New study from Wunderman Thompson UK reveals a change from valuables to values

• More than half of the UK (56%) value ‘togetherness’ more • A third value material possessions less and 20% put less value on personal appearance • 52% want to see brands treating employees fairly and 47% want to see them focusing more on sanitation and hygiene

A new study, conducted by creative, data and technology agency Wunderman Thompson UK, shows a shift in consumer values as a result of the coronavirus crisis. 

What has long been a macro trend from valuing material goods to rewarding experiences[1] has sped up, as a third of respondents say they value material possessions less vs. before the lockdown and 20% of people place less value on self-image.

Whilst the value of material possessions and concern with self-image are in decline, people have an increased appreciation of the people and world around them. 56% of respondents say they value ‘togetherness’ more and 38% state they want to use the opportunity to have a positive impact on society.

Values are experienced on a deeper level than thoughts and feelings, which tend to be more fleeting. A shift in consumer values can therefore indicate a long-term impact on purchasing decisions. In addition, there is increasing evidence that people are motivated towards brands that share the same values.

The study focuses on consumer values, and particularly how people want to spend their time and money moving forward. Pip Hulbert, UK CEO at Wunderman Thompson tells us: “We’ve found that people’s values have shifted over the last three months. Lockdown has highlighted that we’re all quite good at getting by on less than we thought, and the things that matter to us most are closer to home than we realised. 

“As a result, it’s increasingly important that brands consistently deliver meaningful experiences reflecting the values they share with their consumers, and that they do this through every aspect of their business.”


Reduced materialism and value of luxury goods

A third of respondents say they value material possessions less vs. before the lockdown, and 45% say they now value designer labels less, highest amongst Gen Z.  Luxury goods are the item people are most likely to stop buying (19%) or trade down on in future (9%). Luxury through lockdown has been redefined to more than possessions; it’s about creating the time and space to enjoy special moments and extraordinary experiences.

Diminished emphasis on personal appearance

Being at home for months seems to have led to fewer concerns with how people look. Cosmetics and clothing are areas we see people claim they will be trading down, whilst 20% now place less value on personal appearance. The previous trend towards an ever more image conscious world, may have actually slowed for the time being.  Brands in the business of helping people look good, may want to re-examine products and services to meet evolving values such as connecting with others and the desire to have a positive impact in the world.

A rising sense of community

It’s clear the crisis has had some effect on our sense of togetherness, as we are seeing a significant rise in community mindedness. 56% more people value ‘togetherness’, 44% more people value ‘respect’ vs. before the lockdown and 43% valuing ‘community’ than before the lockdown

These shifts are largely consistent across political persuasions, suggesting there is greater overlap of values now compared to the Brexit years. Immigration is now lower down the list of priority issues (4th from bottom), as does leaving the EU at the end of the year (3rd from bottom). 

Brands must put their money where their mouth is

When asked about a role for brands, respondents placed the emphasis squarely on sorting out what is in their own backyard first – treating employees fairly (52%), improving sanitation and hygiene (47%), ensuring safety or products and services (41%). There is also a role for companies to play in working with government and other companies to rebuild the economy (44%), as well as supporting local businesses and jobs (43%). 

Right at the bottom, are aspects such as ‘having a point of view on how to make the world a better place’ (21%) and ‘making me laugh or cheering me up’ (17%), indicating that now more than ever, people need to see concrete actions and meaningful communications. 

The people we love are more important to us

Perhaps unsurprisingly people have a renewed appreciation of others. 65% say they now value other people more, with 60% saying time with others is more important to them. Whilst 56% of people are more grateful for technology that connects them to others, it’s clear there is no substitute for real life human to human connection. Few people say they will miss interacting with friends and family via zoom (12%).

A newfound appreciation for what’s around us

The inadvertent benefits of lockdown have increased our sense of connection with the natural world. A more peaceful, less polluted local environment is something 54% of people say they would miss if lockdown ended tomorrow. 46% would miss less traffic on the road, and 43% the cleaner air. Importantly, 38% say they are keen to use the opportunity to rethink and rebuild a better society as a result of the crisis.

Good food takes on new meaning

As one of the few things people been able to control these past months, and a means to both treat and nourish, good food has risen in significance. 39% of people say they value good food more, with 17% saying they expect to spend more on groceries and 13% thinking about trading up. We’re likely to witness similar spending patterns to past recessions with people refocusing on small but discretionary purchases as a way to self-treat.

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