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Q&A: Hayley Ard on consumer trends for 2017 and beyond

Hayley Ard, Stylus’ head of Consumer Lifestyle, tells us who the Savvy Midults and Playful Escapists are – and why they’re among 2017’s key consumer groups.

Who are the Savvy Midults? What drives the Playful Escapists? And how will you reach Consumers in Chaos? These are the consumer groups identified by Hayley Ard, Stylus’ head of Consumer Lifestyle, in her latest report: the 2017 Consumer Zodiac. She told us more about this year’s most influential tribes, and why brands should discover who they are.

Can you explain what the 2017 Consumer Zodiac is about?

“The Consumer Zodiac is an infographic we created in February that offers consumer intelligence on 10 new segments our research has shown to be increasingly important. Together, these segments give a great overview of how people’s attitudes, behaviours and contexts will change this year. They do that by looking at three key filters: age, values and lifestyle.

“So in our age section, the amber part of the wheel, we have insights on Power Boomers, Savvy Midults and Gen M – that’s millennial Muslim entrepreneurs. These are three important demographics to watch over the next 12 months.

“Our blue-green slice of the zodiac turns a spotlight on four influential groups that are united by their core values: namely, the Outgoing Overachievers, Playful Escapists, Happy Homebodies and Nature Embracers.

“Finally, the purple part of the zodiac addresses how people are rethinking relationships, blending lifestyles and even falling into chaos. These are significant lifestyle shifts every brand should pay attention to in the coming year.”

How do you go about identifying these different groups?

“My team and I start by looking for overall patterns – such as by tracking signals including product launches, industry announcements and statistics. We then begin to measure their resonance, relevance and reach, through interviews with industry experts, researchers and consumers; thorough market analysis; and news-gathering at the 130+ global conferences and trade shows we attend each year. The resulting zodiac tells the stories that we’ve seen emerge from all this data, using three values to link each group.”

Why is the zodiac so valuable to forward-thinking brands?

“In a volatile world, insight is your secret weapon. What brands need now is consumer intelligence on speed dial – shortcuts to fast-track your understanding of how people are changing. That’s exactly what the zodiac offers. It’s a map of the key drivers changing the commercial landscape in 2017 and beyond.

“When you click through to the individual Stylus reports that correspond to each segment of the zodiac, you’ll find in-depth analysis of how these emerging demographics, psychographics and lifestyles are shaping consumer motivations and buying behaviour. You’ll also find out who you should be aligning with – that is, the influencers behind the most powerful new collectives.”

Are there any surprises in this year’s zodiac? 

“There were three surprises that stood out. 

“Firstly, when we were getting to know the Power Boomers, we found out that boomers in the US go to more music events each year than millennials, and nearly as many food, drink and athletic events. One such event is the Desert Trip music festival in California, or ‘Oldchella’. It takes place in the desert where I grew up and offers a lighter music schedule of two bands a night, as well as high-end amenities including golf packages, Pilates classes and multi-course meals prepared by gourmet chefs.

“Secondly, our research into modern relationships surfaced some quirky rites of passage I hadn’t come across before. I’d heard of Galentine's Day, originating from popular sitcom Parks and Recreation’s female protagonist Leslie Knope, who celebrates the day with her female friends, declaring “ovaries before brovaries”. But have you read The Divorce Party Handbook, which was published last year? It’s a manual to help readers execute a momentous party to celebrate their separation – “a much-needed ritual where family and friends can gather to mark the end of a marriage and the start of a new life”, according to author Christine Gallagher.

“And finally, I was surprised to discover so many contemporary communes when I started analysing our blended lifestyles. My favourite is the Pankhasari Retreat in the Himalayas, designed by Italian architect Carlo Ratti. Construction began on the co-living, co-working space late last year and when it’s complete, the enclave will offer all the benefits of a city in a beautiful and remote location. I’m trying to convince our CEO Marc Worth to open a Stylus bureau there.”

What group/sign do you fall into?

“I’m an Outgoing Overachiever, no question – ambitious, challenge-seeking and always looking to reach my goals by collaborating instead of competing. Out of the office, you’ll find me reading books on ditching the ego, pursuing mentorship opportunities and joining motivational squads. Plus, I love being a trendsetter – that’s why I’ve been working at Stylus for the past five years. That said, I can also see myself as a Nature Embracer (someone who seeks calm through plant-inspired Instagram accounts).

“That’s the beauty of the Consumer Zodiac. We can all fit into multiple groups and shift between them over time. It’s a fluid, dynamic tool.”

If you’re a Stylus member, you can read the 2017 Consumer Zodiac now. If you’re not, and you’d like to find out more about the benefits of membership, get in touch