Consumer Trends: The Polarity Paradox 27th March 2014
Are you a “flexitarian” who leads a life of meat-free restraint during weekdays – all green juices and yoga classes – only to revert to burgers, speakeasies and raving at the weekend? Or perhaps you are an adopter of the controversial 5:2 diet, which alternates between bingeing and fasting?
Join the club. According to the SS14 LS:N Global and The Future Laboratory Trend Briefing Report, which we attended in London last week, we are living and embodying “the polarity paradox”. As a result of being overworked (we only have two hours of leisure available per day, compared to six hours in the Nineties), underpaid and overwhelmed by choice and speed of information, we UK consumers are adopting an increasingly contradictory lifestyle. Moderation doesn’t cut it: we want to have it all. Whether it’s meditation, yoga raves or adventurous tourism, it seems like our happiness lies in the pleasure-versus-pain principle, so we keep chasing the thrill from one end of the spectrum to the other and craving extreme emotions: from intense anxiety to euphoria.
Our all-or-nothing lifestyle is reflected in our choice of products and how we consume them: we binge on Netflix and devour dystopian sagas like The Hunger Games, but also crave calm and cultivate mindfulness. We care about the future of the planet, but it does make us a little anxious, so we let our hair down with experiential past-times like disturbia dining and extreme marathons (participants of the endurance race Tough Mudder have more than quadrupled since its creation in 2010).
But what does this mean for brands? Given that consumers have so many options, brands can benefit from behaving as friends and enabling the consumers’ personalities. Successful products are those that cater to their needs and alleviate their demanding modus vivendi. On the other hand, brands can capitalise on the penchant for strong emotions by teasing and shocking consumers, but ultimately delighting and rewarding them at the end of the ride. Be paradoxical, but be unique: consumers are craving valid and memorable experiences above all.
While the current trend lies in polarity, it is a largely unsustainable and confusing lifestyle so eventually, we’ll crave that middle ground and circle back to moderation. In the meantime, we’ll be hitting the dance floor and back to business the next day, after a restoring IV drips infusion (already a hit with the celebrities and predicted to rise in popularity) or a refreshing green juice.
View highlights from event and look out for I-AM’s vox pop:
If you want to speak to our experts about the services we offer around creating memorable customer experiences, get in touch!