Leo Burnett’s Evolving American Consumer
Unwed mothers, stay-at-home dads and daily deal fever are among the trends that are forever changing the face of the American consumer, according to a new study from Leo Burnett Chicago.
The study, “HumanKind 2012: The Transformation of Aspiration,” underscores the ways American society is deviating from the “Big Plan” of going to school, getting married, having kids and climbing the corporate ladder.
The study identified six key consumer trends bound to have a lasting effect on American brands and marketers in 2012 and beyond:
Sense of fairness declines, happiness inequality rises: Since the downturn, Americans have lost their optimism, especially those with lower incomes. Feelings of inequality and unfairness are rampant. For brands, the winners “will be those that consistently deliver acts of fairness and behave with morality,” Burnett said.
The average American family is anything but: Forty percent of kids are born to an unmarried mother. People are defining their own family situation according to their own needs, not their peer group. For brands, “Diverse images of family ring true with consumers and can be a great way to show how your brand fits in to today’s reality.”
Men evolve as masculinity declines: Women are out-earning their husbands. Men are okay with it and and comfortable as stay-at-home dads. Burnett urges brands to “speak with caution when referring to traditional views of masculinity. Focus instead on shaping identities and transforming individuals, not a specific gender.”
Healthy is in the eye of the beholder: Despite the rising obesity crisis, “food remains an affordable luxury — a way to treat oneself when being forced to cut back in other ways.” For example, Americans regularly request healthier food options at restaurants but more rarely order them. The lesson for food and non-food brands is “think about how to satisfy consumers’ desire for smaller, bite sized luxuries.”
Collective bargaining is a weapon of survival: Daily deal giants such as Groupon and LivingSocial are encouraging Americans to “collectively demand better deals and offerings in the palm of their hand, each morning” and never expect to pay full price on anything. Burnett said brands should integrate daily deals with customer loyalty programs. The agency elaborated, “To compensate for downward pressure on margins, daily deal technology needs to segment customers that are already bargaining and offer more personalized deals to heavy users.”
Social/mobile technology: With 20 million new smartphone users in 2012, consumers will look to leverage social platforms and mobile with search to “add value, not noise.” To activate shoppers through social and mobile, brands “need to identify the problems shoppers are trying to solve and provide informed solutions.”
- Leo Burnett Unveils the Transformation of Aspiration: A Forecast of Human Behavioral Trends in 2012 – Leo Burnett Company
- HumanKind 2012: The Transformation of Aspiration” video – Leo Burnett
Discussion questions: What do you think are the most logical predictions of consumer trends identified in Leo Burnett’s study? Which are the most far-fetched? Which one is being most overlooked by brands? Are there any obvious consumer trend drivers missing?