Older is Cooler: Surprising Results from the 2017 Mindshare Culture Vulture Study

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For those of us who have aged out of the desirable 25-54 demographic, we can now take some comfort and satisfaction from the results of the latest Mindshare Culture Vulture Trends report.  According to this year’s study, we are experiencing a Boomaissance as the value of this overlooked demographic now becomes apparent.

Culture Vulture is Mindshare's global cultural trends program that sets out to identify macro and micro trends.  Now in its sixth year, it has been ascertaining consumer trends with eerie accuracy.  For example, past studies have correctly mapped out the increasingly divided nature of our society. “Over the years, two of the biggest trends we’ve tracked have been 2 Americas and Crossover Culture, both of which are still two of most impactful trends years later,” explained Alexis Fragale, Director, Consumer Insights, Mindshare NA.  

The 2017 study marked ten impactful trends that are then matched with advertiser demographic targets to help in strategy and planning.  The ten major trends are Tapped Out (too-busy lives and plateauing productivity), Boomaissance (older adults taking on a middle-aged Millennial mindset), 21st Century Success (the traditional American dream vs dreams of personal experiences), Unmasking Unicorns (parsing fake news), My World/The World (the widening gulf between personal perceptions and views of the world overall), Mind(ful) Optimization (seeking purpose and mindfulness), Land of the Giants (corporate giants dominate but niche brands fight back), The Informal Normal (more casual at work and with friends), Borecore (more and more, we’re posting and watching ‘boring’ content) and Open Lives (less privacy, more exposed lives). 

I recently met with Alexis Fragale and Jodie Huang, Manager, Insights, Mindshare NA to discuss the Culture Vulture study.

Charlene Weisler:  Please tell me about 2 Americas and Crossover Culture.

Alexis Fragale: In 2 Americas we explored how Americans' values and lifestyles have been diverging significantly over recent years -- making it harder for brands to speak to “one” homogenous country. This was clearly a huge factor in the 2016 election and we’ve seen it move beyond values and lifestyles to other areas like content preferences and our social algorithms. 2 Americas has been evidenced in our 2017 trends of My World/The World and Unmasking Unicorns.

In Crossover Culture we explored how a more connected and complex world gives opportunities and a need for crossover in art, technology, science, ideas and brands.  In a world where it’s harder to gain consumers’ trust and wallet share, more brands are finding ways to extend their brand into more areas of their consumers’ lives.  For example, take West Elm, which is set to open a hotel, and NBA teams buying eSports teams.  Crossover Culture has been evidenced in our 2017 trends Tapped Out and Land of the Giants.

Charlene:  What are the big takeaways from this year's study?

Alexis:  First, the report is a reminder on how quickly the world and culture changes. Second, there are pockets of growth opportunities that advertisers may be missing and may need to address differently than before -- for example, look at Boomers, or how to deliver against consumers’ changing definition of success.  Third, there are a lot of myths out there.  Myths about how people are feeling in America. About the types of content people want.  About consumer media behavior. That’s why you’ve always got to keep looking at the data.  Question those myths. 

Charlene:  Do you think advertisers will shift advertising dollars to the Boomer cohort and why?

Alexis:  Boomers control much of the disposable income in America and they are living longer than ever. While companies will still advertise and try to win over younger consumers (which is partly a Customer Lifetime Value play), it would be a missed opportunity to ignore or alienate such a large portion of Americans, especially one with so much spending power.  As for shifting dollars to Boomers, it depends on the nuances of both category and jobs to be done within the campaign (retain consumers, inspire trial, etc.).

Take spirits as an example: For certain brands, their stronghold of users is among Boomers (e.g. scotch), but to grow the category, they need to appeal to a (21+) Millennial audience.  They’ll need to strategize how to balance the growth opportunities while speaking to their loyalists.

Charlene:  How is the American Dream changing and how will that impact spending?

Jodie: We’ve seen a bigger push towards experiential over materialism, especially amongst Millennials. These experiences increasingly help define their lives and identities versus the things they buy.  So there is a shift in how they spend, the content they look at, and what companies they use to enable this lifestyle change.  Travel is one category that will benefit from shift to experiential spending, and the one-upmanship we’re seeing among Millennials (such as the race to be the first of your friends to travel to Cuba or planning an epic celebration vacation for your 30th birthday).

Charlene: How can we dispel myths and fake news?

Jodie:  Educating consumers on how to tell the difference between fake and real news will empower readers and put the onus on them to decide for themselves whether or not to trust the content they are reading.  Tools and content hacking devices can help make it easier to look at the source material, check facts, review credentials and speed up the process of verifying the news.

Charlene:  Give me one descriptor word for each generation.

Jodie:  Gen Z: Ephemeral, Millennials: Savvy, Gen X: Overlooked, Boomers: Idealistic

Charlene: What advice would you give advertisers today to best prepare for the future?

Alexis:  A lot of industry “futuring” work tends to be wrong, especially in highly uncertain categories. (The famous quote: “Wall Street indices predicted nine out of the last five recessions”).  The best you can do is map plausible scenarios and prepare for a small number of likely outcomes. Our Culture Vulture work throws up the trends that may underpin different category and media scenarios.  It’s important to keep a pulse on the directions the world may be heading in and what the implications are for brands. We recommend three things:

  1. Talk to consumers as frequently as possible (or ensure that your agencies do). At Mindshare, among our other ongoing surveys and research, we run monthly “consumer conversations.”  We speak to the early adopters of technologies or behaviors.  (Right now we’re chatting to folks who have Amazon Echos and Google Home.)  Look to understand the drivers and barriers of new behaviors to understand the impact to the brand today and tomorrow.
  2. Set up a committed test-and-learn program, with a funnel of hypotheses that come from consumer insights/research, and an overarching measurement strategy.
  3. Get out and experience the emerging technology and cultural spaces.  Do monthly safaris out into new format retail stores or set tasks for your organization to download and trial the newest apps.

Editor's note: Every week MediaVillage.com distributes the latest Culture Vulture videos from Mindshare. You can see them here.

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