be engrossed in their Kindle or writing on their laptop. Eggs keep to themselves, focused on “me”, not “we.” They are not have conversations with fellow passengers.
  • An Egg’s approach to change and time is summed up as “incubating”: slow growth, slow adaptation, slow everything…from slow food to slow travel. Eggs aren’t stagnant or asleep, they’re just transforming at a slow pace. For this reason, Eggs might be learning a language or watching an educational video about their destination.
  • The Egg state of consciousness is Zen, paired down, chaste, pure and simple. Eggs are savoring their experiences. Eggs seek sensory sanctuary: where sensory stimulation is about quality, not quantity. Eggs are often found simply gazing out of the window… for hours. Eggs like the feel and smell of paper in-flight magazines and brochures.
  • With respect to control, Eggs are highly controlled. They are stationary, still, stable, grounded and nested. They are deliberate, considered and responsible. They seek the familiar and routines. They like to know where they are. Eggs are into checking the In-flight Map and flight info.

meet:  snowflakes

  • In terms of competitiveness, Snowflakes are outward facing, public, open, expressive. They’re energized and active. They’re talking to passengers and complaining to flight attendants. They’re competing with other passengers playing Trivia Pursuit and Poker games.
  • When it comes to connectivity, Snowflakes have multiple nodes for networking. They’re about “we” and community. They’re collaborating and sharing in groups… like flakes in a snowstorm. They are likely to share music and videos with their neighbor on an iLUV device. They’re the passengers who are texting on the tarmac, calling or texting seat-to-seat or updating their Facebook, blogs and Twitter accounts via WiFi.
  • A Snowflake’s approach to change and time is summed up as explosive growth. They welcome change, are even catalysts for change, and transition quickly between tasks. They’re listening to music while playing GameBoy. They expect movies, TV, music, games and their food/drink ordering on-demand.
  • The Snowflake state of consciousness is highly alert and tuned-in. As Snowflakes are complex, with many fractal parts, they seek multi-sensory, heightened-sensory, thrilling experiences. Snowflakes are wearing “sound amplification” headphones or sporting iGoggles. They can’t wait for 3D movies. They’re mindset is “distract me until I get there” and “do anything to make me forget I where I am.”
  • With respect to control, Snowflakes are open to drifting, surrendering control to serendipity. They’re into novelty, dynamism and adventure. Exploration is the Snowflake state-of-mind. They’re the passengers that raise their hand to be bumped to the next flight for a coupon and are open to move their seats. Snowflakes will be fine with the new face-to-face Airbus seating.

squealing between eggs and snowflakes

Brands cater to both Eggs & Snowflakes with UNnovative and INnovative products.

Consumers oscillate (squeal) between these two frames of mind. Marketing needs to appreciate the value of mood-states and worry less about specific consumer segments. As consumers become more complex, brands and businesses ought to worry less about target audiences and concentrate more on finding a mood, feeling or emotion that may be relevant to different states rather than different people. This also suggests that marketers can mine emotional states in order to create brands and communication ideas.

Where there’s a trend there’s a technology. Trends and technology are synergistic. Emerging technologies follow, mirror, fuel and enable behavior.  So, technology has spawned a culture of Eggs and Snowflakes, and Eggs and Snowflakes use technology in different ways. A critical difference between Eggs and Snowflakes is their attitude to technology and entertainment. One way to think about them and remember them is that Eggs are more “analog” while Snowflakes are “digital.”

So, how can your business or brand cater to Eggs and Snowflakes?

YouTube: Egg + Snowflake presentation – part 1

YouTube: Egg + Snowflake presentation – part 2

YouTube: Egg + Snowflake presentation – part 3


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