Politicised Consumers: A Top Trend for Marketers in 2017

Lucie Green

  • Any tariffs or charges imposed by an exit from the European Union will simply have to swallowed by the company
  • Celebrating home-grown products could be the way to win over the consumer in 2017
  • Generation Z are a hugely politically conscious group - they consider generation, gender, feminism, ethnicity, age groups and cultural backgrounds before making decisions

UK Brands should embrace new emerging trends but provide home-grown alternatives with Brexit on the horizon.

That’s the key message in this year’s Future 100: Trends and Changes to Watch in 2017, a snapshot of the year ahead put together by J. Walter Thompson Intelligence.

Each year the US company deliver an analysis on emerging trends that span culture, tech and innovation, brands and marketing, food and drink.

But political stirrings could see predictions change.

More Educated Consumers

Lucie Greene is the Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group, the in-house futures and innovation think tank at J. Walter Thompson.

She authored the Future 100 2017 and believes that Brexit could be a real thorn in the side for established British brands.

Currently leading the research in to emerging global consumer behaviours in the United States and believes the British consumer is very similar.

“Our consumers are becoming more educated, and despite the repercussions of Brexit affecting the business owner, consumables costing more or an increase in exports etc. we don’t think that the snapshot provided by the Future 100 will change rapidly," says Greene.

As an example, one of the trends picked up in food industry is the new vegan.

"Food alternatives are becoming increasingly popular, and the beauty market is working hand-in-hand with these big companies to make sure they work on recycling waste and celebrating vegan food. Brexit will only make our consumers want our brands to focus more on making the most out of our resources,” says Greene.

For Greene, the consumer issues are at the heart of the Future 100, driving tomorrow’s today, which is an absolute antithesis to way branding used to work in years gone by.

And, she believes the UK is setting the pace when it comes to food and drink:

“In terms of food and food culture the UK is really advanced. Foodie-ism particularly is driven by millennials for whom food is not just a niche pursuit. Instagram and an experience culture are behind this huge appetite for new food, which then has to feel authentic.

"This prompts chains like Waitrose to be ahead of the curve, as the luxury supermarket has since gazumped the likes of Tesco and Asda by developing its own premier brand of 500 products, already developing a loyal following since its launch last Spring."

Trend-wise, we can expect this to only continue, something that is seen as new and niche will become more broadly accepted, think of how big coconut oil and quinoa got in 2016.

"Because people are travelling more, food becomes a primary motivator, stimulating an appetite for novelty food trends,” says Greene.

What About Brexit?

For Greene, any tariffs or charges imposed by an exit from the European Union will simply have to swallowed by the company, or they could risk losing their customers.

But there is one thing that manufactures can capitalise on.

“Socially-minded brands like Ikea recently got a design director with a new strategy. Elevating design standards and aesthetics of products by putting a social mission at the heart of it means it reaches more people. Brands will have to think differently, whether by adding a social concept on a product, thinking up an alternative or even celebrating home grown could be the way to win over the consumer,” says Greene.

Greene thinks that food culture has reached a point that you won’t necessarily see it recede, but brands might celebrate more home based produce.

“By making a talking point out of British heritage and manufacture it raises a sense of national pride that you are buying British produce, completely driven by Article 50,” says Greene.

Politicisation of the Consumer

It’s no surprise that Brexit could stimulate patriotism and self-invention, Britain after all is an island, but the rise in politicism of consumers has been unprecedented for this years Fortune 100.

Greene explains that consumers are becoming more politicised than they ever were before.

“There used to a lot of political apathy, which was not helped by a generation who watched reality TV and stuck to the same brands. But Generation Z are a hugely politically conscious group. They consider generation, gender, feminism, ethnicity, age groups and cultural backgrounds before making decisions,” says Greene.

This sense of activisim has only been spurred on by applications such as Facebook Live or Periscope, where anyone can vocalise their opinions.

“We’re seeing celebrities endorse political parties in a way that has never happened before, and brands need to take note, politics in 2017 could change the way that brands work,” says Greene.