FEATURE26 October 2015

Are we having fun yet?

Features Leisure & Arts Trends

Working in market research, we hear the word ‘trends’ used frequently and sometimes a little too readily.

My focus, as consumer trends director at Join the Dots, is to understand trends from the perspective of real people and their changing needs. In order to do this we must start with the human, not the trend. I’ve spent the last two years using positive psychology to help us predict emerging consumer trends and help our clients get closer to their customers.

What I’m certain of is that understanding consumer emotions, and happiness in particular, is key to predicting trends. It is the very human desire to achieve happiness that brings about changes in human behaviours – or trends.

Based on this understanding, my team and I have developed a happiness framework, not dissimilar to Martin Seligman’s PERMA framework, which consists of five happiness drivers: Karma, Focus, Success, Relationships, and World. While these five drivers remain constant, the world in which we live changes – these shifts in the macro environment are beyond our individual control.

Tempered against this is the influence of hedonic adaptation – the notion that the pleasure we derive from something declines over time, and so we constantly desire new things. A useful way of understanding the concept of hedonic adaptation is applying it to our income. As we make more money, our expectations and desires rise, meaning there is no permanent gain in happiness. As a result of this diminishing return on happiness, we switch to new ways to satisfy our drivers and it’s our belief that this convergence causes us to observe consumer trends.

So what trends have we encountered in recent years and what do we see emerging? We’ve previously found money and time to be highly influential in bringing about new consumer trends, for example the increasing use of mobile apps to find shortcuts in life has emerged as a result of the need to get back those little of pockets of time we so desperately desire. But today we’re witnessing a new hedonic adaption factor affecting trends – and that’s our attitude towards fun.

The macro-environment is causing us to re-evaluate our lives and we’ve decided that we’re not having enough fun. Things have become far too serious. We’ve been under the cloud of austerity for years now and, following the general election earlier this year, we’ve signed up to even more, so we might as well enjoy what we have now as things aren’t going to change any time soon. At the same time, with the threat of terrorism and the migration crisis, we’re acutely aware that things could be a heck of a lot worse for us. So why not have some fun?

We can already see examples of this in the fashion and leisure industries – we’re witnessing a shift from normcore clothing and stripped-back Scandi design to graphic prints and bold colours. There are increasing opportunities to be more playful, childish, brash and fun, with adult ball pools and cereal cafés, as recent examples. We’re expecting this ‘trend’ to continue as consumers demand more fun from life and therefore from brands too.

These shifts in politics and attitudes toward life have led my team and I at Join the Dots to update our trends model. Using our online research communities, secondary data and our ongoing primary research, we spot trends emerging that reinforce and inform our knowledge on consumer needs. I hope you can join me at the MRS Customers Exposed conference to find out more.

Kelly McKnight is consumer trends director at Join the Dots. She will be speaking at the MRS Customers Exposed conference on 29th October

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