‘Britain’s Got Trends’

22-May-2012-Britains-Got-Trends OMD

‘Britain’s Got Trends’ says The Future Foundation

No, this isn’t a Simon Cowell inspired spin-off, but a deep dive into the trends that are reshaping British society in 2012, presented at The Future Foundation’s Spring Conference.

2012 is a unique year for the country.  This is true for our politics, of our national identity, the status of Britain as an international brand, the success (or not) of so many pivotal events and for the recoverability of our economy.  So, what backstage influence is all this having on the way British people live, work and consume? And what impact will this have on us in in the long-term?

In this momentous year, which we are all meant to celebrate the greatness of Great Britain, we are also expected to adhere to a number of social expectations: we are all meant to start taking more exercise as part of our personal Olympic legacy, to cut back on our guilty pleasures, to buy more British, to live more greenly; all outcomes which have proved rather hard over the years to engineer, but if adopted will change the face of Britain for years to come. So if we could fast-forward to 2022, which long-lasting trends did an action-packed 2012 create?

First up is ‘Local Preference’.  The growing interest in buying local has had a major impact on multiple markets, most significantly food and drink as the locavore movement continues to grow, driven by local markets.  However, the local movement is about more than just food and drink; it’s a seismic shift in why, where and how we consume.  But, credibility is critical. ‘Localwashing’ is threatening this space and companies will need to demonstrate they’re not just jumping on the latest bandwagon by proving that Made in Britain really means Made in Britain, and if it’s not Made in Britain, then they better make us feel like it is!!

2012 has created a new stock of nostalgia goods, a genuine long-term revival in national pride and ‘Local Preference’, further boosted by the disruptive political and economic climate in Europe.  When times are bad, we turn to the things that make us feel comfortable, confident and secure.  Just look at the most British-of-British brands: The Royal Family.   In a recent Mori poll, 80% of Britons back the monarchy.  Now, we could put this down to the fact that we’ve been given an extra couple of days off work because of them; but could it not be because we value Britishness more than ever?  In a world which is changing so fast we are increasingly valuing the things that make us who we are.  So it’s fair to say that ‘Local Preference’ is trend that seems to be thriving at the moment, so brands need to take advantage of it.

The second trend was the ‘Ageless Society’.  2012 was a year when the Government interfered with the baby-boomer generation.  Some see this as a legitimate assault on the wealth of the ‘never-had-it-so-good’ generation, essentially a fairness initiative, a levelling of the playing field for those who are no longer on the playing field.  But let’s not ignore this generation!  The decade ahead will see the over-65s edge towards 20% of the total population and this will be a tribe of relatively prosperous, techno-skilled people who will understand all too keenly that life and a so-called end to consumerism does not end at retirement.

Too few campaigns are talking to this older generation; the generation remember who have the money to spend.  Just look at the car market.  New car buyers are more likely to be young, but 12% of those looking to purchase a new car are 65+.  OK this is lower than the younger demographics, but the over 65s are willing to spend 25% more on a new car than the national average, so don’t ignore them!

Third up is ‘Environmentalism’.  This often seems to us like a trend with retractable fangs, able to bite suddenly after a long dormant period.  The Government’s carbon budgets are still designed to see carbon emissions fall by one third against 1990 levels by 2020 and to be halved in the course of the 2020s.  This represents an enormous potential change in the way we all live, work and consume and the British public will increasingly demand companies which do not take measures to protect the eco-system to be penalised.  So we may see the inclusion of more CSR campaigns on media plans from companies that have never before carried any.  This is a fantastic opportunity to create a new dialogue with the consumer, helping to grow brand equity and good-will.

The fourth and final trend is ‘The End of Inefficiency’.  Never before have consumers been so well guided towards good choices in the markets they inhabit.  But so far, the final selection of ‘mundane’ everyday purchases, have been left to the consumer’s personal discretion.  In the future we will embrace systems and services which process choice options on our behalf, whether that is an automated fridge topping up your essentials, driverless cars or your own personal program that selects and buys your financial products based on your current lifestage.  Brands must adapt to these changes as the tide of technological innovation is too powerful to hold back, but they must maintain a tangible relationship with the consumer.  According to The Future Foundation, ‘End of Inefficiency’ will give rise to the Perfectible Lifestyle.

‘The End of Inefficiencies’ practical and cultural impact on the expectations and behaviours of consumers can only grow across 2012 and beyond.  Whilst we are a long way off from embracing systems and services that process choice options on our behalf, brands must maintain a tangible relationship with the consumer and build a greater understanding of their customers through proprietary research and customer data.  Only then can brands make sure they don’t get swept away as the tide of technological innovation rolls in.

So welcome ladies and gentlemen to life in 2022 Britain: the State pension age is set to rise to 70, health care expenditure as a proportion of GDP is to set to rise by 10%, the Chinese economy is now bigger than the United States, a rail journey from Birmingham to London will soon take less time than an episode of Downton Abbey, 18% of households are on low incomes (the same as in 1998) and the Rolling Stones will be on their FINAL, FINAL, FINAL, FINAL, FINAL tour.

Welcome to the future. Welcome to Great Britain!

*This blog is a summary of the presentation, ‘Wildcards and Wonderings: A Year of Living Dangerously’, presented by The Future Foundation at their Spring Conference held on the 3rd May 2012.


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