An honest account of how hobbies are leveraged by both individuals and brands alike by Anchit Chauhan, Strategy Director
Chances are that by the time you read this piece, you would’ve forgotten your New Year resolution just like me, and gotten back to your usual way of living. Multiple studies show around 50% of people keep New Year resolutions and 90% of them forget about them within the first few months.
In fact, no stats are needed to prove this to be true, just look around your own home. How many of us have DSLRs lying around, the shutters of which haven’t let in any light in years, or bicycles that have turned into rusty old cloth stands, guitars with broken strings that broke not because we played them too hard, but out of boredom, baking equipment that lies somewhere at the back of a kitchen cabinet, fitness gear that’s itself grown unfit because it never got any exercise, running shoes that never got to run more than a few miles, and books, yes books, decorating that bookshelf in every home, longing for someone to set a crease and turn a page.
I feel the thing about hobbies is that you’re most passionate about them at the time you’re making up your mind to buy the equipment required for the hobby. DSLRs in the case of photography, guitars or another instrument for music, and so on.
Post that, for most people, the passion starts wearing off and one’s interest in the hobby starts going downhill.
Why, you ask? Well here’s my hypothesis:
It’s the glamour that attracts — watching Bob Dylan strumming his guitar while switching seamlessly between blowing the harmonica and singing or watching exciting mountain biking footage from a go-pro, or an Instagram photo of a cake from one of the influencers you follow. Well, social media often tells us only the glamourous part of the story and not the hard work that goes behind the activity, the messy kitchen counters, the tired legs, the guitar fingers, and the learning curve.
The learning curve — any equipment comes with a learning curve — which of course the masters of the craft seldom talk about, they simply demonstrate their exceptional skill which inspires one to take that hobby up.
DSLRs don’t give you remarkable photos by themselves, there’s a whole lot of settings to learn about, the shutter speeds, the aperture, the lenses, the depth of field, etc. It takes hours of learning and toying around with the device. The technique required in riding your bike on inclines and trails, learning how to fix that puncture by yourself in the middle of a forest trail.
Mastering any craft takes practice, not expensive equipment. Although in today’s consumerist world, we tend to go after toys before anything else, because that’s where the thrill lies. Swiping that card, unboxing the gear, posting that photo of a passion that seems exciting for now.
Instant gratification — the covers of the book and the camera app on one’s phone get opened simultaneously, for that Insta story to be posted with the #nowreading tag and before you’re past the first page, you’ve already received the immensely gratifying and distracting likes. The hormonal high has been experienced not from the content in the book but from the notifications on your phone.
That photo of you in biking gear on your #firstride almost always gets more likes, than the subsequent posts, and as those likes start going down, so does your enthusiasm. It’s only if the gratification is dependent on the miles you ride, and not the likes you get that the passion stays intact.
The ease in moving on — thanks to that rising disposable income, it’s not so difficult to move on. The guitar makes way for a DSLR, running shoes make way for a bike, new equipment, new excitement, new content to watch about the new hobby. Google and YouTube make sure that you move on by inundating you with content related to the new thing you’ve picked up which makes you easily forget the one you left behind. This ease of switching takes away the opportunity to struggle a little bit with what we started and with it our chances of pursuing the hobby seriously. True passion ignites because of that struggle, the multiple failures before success because it helps us form a bond with the activity and the equipment.
The multiplicity in our ‘social’ personalities — no-one’s Insta bio said just one thing about them. On Social Media, it’s cooler to be the jack of many, rather than a master of one. So every new hobby and its associated set of equipment give you another passion to mention in your bio, another series of posts of unboxing and playing with the toys without us actually having to demonstrate our mastery with them. No one asks you how well you know how to play the guitar, or what ISO setting you had when you clicked that landscape photo.
So what must brands do to leverage hobbehaviour?
It’s in the interest of brands to alter hobbehaviour and enable consumers to continue with hobbies. Brands can leverage the opportunities presented, especially on the digital platform:
1. Content Opportunity — in the digital age, content is the buzz word. However for any brand aiming to create meaningful and lasting relationships with the consumer, content should break away from the shackles of product advertising.
Brands should strive to add value to the consumer by sharing knowledge, especially with consumers who have a passionate connection with the brand. Technical information to feature know-hows, to tips and tricks, content that adds value to the consumer helps strengthen their relationship with the brand.
2. Community Opportunity — sharing a photograph on one’s social media will seldom start a conversation about technique, as it will if it’s posted in a community of budding photographers and experts. Communities not only help consumers engage better with the brand but also help boost interest and passion in both the equipment and the activity.
Social platforms present a great opportunity for brands to bring together consumers from diverse cohorts and leverage their conversations to build strong bonds with the brand. Certain automotive brands like Jeep, Harley Davidson, and Royal Enfield have been championing community building.
While hobbehaviour brings new consumers into the category and helps expand it, brands must strive to retain them to further boost business and brand metrics with the help of:
Accesorization motivates them to loosen their purse strings further. Think Harley Davidson merch or Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey Tours.
Belongingness to a certain group of like-minded enthusiasts contributes to a brand’s strength in the long run.
Sharing Culture helps build social word of mouth and attracts more consumers into the community. The more passionate consumers a brand has on the social platform, the farther and wide the passion spreads.
Therefore, the year will belong to the brands that keep the interest of the consumers alive beyond January.