6 customer engagement & behavioural trends for 2012

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on December 19, 2011

6 customer engagement & behavioural trends for 2012

There are six key consumer trends that will have a lasting effect on American brands and marketers in 2012 and beyond, according to a study of changing consumer attitudes and behaviour by Leo Burnett.

The study, entitled 'Human Kind 2012: The Transformation of Aspiration', has predicted the evolution of American society as we know it, deviating from the traditional 'big plan' (go to school, get good grades, get married, have kids, climb the corporate ladder) into a whole new society structure.

The society that is foreseen is one in which men stay at home, women win the bread, and nearly 40% of all children are born to a single mother. Thanks to so-called 'daily deal giants', people will increasingly refuse to pay full price for just about anything, and even some foods will be seen as 'an affordable luxury'.

"From the evolving American family to the rise of collective bargaining and the continuing decline of masculinity, the face of the American consumer has forever changed," explained Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief strategy officer for Leo Burnett. "From now on, successful brands will have to adjust to this reality and find more relevant ways to connect with new audiences and influencers, or risk losing loyal customers at an alarming rate."

The six key trends that brands and marketers must understand - and even embrace - to successfully engage with the new consumer are as follows:

  1. Sense of fairness declines, happiness inequality rises Americans as a population have traditionally been optimistic and happy. Even during the years leading up to the recession everyone was happy, regardless of social class. Since the economic downturn, that's all changed. Americans are more unhappy than ever, especially those with lower incomes. Feelings of inequality and unfairness are rampant and continue to dwindle.

    Implication for brands: This year's winning brands will be those that consistently deliver acts of fairness and behave with morality. A company that treats all customers fairly will earn Americans' trust and patronage.  

  2. The average American family is anything but! Finish school, get a job, get married, have a family. That plan still exists, but only for some. Forty percent of children are born to an unmarried mother. More couples have children out of wedlock. People define their own family situation and shape their lives according to their own needs, not their peer group.

    Implication for brands: Popular media is slow to catch up to the changing American family. 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.  

  3. Men evolve as masculinity declines The universal archetype of masculinity is over. The old rules that define a man's role in the home and office do not apply in today's world. Women are out-earning their husbands and men accept it. In fact, 77% of all men are comfortable with their wives earning more than them and 72% are okay with staying home to take care of the children.

    Implication for brands: Speak with caution when referring to traditional views of masculinity. Focus instead on shaping identities and transforming individuals, not a specific gender.  

  4. 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. Forty-seven percent of Americans say they would like restaurants to offer healthier items, but only 23% actually order those items. When given the choice between a burger or a salad, consumers see more value in the satisfaction of eating a burger than a salad, especially on a tight budget.

    Implication for brands: Regardless if you are in the food industry, think about how to satisfy consumers' desire for smaller, bite sized luxuries. A small amount of satisfaction can go a long way.  

  5. Collective bargaining is a weapon for survival Daily deal giants such as Groupon and LivingSocial have paved the way for Americans to score deals on everything and anything. People don't expect or want to pay full price ever again and collectively demand better deals and offerings in the palm of their hand, each morning.

    Implication for brands: Integrate daily deals with customer loyalty programmes. To compensate for downward pressure on margins, daily deal technology needs to segment customers that are already bargaining and offer more personalised deals to heavy users.  

  6. Social and mobile: abandon the novel, embrace the practical There will be 20 million new smartphone users in 2012. These users want to leverage social platforms and mobile in their shopping and buying repertoire, but they need mobile and social to add value, not noise.

    Implication for brands: To activate shoppers through social and mobile, marketers need to identify the problems shoppers are trying to solve and provide informed solutions. Brands that don't provide practical experiences will be ignored.

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