Taboos, Resilience and Activism: defining the post-2020 UK consumer

In our latest proprietary study, we identified 14 consumer trends; this is new and visible consumer behaviour, through qualitative exploration with our Illume Network of leading-edge consumers. Quantifying these trends with 1000 consumers in the UK (as well as 14,000 consumers around the world), we measured consumers’ attitudes towards the trends as well as how they are acting upon each trend when buying brands. By adding this final quant later to our approach, we’re able to report trend scores and a global trend mapping.

What is apparent from this mapping is the different pattern in the UK compared to globally. UK consumers are more fragmented in their attitudes towards the 14 trends, but are more contracted in their behaviour. In an effort to define the post-2020 consumer in the UK, we’ve identified three key trends to compare and contrast against the global data.

Disentangling Taboos

This trend recognises that consumers are seeking knowledge and understanding of topics deemed uncomfortable taboos; examples are poverty, disability and menopause. With a global trend score of 59%, ‘Disentangling Taboos’ is the one trend in the UK where we see a positive over-indexing, with a local trend score of 62%. Whilst it is currently a nascent trend, it is likely to gain momentum in the market.

Brands can play an important role by identifying, educating and uplifting social stigmas. Real-life storytelling and visually raw campaigns will help actively challenge societal norms and the status quo. We already see brands successfully tapping into ‘Disentangling Taboos’.

In the personal care sector, Bodyform launched their ‘Wombstories’ campaign in 2020. It looks at topics traditionally considered taboo, such as IVF treatment, menopause symptoms and first periods, shining a light on these difficult conversations in an attempt to destigmatise women’s health issues. In media and entertainment, LADbible continued to build on their successful ‘UOKM8?’ campaign, partnering with Samaritans. They wish to encourage their audience of 18-to-34-year-old men to check in with their friends during lockdown; their aim is to normalise mental health issues amongst this group.

Designing for Resilience

Needless to say, resilient environments are more important than ever to make consumers feel protected against outside forces, and to build resilient mindsets against future worries. This is encapsulated by the ‘Designing for Resilience’ trend; it is currently the top-scoring trend in the UK at 77%. This is however slightly lower than the global trend score of 81%.

Brands can tap into this trend by helping consumers feel safe and secure with new innovations, designs and systems that address future-focused needs, including mental health, hygiene and urban pollution. In 2020, we saw the ‘Designing for Resilience’ trend play out across many sectors.

In retail, the cosmetics and beauty brand Lush launched an in-store campaign encouraging passers-by to wash their hands for free with Lush soaps; there was no obligation to purchase, to foster a sense of community during the pandemic. Sports and leisure brings Everton Football Club, that submitted planning applications for the redevelopment of Goodison Park into a community-focused legacy project. Within the development, a number of community assets were apparent; this included mental-health facilities, a youth enterprise zone, affordable housing and green space.

Unapologetic Activism

Unapologetic Activism

The trend ‘Unapologetic Activism’ has emerged because consumers have been exposed to visible systemic injustices; this is causing a spark to act and drive social reform. This trend has a score of 74% in the UK compared to 72% globally; that implies that UK consumers score slightly higher in attitude and behaviour when relating to ‘Unapologetic Activism’ than the global consumer base as a whole.

This trend creates opportunities for brands that can positively impact a cause and call out deep-rooted discrimination in society. Authentically calling out relevant issues specific to local markets is key for success. Many brands in the UK are already doing so.

In the food and drinks space, Cadbury have partnered with Age UK for their ‘Donate Your Words’ campaign, to highlight the loneliness crisis amongst the elderly. As part of the campaign, Cadbury removed the words from their iconic Dairy Milk packaging; they also donated 30p from every Dairy Milk sold to Age UK, and raised awareness of the issue through emotive advertising. In the finance sector, Santander launched its ‘Women Business Leaders programme, a mentoring programme with female business leaders, in recognition of the gender imbalance in businesses in the UK. Finally, in the beauty sphere, SpaceNK reacted to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement by pledging to only stock brands that offer products with an inclusive range of skin tones, ensuring that all SpaceNK customers have their needs met.

Find out more

This is just the tip of the iceberg of how we can define the post-2020 consumer in the UK. More data and insights are available, including sector and age group analyses. Get in touch to deep dive further into the local UK data or download the full global report here.

2021 Culture + Trends report

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