Ten global trends and what they mean for government, brands and business

NASA: The blue marble

This year we took stock of public opinion in depth via a 20 country study called the Ipsos Global Trends Survey. We asked over 200 questions to look at people as citizens, as men, women, consumers, parents: in every dimension of their lives – from marriage to mealtimes, from personal ambition to advertising, from society to social media. From all of this we can see the complex, sometimes contradictory, nature of human attitudes and behaviours around the world.

The ten trends featured here are designed to give a flavour for some of the themes which emerged from our vast data set and provide a basic starting point for leaders and strategists within businesses, brands and governments to build on.

The full report, the data and slides can be found at
www.ipsosglobaltrends.com

1: TECHNOLOGY

The culture of now
Attitudes to technology, and the impact it has had on behaviour, differ around the world. Emerging economies seem more accepting of the risks of sharing, compared to the more privacy-conscious west.

78% of Chinese consumers say they are constantly looking at screens, along with most people in western countries. Eric Schmidt, Chief Executive of Google, even argues that the constant interruption that characterises internet usage – which we now spend more time on than TV – is affecting our ability to think deeply.

New technology has always promoted anxiety – from the printing press to railways. There is a constant fear that mankind will create something that destroys humanity. But more immediately, as we explore elsewhere in this issue, technology will continue disrupting businesses of all sorts. For example, Britons buy more online than anyone else in the world, and our city centres will start to look different because of it.

2: PRIVACY

The Big Data debate
As Daniel Cameron explores in his article on data privacy, this is an ongoing area of flux and uncertainty. There is a massive disconnect between what people say and how they act on the subject of privacy. There is widespread anxiety, and no organisation is trusted by the majority of the British (and few other countries) to look after their data – especially after the Snowden revelations. But most consumers have done nothing to change their privacy settings. What we do find is that the more people know, the more concerned they are.

We see this as a huge area of potential conflict and dispute over the next decade as pervasive sensors in our homes (smart meters) and on our bodies (wearable devices like Up Bands) multiply the amount of information held by others, about us, exponentially.

3: TRADITION

More forwards than backwards
Individuals want to live life on their own terms and are less likely to defer to the traditions and values of the past. But tradition lives! In a world that feels like it is moving too fast, there is a pervasive nostalgia for the past – seen in attitudes to life, family and religion. All over the world, 78% say traditions matter. In Britain the monarchy is as popular now as it has ever been.

Yet what we are seeing is a global ‘pick and mix’ attitude to tradition, where we choose the parts we like and reject those, like misogyny, we don’t. Only in Russia do most men and women agree that ‘the proper place for women is at home raising children’. In Britain, 24% still hold this view, but they are mostly very old.

For brands and governments, the challenge is to offer the reassurance people want, without being stifling.

4: HEALTH

Personal and preventative
In most countries with developed health systems, people are pessimistic about how they will be maintained in future. Everywhere costs are rising rapidly, often because of prosperity. 72% want more control over their health, and the rise of much more personalised treatments and wearable devices tracking our conditions allow us to be more proactive in looking after ourselves.

At present our attitudes are well out of step with reality – people in the country with the world’s highest BMI feel satisfied with their weight (USA), and the Japanese, who are the least overweight in the G8, are more worried.

If we should take more responsibility, is it the individual or the government’s responsibility to support healthier lifestyles? Many countries are highly divided over the extent to which government should get involved in promoting healthy choices – including the UK. With pressures on budgets and medical technology evolving faster and faster, health is a key concern that is going to be debated as much as ever in 2015 and beyond.

5: SIMPLICITY

Choice about choice
One of the strongest trends to emerge is how overwhelmed consumers feel by the range of choices they face. The public across the world hanker after simplicity. Whilst they are flexible, they feel overwhelmed by choice and want to slow down the pace of life. In a rapidly changing world, how can brands and businesses respond to reassure their consumers and citizens? Is what you offer as a service as easy to use as it could be? Why so many varieties of your product? Sometimes less is more.

6: GLOBALISATION

Global village
We live in a world which generally supports trade and globalisation, but which is notably more optimistic about the future closer to home than nationally or globally. In many developed counties – especially the UK and USA – there is a desire for more devolution of power, as we have just seen in Britain. In a study for the BBC earlier this year we found that both local connections – and international ones – are growing stronger,1https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3365/UK-becoming-more-local-and-global.aspx but regional ones weaker.

How do brands and governments harness this spirit of localism within a global landscape?

7: GENERATIONS

Generations apart?
The world is divided over the future – both between young and old, and between established and emerging economies. What happens when the assumption of an automatically better future for the next generation is gone?

Our young generations are now markedly more liberal and individualistic than the post war generation, which has clung to collective institutions. In some ways class is fading as a key marker of social attitudes and is being replaced by age cohort – important for politicians and brands alike.

Marketeers, traditionally obsessed by youth, despite an ageing society, cannot make assumptions about the next generation, or that people will age in the way they have done in the past. Older people are often now more rebellious than the young.

8: INEQUALITY

Sharing success
While people around the world are keen to improve their economic positon, with nearly half feeling under pressure to ‘make money’, they say they are also opposed to economic growth at the expense of social wellbeing. One of the clearest findings is a global dislike of inequality at a time when, although overall global living standards have been rising, so has inequality. Notions of ‘fairness’ are hardwired, though they will undoubtedly be debated as much as ever.

9: TRUST

Eroding authority
People around the world have little confidence in authority, with scepticism about government and business virtually everywhere. In Italy we found only 3% who trust their government.

This can be exaggerated – while most people say they do not trust government ministers in Britain, the earliest surveys from the 1940s show this scepticism is not new. Trust in most professions has been maintained for decades. However, overall most people are now more likely to say they trust the random voices of other consumers online more than elected officials.

Demonstrating authenticity and honesty is now the key challenge, at a time when no-one will be taken for granted. Jean Giraudoux, the French author and diplomat, famously said that if you can fake sincerity you’ve got it made. Increasing scrutiny means doing so is harder than ever for politicians and brands. The genuinely authentic – in every field – will do well.

10: BRANDS

Experience is the new brand
While consumers all over the world in our study like to say they are not affected by advertising or the power of brands, evidence tells us otherwise. Yet increasingly in societies where most basic material needs are met, experiences now matter more than products. It is how products and services make us feel that matters more than mere functionality and, as we explore elsewhere in this issue, emotion matters.

In terms of criteria for judging companies, authenticity and honesty now matter more than basic quality – which is beginning to be taken for granted. Lidl is benefiting from this. Tesco, despite its sophistication, is not.

For full results, reports and slides,
go to www.ipsosglobaltrends.com

References   [ + ]