Chameleon Consumers: How Small Businesses Can Capitalise on Constant Change

By Jim James, Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.

Surviving massive disruption demands adaptation. As consumer preferences shape-shift across digital and socioeconomic change, Michael Solomon, author of The New Chameleons, and a Professor of Marketing at the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University, spotlights strategies separate struggling enterprises from surviving startups.

Who Are The Chameleons?

Remember chameleons, lizards camouflaging through colour-changing confusion? Solomon applies this metaphor to today’s identity-hopping consumers identified previously through static segmentation. But mass-marketing homogeneity fails reflecting fluctuating postmodern diversity.

By quickly cycling contexts and appearances, modern "chameleons" escape behavioural cages once constraining choice. Nimbly navigating niches renders them moving targets for marketing moguls. However, small businesses sport suited strengths sized for succeeding amidst such flux.

Slaying Sacred Cows

Textbooks traditionally trumpeted targeting broad homogeneous groups by demographics as efficient, ignoring intergroup diversity. Implementing mass media facilitated this shotgun spray strategy.

But one-size-fits-all assumptions collapse once groups fragment across atomised digital networks. Meanwhile, "narrowcasting" consumer data enables individually addressing purchasers within chaotic churn. Marketers marching to past paradigms find positioning outpaced.

These shifts sink giants slow-steering bulky bureaucracies, outpaced turning tactical titanic ships. Yet startups swiftly surf fresh opportunities across fragmented channels. Their smallness renders them innately agile.

Secrets of the Surfers

Startups should pivot to perceiving consumers as collaborators, not captives. Engage enthusiasts actively perfecting products, don’t just harvest hapless hostages held hostage by habit or apathy. Build believers, not just buyers.

Solomon suggests scrutinising successes through user eyes. Temptations to tick checklist boxes finishing sales short-changes subsequent satisfaction and referrals fertilising future deals. Instead, probe passions powering fervent fans. Replicate the elements sparking that spark at scale.

Beware brand stories growing stale through complacency. Inspirations attract early adopters, but lean into feedback fuelling refinements retaining relevance. Let customer insights drive ongoing evolution.

Advantages of the Underdog

Entrenched icons occupy enviable pedestals...for now. Big brand ubiquity breeds boredom spawning disloyalty. Their strengths become weaknesses where scale stops sedution and slows adaptation.

Meanwhile, hungry startups quickly capitalise emerging opportunities. What massive ships find hard turning, small sailors zigzag toward, tacking tenaciously against towering waves. Through focus, passion and perseverance, they often reach the far shore first.

So take heart. The waves seem overwhelmingly stacked towards establishments excelling across decades. But by understanding audiences, innovating intuitively and communicating authentically, scrappy individuals still regularly beat behemoths.

Just ensure your customer commitments outlast fickle fads. Demand drives the market, not suppliers. The choosy chameleons pick platforms fulfilling their needs, not polite products passively waiting turns. Serve their interests and tastes today and your ship may stay sufficiently afloat.


Marketing is evolving quicker than ever. But properly prepared startups can outsmart lumbering legacy institutions. Seize on the new chameleons across this sea change. Thriving future fortunes await those recognising these reptiles require not just understanding but constant responsiveness. Begin that journey today!

Michael Solomon
Michael Solomon
Keynote Speaker