2020 brought a wild series of events that no one expected to happen. Ever. And while we don’t know what the rest of 2021 has in store for us, we know that our society is left to grapple with the never-ending ripples from the events of 2020. It’s become commonplace for marketers to place a significant focus on new advertising trends, data, reports, and stats. As well as other industry reports to determine their course of action for marketing campaigns and other advertising investments in the coming quarters. But what’s of increasing importance, especially with the drastic changes our society is going through, is considering the cultural consumer trends that are blossoming. As well as changing the mindset of most consumer groups.
The Top US Consumer and Cultural Trends for 2021
Kate Muhl at Gartner.com ran a webinar called “The Top US Consumer and Cultural Trends for 2021” and published a document with further findings. The results are not to be ignored. Alongside the historical and *ahem* unprecedented events that took place last year and have spilled into this year, emerging customer cultural trends are a critical framework for marketers to pay attention to.
As Muhl puts it, the culture is “key to understanding the context into which all marketing efforts flow.”
Gartner’s findings revealed that consumers were trending overwhelmingly more negative. As opposed to a majority positive and/or neutral from past years. Consumers no longer feel safe. And most respondents claim that they don’t think life will return to normal within the year. One of the most significantly impacted categories for consumers was their #1 ranked value when choosing brands. The #1 spot has been held steadfastly by “loyalty” for the past few years. But has recently been replaced with “equality.” The pandemic and recent global events have not only overturned the world, but they’ve also overturned consumers’ minds, thoughts, and values. Especially when it comes to the brands they choose to purchase from.
Emerging Cultural Consumer Trends
Brands that are apt at not only understanding the current cultural climate but make moves to meet their customers where they are, are much better poised to maintain or increase their market share than brands who carry on with a “business as usual” state of mind. Cultural consumer trends can shape the market in drastic and often permanent ways. When brands offer customers value and reassurance with their messaging and products, they encourage more customer interaction and purchases than brands that seem to be concerned with their bottom line. This is regardless of the climate, the consumers are facing.
Muhl highlights six new emerging consumer trends brands should be aware of based on the results of the Gartner survey:
Home is where everything is
People have been forced to make their homes their school, their workplace, their gym, their bar, their movie theatre. And basically everything else in between! For consumers, this has driven an uptick in home reno purchases. And it has given them a different lens through which to view their current spaces. For brands, this means that their advertising framework has also changed. Greatly. Every message, product and campaign that brands are putting out should be from the perspective of a “home-first” approach and their messaging should speak to the comfort, home use, and value for the consumer.
2. Hybrid Life
Life now isn’t the same as it was in 2019. We’ve had to make drastic changes to our work, education, transportation, and lifestyles in general. This has led to an extreme migration to digital channels, online shopping, and incorporating the digital with the real-life—think ordering groceries online and contactless pickup. For brands, this meant quickly pivoting to online services, e-commerce, and messaging that encouraged safety while shopping and collecting their purchases.
3. Employees Uprising
More and more employees in the workforce are committed to incorporating their personalities into their work. By extension, this means finding an employer that aligns with their own beliefs and, consequently, calling out an employer when they feel a discrepancy. Employees are showing a higher than ever proclivity to uphold ethical standards in their workplace. As well as ensuring that business practices they are part of are copasetic with the events of the world. When employees speak out about a workplace issue, consumers are likely to listen and make purchasing changes. For brands, this makes it essential to prioritize their employees, as well as their customers, as the employees’ experience is seen as an extension of that brand—for better or for worse.
4. Amplify “Main St”
Main St is often where you’d find local and beloved institutions and shops. These places usually have established the most trust with consumers. These are run by acquaintances, friends, or even family members. In times of uncertainty, more and more consumers flock to these places to protect the local businesses that define their communities. For brands, this means highlighting their community involvement, contribution to community resources, or aspects of their products that are perhaps sourced or produced locally.
5. Side Gigs
While having a side hustle wasn’t uncommon before the pandemic, it’s now being undertaken more often to make up for the increased economic pressure. Side gigs provide extra income that can provide additional stability or available funds in a personal emergency. While brands don’t necessarily have to answer to every single facet of everyday life, it is beneficial for them to understand the underlying implications. For example, if more and more people are starting to work a side hustle, brands should assume that they need to go the extra mile to instil trust in their products and messaging. Reassuring consumers on their purchase in an economy that’s experiencing shutdowns, lockdowns, and stay-at-home orders will only benefit brands.
6. Consumption Shame
With resources becoming a bit scarcer, layoffs around the world, and temporary closures, there’s been a considerable step back from discretionary spending and a focus on considerate expenditures and savings. Again, brands who aim to build trust and value into every interaction with their client base will come out ahead of those who don’t.
According to Gartner’s research, 54% of consumers say that businesses should take the lead in solving key issues in society.
People worldwide are making major efforts to highlight and call out instances of injustice and inequality. And they want the brands they purchase from to call out the same things as well. Brands need to understand that advancing social causes, raising awareness, and furthering social justice are what customers are increasingly looking for in brands they support. Consumers are participating in a new, overreaching cultural conversation in more and more ways every day—and brands need to meet them there.
Allowing people to purchase purposefully
Emma Chiu, global director at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, shared her thoughts on this very topic:
“This year has put brands in the spotlight, as people reassess their purpose and values. The notion of what a brand represents has been steadily evolving as the younger generation push for change.
In the wake of Covid-19, 78% of US Gen Z-ers believe brands have a responsibility to help build a better normal, according to an October survey by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. The survey also found 82% of them believe brands should be about something more than profit, and 80% believe brands should help make people’s lives better.
These demands will bring about a new value system where a brand’s credibility will be measured by their ethical contributions. Thereby allowing people to purchase purposefully. The website DidTheyHelp.com launched in 2020 providing an easy scoreboard to review companies and public figures.
What will 2021 entail? Better values, ethics, flexibility and companies that are taking action to improve our lives, society and the future.”
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