At Vested we are passionate believers in the value of insight to fuel authentic, relevant communications. This week, consumer optimism was top of the agenda at Vested UK, as we brought together leaders in financial services communications and marketing to discuss the latest consumer trends, at our inaugural Breakfast & Brainfood* event.
Alongside a healthy breakfast, the ‘brainfood’ was delivered by the fantastic Paul Flatters from futures agency Trajectory, who lifted the lid on the reasons why we should all start every day feeling cheerful and whether fake consumer optimism is as much of a threat as fake news.
Paul kickstarted everyone’s metabolisms outlining how globalisation has impacted income growth across the world. Hard hitting stats for a Tuesday morning – while the emerging middle class in India and China saw income rise up to nearly 80% between 1997 and 2008, it flatlined in the developed world. One slide that powerfully captures our divided world: the rise of Trump and the reality of the Brexit vote.
Understanding the UK is hitting the point of a generational equipoise, when every generation from Z to the Boomers, will account for approximately the same proportion of society was a fascinating insight when we started talking to the importance of understanding and targeting different audiences. The research showed that Boomers are far more content and optimistic than their younger cohorts, a flip from traditional thinking where the young are the optimists and their elders have a more time-weary view.
Audience fragments, not segments
This is most radically demonstrated when we look at millennials’ housing prospects – the bellwether of ‘how things have changed’. According to Trajectory’s extrapolations, the so-called avocado generation’s pessimism is well founded when you understand that they will have spent an average of £53,000 on rent by the age of 30 versus the baby boomers who in real terms spent just £9,000 on rent in the same time frame. Yet, the guidance around the table was to think fragments not segments when we think about audiences and messaging, breaking down audiences by mindset and outlook alongside more traditional demographies.
Who is the messenger?
Understanding the nation’s psyche opened up a fantastic debate around the table about the most trusted channels and messengers that we can leverage. Trajectory’s research showed that the general population is largely distrustful of traditional information sources – not necessarily what any of us want to hear but, as we dug deeper, there are clear opportunities.
It was tabled that people are now more likely to believe their peers about the state of the economy, as opposed to an economist, in the same way that the once untouchable medical profession has been replaced by ‘self-taught’ Dr Google doctors. For communicators, a key validation of the rise of advocacy programmes and the use of influencers, although with clear guidance around the table that influencers need to be chosen carefully to ensure relevance and brand authenticity.
This reliance on the individual to drive trust was clearly seen in a conversation around the platforms and the value of vloggers on YouTube, where trust is placed in the person rather than the platform. Contrary to more traditional media formats, where generally trust lies at brand level.
But has traditional media changed all that much? Not really, it seems, but the scope of political ideal has expanded with the rise in polarity. The centralist Blair sentiment has certainly disappeared: leave or remain; Trump or Clinton, actively choose your side or risk being spoken for, as a certain pizza chain learned the hard way following its promotional campaign in The Sun. But what does this polarisation mean for the future of society? If individuals are only exposed to messages from groups which they’re sympathetic with, the growth of tribalism becomes a conceivable reality. And where will this end? What a latte things we have to think about.
As we came to the end of our nutritious discussion, it was concluded that amidst a world of changing consumer optimism, the communications landscape is constantly changing. New media exuberate popularity and resilience, even when faced with crises, traditional media is rife with polarisation, paid media is just as valued as earned, and we have a love-hate relationship with trusting the media. For communications professionals, or anyone working in an outward facing role, this is crucial information for future proofing strategies.
Consumer optimism and sentiment underpins everything from economics to medical advice from our peers, and professionals will do well to milk the valuable knowledge gained from this. Be ready to embrace the differences in sentiment, find the fuel that makes consumers more trusting, and deliver nourishing content for your audience’s needs. Oh, and join us for our next event – you won’t r-egg-ret it!
*The best six nutrients for brain health are B1, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc.