London 08.12.2022

25 Years of Consumer-Watching: lessons for now and next

Key highlights from our breakfast event "2023: Through the looking glass"

Finding opportunities in a cost-of-living crisis

Looking at our Consumer Confidence data since 1974, this snapshot of the topline Index shows just how low we have gone. This Index is made up of perspectives on our own financial prospects, and the general economic situation. The scores are at rock bottom, lower than the 2008/9 recession, Brexit and even the Covid years. The top concerns today are “having enough money to live right and pay the bills” and “inflation and high prices”. The NHS, the environment and immigration follow.


In additional research carried out in November for the ‘Through the Looking Glass’ event, we discover that the majority (59%) of consumers will spend less this Christmas versus a ‘normal’ festive season. Cuts will be most severe on presents, food, going out with friends and family and visits to panto and markets.

In the next three months (Q1 2023), we can expect to see less eating out, takeaways, clothes shopping, day trips, holidays, beauty treatments and movie trips.

Joe Staton, our consumer expert says: “There’s no question many consumers are worried about their finances and are cutting back on their spending. But it’s not all bad news. There are opportunities to grab ground, to connect with consumers through their values and to invest in your brand beliefs. It’s a question of getting close to your customers, understanding their changing needs and aspirations and talking – and walking – their language. Don’t forget the valuable lessons from the past – is it time to revisit the behaviours, buying patterns, promotions and marketing of the last recession? Make sure you show the relevance of your brand however tough things get.”

Changing values create new expectations for how brands stay relevant

Our Consumer Life research highlights the importance of understanding people’s values and aspirations. Brands and businesses that get close to what really matters to consumers are able to target the right audiences with the right products at the right time.

Protecting the family’ and ‘honesty’ are the top two ranking values globally and these have endured for the 25 year life of the study. Other values rise and fall, with ‘Health and fitness’, ‘Open-mindedness’ and ‘Being in tune with nature’ all very important right now. Think enjoyment, tolerance and the environment.

Consumers fall into five segments in this study: Aspirers, Mindfuls, Elementals, Indulgers and Discoverers. In the UK today, Aspirers are not only the largest group, but they are growing too. This busy and successful group value ambition, status and wealth. Next come the Mindfuls, who are dedicated to finding balance in their lives. They value spirituality and hard work.

As Sam Tuck, Consumer Insight Consultant at GfK says: “Whatever the challenges of the macro- environment, if you understand your consumers’ values, everything else follows – from your brand proposition to marketing and messaging, promotion to pricing and more. Consumer Life also has historical data and that allows brand owners to understand the values and attributes that have remained consistent over the past two and half decades. We want to help you maximise the power of this knowledge.”

So what does this mean for your brand and business in 2023?

Our three key take-outs: It’s all about the values.

  1. Personal values go beyond demographics. They reveal what really drives and motivates consumers. Make sure you know your audience.
  2. Personal values can be leveraged across product innovation, marketing and communications, and targeting. Now is the time to hone this to successfully navigate a cost-of-living crisis.
  3. Align and evolve your brand values with your customers’ personal values to create stronger bonds with consumers – now and in the future.