After a 2020 and 2021 that shook many of us to our core, how are consumers feeling about 2022, and how should marketers best respond?

Mindshare UK’s monthly Mood Of The Nation tracker has been running since the pandemic began in March 2020. Now the WPP division has added a 1,440-respondent survey to create Reality Check 2022, a 150-page deep-dive report depicting emerging consumer sentiment through seven life lenses.

The Map digested the report, and then watched as its authors discussed findings at the company’s own Huddle 2021 event.

Here is our summary. Find the full report online.

1. Shopping is falling out of fashion

  • High street shopping is losing its appeal. The proportion of people who shop only out of necessity has increased to a third (32%) of consumers in the last two years, as targeted purchases beat out browsing.
  • Most consumers (77%) are prioritising saving over splurging in 2022.

“The joy of shopping has been dampened by the pandemic. All of our triggers have been diminished – you’re not going out, you’re not going to work, meeting friends.

“Even as we’ve seen those sort of triggers recover, we’re not really seeing the same level of excitement around it.

“For older shoppers, it’s just the fears of COVID and crowds and it all just feels a bit of a hassle.”

— Ksenia Kharkina, Account Director, Research & Insights, Mindshare UK

2. WFH means flexibility and satisfaction

  • The pandemic has produced an interesting tension – it’s given people the time and space to evaluate what they want from their job and career, but this has happened in uncertain times when people are craving security.
  • Achieving flexibility and job satisfaction have become the top worker priorities.

“There is only about a 10% increase in people who say that they’re going to be working from home most of the time compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“Under-35s are very money conscious at the moment. For them, 2022 is going to be all about being successful and being rich. They recognise that, in order for that to happen, they are going to have begun to put in some face time in the office.”

— Josie Ung, Research & Insights, Client Director at Mindshare UK

3. Meet the new fiscal conservatives

  • There is an optimism disparity. A quarter (24%) feel negative about their personal finances in 2022, whilst 41% are much more positive.
  • “The cost of living” is the top of all concerns mentioned for the next six months, across every single age group.
  • Consumers are becoming more risk-averse, with entertainment dropping down the priority list. Buffeted by the pandemic, many are preparing for further uncertainties. Younger consumers have now joined their elders in placing greater emphasis on financial stability.

“The over-55s had a more comfortable pandemic. They’re the ones who are more likely to splurge.

“But the under-35s are trying to be very price-conscious. Value for money is ranking much higher in those decisions. In terms of the brands we select, it’s safer, more trusted brand choices.

“For them, it is just ‘how can I get through this day?’ Really understanding these different audiences and what drives them is important.”

— Ksenia Kharkina, Account Director, Research & Insights, Mindshare UK

4. Climate concern is battling burnout

  • Only a third of people surveyed (31%) said they had recently stopped buying products from a brand because they didn’t agree with their values – 35% said price was more important than a company’s ethics.
  • Awareness of brand sustainability initiatives is a problem – 46% of respondents say that they have not noticed brands trying to promote a more ethical image.
  • Many consumers distrust brands’ sustainability motives – 49% of respondents agreed that “many brands that associate themselves with more meaningful causes are just doing it for publicity stunts”.

“When you think about, traditionally, the leaders of that movement, you think younger. But, actually, what we’re seeing is that, for over half of under-35-years, they’re just feeling tired. There’s just they’ve had too much on their plate.

“Finding that headspace to think about sustainability, it’s just not there. They don’t have the bandwidth at the moment.”

— Josie Ung, Research & Insights, Client Director at Mindshare UK

5. Relationships are recast

  • 55% of parents agree their relationship with their child has improved because of the pandemic.
  • But 3 in 10 (31%) feel the pandemic has taken its toll on relationships, a figure that rises to nearly half (48%) amongst females under 35.
  • More than 4 in 10 (44%) people acknowledge that friendships have changed, and they are simply not as close to some people as they once were.

“Around 50% of us are actually starting to feel positive about 2022.

“For these guys, things have gone their way – their savings are good, their finances are feeling strong, their relationship with their partner is probably in a better place because they’ve been spending much more time together.”

— Julia Ayling, Head of Research & Insights, Mindshare UK

6. Home is where the heart is

  • The pandemic has made home more important. A third (32%) of people are now prioritising owning a home more than ever
  • But young people are dismayed about achieving this. Some 44% of under 35s are concerned about not being able to get on the property ladder.
  • Local is back. Half (50%) of people are now making a conscious effort to support local shops and businesses.

“The rise of community is something that’s a really positive finding from our study. Especially, the home workers and the under-35s really found the time – for some, for the first time – to connect with their local neighborhoods, really experienced that joy that comes with that feeling of belonging.

“People who feel part of their local community were more likely to experience feelings of hope and motivation.”

— Ksenia Kharkina, Account Director, Research & Insights, Mindshare UK

 

7. Mental health has been crushed

  • Concern for children’s mental health is a key worry, going into 2022.
  • Lower earners are taking less joy from health activities than higher-income workers, with financial concerns making it difficult to engage in self-care.
  • A quarter of adults in the UK feel confident that they will be doing more for their own health next year.

“The past few years, it’s been really tough deal with all those fears and concerns swimming around in their head. We’re trying to balance all of that with just getting on with our lives.

“That is really triggering a bit of a mental health struggle across the UK. From our research, we’ve seen one in five people feel like the pandemic has just really crushed their emotional resilience.”

— Josie Ung, Research & Insights, Client Director at Mindshare UK

Methodology

Reality Check 2022 features extensive analysis from Mindshare’s ongoing monthly tracker, Mood of the Nation, which has been running since March 2020, combined with a stand alone quantitative study interviewing a nationally representative sample of 1,440 respondents.

Fieldwork for this was in late October 2021. Additional qualitative research, and social and search analysis has also been used to explore the themes.