It’s that time of year again!
Yes, we’re all busy getting ready for Santa’s arrival on the 25th, but also, as we come to the end of a busy year at MCCP, we had spent time reflecting on our year’s strategizing for some of Ireland’s leading brands. This is based on our expertise having spoken to thousands of consumers in our qualitative and quantitative research, some themes really stood out to us.
2023 saw Ireland, like the rest of the world, continue to face several challenges. Although, Inflation has been trending downward, prices are still much higher than before the pandemic. Housing is still a major issue, with big implications on our younger population. There’s uncertainty around sustainability, the economy, and a growing sense political and social polarisation in society.
All these things take a toll. People are fatigued, mentally, physically, and emotionally, and this in turn is influencing their behaviour. In a challenging and continually evolving context the importance of getting out amongst the public and really listening to people cannot be overstated. At MCCP we strongly believe it is only by truly understanding people’s needs, wants and motivations that brands can drive relevance.
Below are some of the insights we observed across this year, that we feel will continue to have strong relevance for people and brands in 2024.
1. YOUNG PEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO SOCIALISE
Ireland is the loneliest country in Europe, according to a report published during the summer of 2023 by the European parliament which found that more than 20% of Irish people feel lonely. We see evidence of this all year, in our own research across all generations. The pandemic simultaneously robbed people of face-to-face contact, while driving increased use of digital devices. The impacts are particularly pronounced in young adults, with many reporting to us across the year that they lack confidence, and knowledge to socialise and speak with people outside their immediate friend group.
SO WHAT? This unmet need for connection will continue to be a powerful driver. If your brand has the stretch to frame itself as a provider, facilitator, or enabler of connection, you will resonate strongly with people, particularly the younger generations.
2. CRAVING BELONGING
Young adults are romanticising and leaning into traditional Irish culture as a remedy for the challenging context they now face. They are seeking Irish brands that are perceived as being strongly intertwined with Irish culture which helps them to create a sense of belonging. This trend expands beyond consumption and is even reflected in the arts and music with brands like The Scratch (reviving traditional Irish music, but with a modern twist) often coming up in our research. Since September, we have also heard from Gen-Z participants that were at Electric Picnic about the sense of coming together experienced during the Wolfe Tonnes set at the festival.
SO WHAT? Heritage has become a shortcut for belonging. If you are trying to connect with younger audiences for your brands, create an environment where you can bring people together to connect and feel part of.
3. HELP PEOPLE OVERCOME UNCERTAINTY AND COMPLEXITY
Not only has the world grown more uncertain, but it has also grown more complex. Daily, people now must deal with swathes of information regardless of whether the topic is trivial or not. This creates an environment where the risk of misinterpreting or misunderstanding your value proposition is heightened.
SO WHAT? Framing has the power to reduce ambiguity, and help people connect with not only your tangible benefits but your intangible benefits as well. Spend time understanding how you can frame what you do for your consumers based on their emotional needs and crises. Framing will be key to drive distinction against your competitive set.
4. EFFICIENCY BEATS ETHICS
The cost-of-living crisis has broken the sense of public collectivism that the pandemic generated. Driven by financial uncertainty and self-preservation, collective issues like sustainability have fallen down the list of priorities for many, as a new sense of individualism takes sweeps across society. One of the clearest examples of this from our work, is on sustainability. Often in research when we raise the issue of sustainability we are met with the response “It’s important but what I do, won’t make a difference, and it won’t affect me”.
SO WHAT? While uncertainty – economically, politically, and socially – persists, peoples’ motivations will be to protect and maintain their immediate lifestyle. Products and communications that speak to more immediate and tangible benefits will resonate strongly and drive broad appeal.
GEN- Z , GEN-PRAGMATIC
We are always told that Gen-Z are the activist generation, deeply engaged with the social and environmental issues close to them, yet our research has revealed that’s not always the case particularly around sustainability, where they take a more pragmatic approach. Our work across the year found this generation drive because it is more convenient than public transport, they sometimes shop fast fashion because they are priced out of sustainable alternatives and they moderate their alcohol consumption because of price, not for health reasons. They typify the pragmatic and often contradictory approach many take, where one’s actions don’t necessarily align with their values.
SO WHAT? Make it easy to be good! This generation want to be sustainable and help fight climate change but feel they cannot. Brands that can make ‘being good’ easy for this group will win them over.
6. STOPPING THE CLOCK
Aging is the next big challenge for the health and wellbeing to conquer. Up until now ‘aging’ has mainly been addressed through cosmetics, but post-pandemic a more health-conscious population are looking at different ways and means to help stop the clock and beat time.
SO WHAT? Tackling aging is now not just about what you put on your body, but what you put into it! There is a clear role and opportunity in this space for the food and drinks industry, be that through NPD or Communications.
7. BROADENING TASTE: CONTINENTAL IRELAND
Despite being an Island on the western most edge of Europe – Irish people strongly identify as being European! Research carried out in July 2023, by European Movement Ireland found 88% of the public supported staying in the EU. Our affinity with Europe and continental culture has also had an impact on our tastebuds – in our work we’ve found people are seeking to discover new and interesting flavour combinations as well as looking for traditional flavour pairings to be elevated. Gone are the days of plain old ‘Salt and vinegar’ crisps, now it’s ‘Sea salt and malt vinegar’. It’s not tomato ketchup anymore, its Tomato relish! Our tastes are broadening, and in many ways becoming more premium.
SO WHAT? Food and drink brands need to work hard across all touchpoints to build a sense of discovery and excitement around their drinking/eating experience. This insight also plays a key role in NPD.
8. UNDERSTAND THE FEW TO SWAY THE MANY
People, in particular young adults, are rejecting the mainstream. The fragmentation of culture, driven by digital devices, are exposing people to a whole world of subcultures and communities. People are finding their tribes which in turn is shaping their views and motivations and identity. Making large mass audiences increasingly hard to appeal to!
SO WHAT? One size fits all approaches are finished. In a world where there is now, no singular source of relevance, brands need to find ways to meaningfully embed themselves into multiple niche communities – stitching these together to create larger audiences.
9. REVERSE TEMPORAL DISCOUNTING
In recent years, with the rise of behavioural economics, marketers and social scientist have spoken at length about temporal discounting: the phenomenon whereby people place more value on the present than the future – such as people delaying starting a pension as it feels like a too far in the future. However, we’re seeing more and more in our research that challenges like the housing crisis in Ireland are reversing this with younger adults fixating on the future, often at the expense of enjoying the present.
SO WHAT? Pressure to conform and achieve what is perceived as being successful, is driving young adults to always be striving – this can lead to an increased sense of increased pressure, anxiety, and stress. There is a big opportunity for brands to help pull people back to the present helping them to find joy in everyday moments.
We have plenty more on these themes as well as more insights across all consumer cohorts, please reach out to us at email@example.com to hear more about our ongoing insight research so that you can stay ahead of your competitors, we would love to discuss these more over a cuppa!