Need to Believe
After years of disheartenment fuelled by economic uncertainty, political gridlock and business scandals, consumers became sceptical of institutions. But that sceptical eye has now turned to the media, to ‘experts’, and even each other. We can be presented with what looks like truth, but now it’s the credibility of that information which is important. As such, we’re withdrawing from the ambiguity of online reviews in favour of closer networks, ‘dark social’ and face to face recommendation. We’ll be turning to knowledgeable experts, or word of mouth from those closest to us - because nothing in between will do.
There are opportunities for brands that can prove themselves as authentic experts and credible sources of information we can trust.
In a testing political and societal climate, we’re seeing the need for escapism come to the fore. Whether for distraction, entertainment or complete escape, many of us are looking far beyond reality. We’re seeing dystopian novels back on best sellers’ lists, futuristic sci-fi heroines on the catwalk, and consumers seeking spirituality through crystals and astrology. Consumers are striving to both break free and withdraw from the insecurity of the everyday.
There are opportunities for brands to tap into our inherent need for hope, conjuring up opportunities for escapism, or helping us to create havens in which to retreat.
Time to Relax
In response to our lives speeding up, we’re seeing some consumers slowing things down. The rise of mindfulness has woken us up to the importance of taking time to pause, unwind and reflect. This is no longer seen as a ‘waste’ of time – rather, consumers are choosing to spend stretches of time indulging in long-form media, or to genuinely relax rather than considering the productive value of the time we spend.
As our relationship with time changes, there are opportunities for brands that can maximise the quality of slow time, encouraging consumers to ease up, kick back and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
To deal with their maxed-out lives, consumers are applying a holistic approach to physical health and emotional wellbeing. Food is a huge part of this, but it’s no longer about slavishly following restrictive diets. Consumers are looking to eat healthy, ethically and functionally while celebrating food. Similarly whilst we find joy in working hard and playing hard, virtuous pleasures and de-cluttering our minds are also becoming focal to achieving balance. Health and indulgence, today’s consumers want it all!
This is creating opportunities for brands that can deliver to this reimagined picture of health and sustainability, and prove that wellbeing and indulgence needn’t be mutually exclusive.
As humans we impulsively seek rewards, especially in stressful conditions, and 2016 saw us live for the now in the face of uncertainty. The effects of Brexit are beginning to bite, but it’s unlikely that we’ll relapse into full recessionary behaviour. A more discerning and shrewd consumer has emerged, exercised in knowing exactly where to save and where to splurge. Extravagance and quality will be just as important, perhaps more so, as we pick and choose where to invest our more limited means.
There are real opportunities for brands that can help us balance our desire to escape in feel-good purchases, with our practical need for quality and longevity. Less but better is the order of the day.
In recent years, ‘authenticity’ has become overused, clichéd and mistrusted. Faced with endless choice and cheap alternatives, consumers are looking for comfort and familiarity, seeking shortcuts to trust and quality. When we don’t know who to trust, where do we go? Back to the big, obvious, everyday brands – because branded authenticity cannot be faked.
The brand logo is once again becoming a signifier of steadiness and familiarity in an increasingly uncertain world. This environment is creating an opportunity for brands to leverage their backstory, and classic, trusted and reliable status.
In our connected lives we are exposed to a mind-dizzying number of messages, images and notifications each day. Dealing with the virtual onslaught takes up our time and is impacting our health and happiness. Whether it’s ad blocking, digital detox, or withdrawing to dark social rather than broadcasting to the masses, we’ll see more people seeking to redress the balance.
Consumers are looking at ways of fighting back and protecting themselves against the content avalanche by regaining control of their personal environments. Brands who offer something valuable will be invited into this space; attention will no longer be the priority of those who shout the loudest, but of those who can find the most meaningful connections.
Whether we’re checking emails in bed or banking in the bath, the distinction between working day and leisure time continues to blur. We’re getting lots done, but are we having enough fun? Research is increasingly saying we should be spending less time working and more time playing – play de-stresses us, it refreshes us and restores our optimism.
In stressful and uncertain times consumers are in need of a sense of release. There is growing demand for brands that are visual, playful, fun and bold, brands that help us realise our inner child. Because all work and no play is no fun.
Interest in DIY has waned, and travel agents, cleaners and meal subscription services are on the up as we start to choose life over work and money – and ultimately get better results. AI has tipped from sci-fi novelty to functional reality, working tirelessly in the background to anticipate our needs and genuinely facilitate day to day life. Similarly, seamless integration means smart homes are taking off and consumers are happily engaging with chat bots. The key, it seems, is breaking the barriers between innovation and our demand for simplicity.
We’re increasingly comfortable delegating the boring bits of life to knowledgeable experts, technology and AI. This is presenting opportunities for brands that offer utility, whilst keeping us and our data safe.
Free to be Me
Part of achievement is about being true to yourself. Consumers are liberating themselves from the restraint of conformity by tapping into new influences, reinterpreting trends, and speaking out about their opinions. Carving out your own identity is increasingly linked to status and there’s never been as much acceptance for so called ‘imperfections’. Alternative interests? There’s a group for that. Cosmetic surgery has seen a sudden drop, and weird is the new cool. It finally feels good to be happy in our own skin.
We’re seeing celebration of difference, individualism and greater self-expression - people want to be valued for being themselves, quirks and all. There are opportunities for brands that celebrate not just diversity, but individuality.
With growing recognition that experiences make us happier than things, consumers are ever more focused on living in the moment. But with so much hype building around concepts, experiences seem to have become commoditised. Suddenly everything feels overly-engineered and high-pressure. Instead, consumers are looking for a little more casual spontaneity and serendipity – encounters to stumble upon and casual environments to enjoy.
Brands should look to set a new tone; heightened yet understated experiences that fulfil our desire for pared back enjoyment.
Having positive social relationships are critical for well-being. Humans are social creatures, we feel happier just being around people. As interest in weekend drinking wanes, we’re looking to get involved in something a little more expressive or worthwhile together. Urban axe throwing, craft workshops, morning raves – collaboratively experiencing something valuable or new strengthens relationships. In the digital world, once niche interests flourish into growing tribes as consumers explore and connect over shared interests, mutual needs and common goals – which increasingly tip over into the real world.
Brands can help by providing the setting and frameworks for us to come together, to play, have fun and share something meaningful together.
Power in Numbers
People are becoming fed up with perceived inactivity from governments and frustrated at formal avenues of support. In times of uncertainty we all need reassurance, and we’ve found power in numbers - spurred on by social media, many are linking up with like-minded others. Whether marching for women’s rights or wearing safety pins to puncture post-Brexit racism, there is a real sense of people at the grassroots taking matters into their collective hands. And doing good together feels good.
Brands can be part of these chains of goodwill, if they are sincere and timely with their support.
The Social Good
Happiness and wellbeing can be derived from having meaning and purpose in life and by contributing to a greater good. Consumers today are increasingly aware of the long-term impact of their consumption habits and buying behaviours, with thought increasingly going to the origin of ingredients, locality of producers, and impact on social causes. They are now seeking out progressive companies that share their beliefs – favouring those companies who do more than behave responsibly; those who invest in the social good and value purpose above profit.
This is creating opportunities for companies with clear values that acknowledge current issues, join the conversation, and that actively do good.