OPINION23 November 2023

Researchers will help clients win: here’s how

Cost of Living Media Opinion Trends UK

In challenging times for marketing teams, Sarah Sanderson says research specialists should focus on helping clients to take more nuanced approaches to their data, ultimately helping them to protect their organisations’ P&Ls. 


We’ve been hit with one disruption after another, from the pandemic to stubborn inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. People are reeling from the economic impact of these events and are adapting their behaviours and habits at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace.

In times like these, when content and marketing teams should be looking for high quality, trusted data and insight for assurance and confidence, there can be temptation to play it safe, and resort to over-used, basic consumer characteristics to interpret new trends. But that can be the biggest risk of all.

As research specialists, this is where we come in. It’s our job to show clients the varied and nuanced ways in which we can segment data to bring to light new consumer behaviour patterns to inform effective targeting and successful campaigns. 

The cost-of-living crisis, for example, may feel like old news by now, but it refuses to go away. It would be easy to look at its impact on different age groups and draw broad inferences about the way it’s affected people. But is that simple approach going to unlock new audiences, or help find new growth for the business? We know that it’s only by digging deeper into consumer data that we’ll find new gems of insight. 

To that end, we used our TGI data to look at people who are due to renew their mortgage in the next 12 months. With mortgages typically the greatest single financial burden for homeowners, it felt like one of the most meaningful segments we could choose. We found that those aged 35-54 with a mortgage due for renewal in the next 12 months have a far bleaker outlook than those in the same age range who own their own home outright.  

Only 43% of those aged 35-54 with a mortgage up for renewal soon say they are ‘perfectly happy’ with their standard of living, compared to 56% of homeowners who are mortgage-free. As well as feeling downcast about their circumstances, our mortgage renewers are also taking action and putting the brakes on big ticket items like cars as they try and accommodate the interest rate rise into their already squeezed budgets. 

Cutting up similar data in a different way, we found other key differences between groups that would be invisible at a purely demographic level. Half ( 54%) of 21-30 year olds who are renting say they budget for every penny when shopping, which is significantly higher than the 43% of those in the same age group who live at home with their parents. 

These examples illustrate two things: firstly, while demographic-based targeting models have their place, they are likely to miss the profound impact of macro-economic events on people’s lives and situations if used in isolation rather than in combination with other data.

Secondly, researchers have long known the value of adopting a more circumstance- or event-led, forensic approach to consumer segmentation, often combined with merging first party and third-party datasets. Current client business challenges demand that we support them to sweep aside assumptions and anecdotal bias in favour of more effective, insight-driven approaches to audiences.

Finally, we recognise that change is the only constant. The recent shocks have sped up changes in people’s behaviours, attitudes and sentiments, heightening uncertainty about the future. Navigating change and uncertainty is both a challenge and an opportunity for our clients. As their insight partners, we are ideally placed to help them effectively interrogate and anticipate consumer shifts to deliver long-term benefit for their business.

Sarah Sanderson is managing director, TGI, Kantar Media