With a new generation of tech-obsessed consumers entering adulthood, today’s cultural landscape is changing and creating new opportunities for marketers. It’s time for a move to the Middleburbs, where we take refuge in content safe havens and brand expectations are continuously rising. The newly launched Culture Vulture Trends report from global media agency network Mindshare North America’s examines the latest consumer shifts and cultural trends forecast to grow over the next year.
Now in its seventh year, the annual report does a deep dive into behavioral trends and insights—spanning demographic shifts, media consumption, sociological insights, and much more. An overview of the top 10 trends and insights:
The Great American Crisis (?)
On average, American consumers have more disposable income today and can afford things they couldn’t in the past. But there’s an angst that pervades their outlook—59 percent say that this is the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember. And 65 percent say society grants an unfair advantage to some groups, a feeling that’s magnified by social media. With an uptick in tribalism and the country more fragmented than ever, younger generations in particular feel less connected to the nation as a whole, identifying with state and local communities instead.
With today’s seemingly endless options for content, many consumers feel paralyzed by choice. Nearly half say they sometimes spend more time trying to decide what to watch than actually watching something. Many fall back on safe bets, rewatching the same TV shows multiple times. But whatever content they choose, consumers are using it as an escape from everyday life. It’s not just a solo pursuit either as we witness an increase in collective escapism, through the rise of conventions and franchised fandom.
The great urban revival is relocating to suburbia. You can thank Millennials—or rather, Millennials settling down, shifting population growth from urban counties to suburban ones. They’re bringing city-living expectations with them; stereotypically urban establishments like pop-up shops and food halls have begun crossing over into the suburbs. And with more workplace flexibility and digital resources like Amazon and Uber, they don’t need the city to survive anymore.
Parents are spending more time than ever with their kids. But thanks to the ubiquity of screens and techy toys, it’s not always the quality time that parents yearn for. Instead, children are spending more time each day using mobile devices than reading or being read to. Parents and schools are starting to take note, trying to reduce kids’ screen time and changing standards around homework and testing too. In fact, some are pushing to evolve STEM to expand into the arts as well (meet STEAM).
Gen Nice: Coming of Age
The Great Recession and the evolution of technology have shaped Gen Nice (ages 7-22) into a different cohort, with milestones like driving, dating, and drinking getting left behind. Gen Nice’s online activities define them—but with much of their interaction happening online, they’re feeling increasingly isolated in the real world. Combined with academic and economic pressures, it’s leading to higher rates of anxiety. Despite this, Gen Nice is one of the most empathetic generations yet, and they’re optimistic about their place in the world and what they’ll bring to it.
Look at any category from retail to food to travel, and you’ll see two extremes in action, with efficiency at one end of the spectrum and immersion at the other. It’s a response to two vastly different consumer needs. On the one hand, brands and retailers are streamlining shopping experiences for consumers, from line-skipping to “express stores” and more. On the other, instead of just faster and easier, some retailers are indulging consumers by adding lifestyle elements to encourage immersive experiences and longer store visits.
Today consumers are comparing all brands to a select few disruptors, raising the overall bar. Fifty two percent say that they have higher expectations for brands now than they did in the past, and today, the number one expectation for brands is “to make my life easier.” Those expectations are spurring everything from same-day delivery, to flexible hotel check-outs to an app that negotiates consumers’ bills. Media is responding to changing expectations as well—for example, HBO’s interactive show Mosaic lets viewers choose the sequence in which the story unfolds, among other things.
Return to Long-Term
For the past few years, companies have been trading long-term success for short-term gains. But this short-term outlook has inhibited innovation and economic growth. More companies are staying private (the number of U.S. publicly traded companies has dropped by almost 50 percent since the 1990s) and startups are taking longer to IPO. Today, longevity is making a comeback. For example, venture capitalists are backing a new model called the Long-Term Stock Exchange that operates using “tenure voting,” where shareholders who’ve had their stocks for longer get more votes.
Rise of the Asian Economy
Asian Americans make up 6 percent of the U.S. population, but they’re the fastest-growing multicultural segment, expected to rise to 14 percent within the next five decades. This often-overlooked group represents a huge untapped market waiting to be recognized, with the highest incomes and education levels, the fastest-growing home-ownership in the U.S., and some of the highest spending in categories like makeup, apparel, and restaurants. Asian Americans are seeing a growing impact on entertainment and politics, bringing unique stories and perspectives into the mainstream.
Shiny New Objects
As new technology develops at rapid rates, it’s easy to be fascinated by the latest devices. But brands must embrace tech trends carefully—or risk losing big. Survivorship Bias gives us a tendency to focus on success stories while forgetting failures, but even highly successful companies like Google and Apple have introduced failed products. As we enter a period of fad fatigue, brands are starting to become more cautious in their marketing strategies.
Culture Vulture is Mindshare’s global cultural trends program that sets out to identify macro and micro trends that impact the marketing and communications strategies of the agency’s clients. The North American version utilizes a Mindshare proprietary survey, Mindshare’s proprietary network of leading edge consumers in cities across North America, and third party resources (including government data, syndicated sources and behavioral data).
For more consumer trends and insights throughout the year, check out Mindshare NA’s accompanying Culture Vulture video series.
Mindshare NA, part of WPP, uses a proprietary research approach for Culture Vulture in addition to third party resources (such as government data and behavioral research). The proprietary research includes a survey of 2,000 North American consumers.