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Consumer Trends & Insight

How to Connect with Worried and Wary Consumers in 2018

US consumers are having to adjust to a changing and changeable society, and a majority are more worried about their nation's history than they've ever been; understanding their new coping mechanisms is key for brands' resonance

American consumers are worried about the future. Over two thirds (69%) believe that the political and social climate is worse today than it was before the 2016 election, according to a CEB Iconoculture State of America Survey from September, and 59% believe this is the lowest point in their nation’s history that they can remember.

As a result, part of marketers’ 2018 preparations should be to understand how US consumers across the sociopolitical spectrum are striving to preserve, conserve, protect, guard, perpetuate, and defend their personal values. Five trends below point a productive way forward for brands in 2018, across all demographic segments of the population and their political affiliations.

  1. Seeking their personal best: Consumers are setting self-imposed limits and sticking to them, and the positive personal outcomes from moderation are an unlikely source of comfort.

    Traditionally, brands have focused on the consumers who shout from the opposite ends of the spectrum (ultra healthy or fond of junk food, say) but those messages risk getting tuned out in a culture already saturated with extremes.

  2. This must be the place: Consumers’ alliances are providing safety, camaraderie and security, as well as a base of support to mobilize change.

    To establish consumer connections during these polarizing times, brands should apply geographic segmentations that are based on common lifestyle perspectives, not map coordinates.

  3. The surreal world: Consumers are searching for their bearings in society as the limits of social acceptability are blurring, stretching and shattering – whether this is online or in real life.

    Consumers have tumbled down a rabbit hole of frayed social norms, but brands shouldn’t mirror all their coping strategies.

  4. Hate lite: America’s despairing consumers cheer on brazen banter and mischievous “mic drops” for entertainment, escape, and a sense of solidarity.

    Brands often hesitate to adopt a tone that strays from their jaunty, positive home base, but consumers increasingly expect just that. Within reason.

  5. “Failbot” – AI needs to be more human: When artificial intelligence (AI) technology fails (such as an online chatbot not providing the right answer to a customer service question), consumers enjoy piling on the criticism. This is in part because of real fears about threats that AI could pose, and becuase consumers and brands are still new to the technology.

    To avoid being mocked or criticised on social media, B2C marketers should navigate their positioning and design very carefully.


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