Archive for September, 2010

The green consumer

Josh Hunt writes:

The Futures Company’s recently-launched  multimedia report, Greenprint, looks at the UK public’s engagement and behaviour in sustainability. The research, based on both quantitative and qualitative data, shows that while people report relatively high levels of engagement, this does not necessarily translate into changes in everyday behaviour.

Consumers, it appears, have a ‘costs and benefits’ view of sustainable behaviour, in which they assess trade-offs involved. Direct benefits to home and family have most influence, perhaps unsurprisingly, followed by benefits for neighbourhood and social networks. More general benefits, for example to the planet, have the least sway.

Consumers also find it difficult to conceptualise complex issues such as ’embedded carbon’. There’s little understanding of why eating less meat improves sustainability outcomes, for example. Finally, consumers generally underestimate the benefits of more sustainable behaviour. But when they do change one aspect of their behaviour they tend to find that it leads to other benefits elsewhere in their lives.

The quantitative analysis led to the development of our Greenprint segmentation. The segments are differentiated by the extent to which people feel able to live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, or are constrained, and the extent to which they are motivated by the idea of an environmentally friendly lifestyle. There are six segments, shown below: two engaged groups (Pioneers and Adopters), two interested but uninvolved groups (Strugglers and Confused) and two unmotivated groups (Sceptics and Passives). It’s also worth noting that – to a significant degree – consumers find sustainability messages confusing, and not sufficiently relevant. But there is considerable scope to change behaviours with the right messages.

The right messages are those that tap into genuine consumer motivations for change, and those that work across segments, rather than assuming that people will be moved by a desire to live more sustainable lives.  Thus, encouraging people to pump up their tyres is more likely to be motivating if people are made aware of the potential cost savings as well as the environmental benefits (rather than reducing their carbon footprint).  Equally, people are suspicious of the motives of marketers and wary of greenwash, so communications which explain how sustainability can benefit multiple parties can cut through this.  Finally, we don’t want to be preached to:  messages which provoke thought and encourage re-evaluation are more likely to be seen as relevant rather than those which take a position and assert it, loudly.

The Futures Company’s Greenprint Insight Package (opens pdf) is a paid-for resource which explores UK consumer attitudes to sustainability. It comes on on a USB pen drive. It includes includes multimedia presentation and video resources to help you bring the opportunities and challenges of sustainability to life within your business.

28 September 2010 at 3:22 pm 1 comment

Launching Futureproof

Andrew Curry writes:

It’s been a while in the making, but I’m delighted to say that we’ve just launched the first edition of our new strategy and insight newsletter, Futureproof. It can be downloaded from our new website as a PDF, or accessed from the News and Events page.

Highlights from the launch edition are:

  • The impact of the Asian economies on European businesses – based on our recent report for HSBC
  • An article on sustainable consumption in the UK, based on our latest Greenprint research, written by Joe Clift of the advertising and marketing portal WARC
  • And a review of Sharon Iyengar’s book, The Art of Choosing.

Futureproof will be coming out quarterly, and you can sign up for it on the website. And credit to my colleagues Karen Kidson, who organised production, and to Tom Warren, who did the design work.

24 September 2010 at 6:10 pm Leave a comment

Looking for the answers

Walker Smith writes:

There’s something about building a new website – as we have just done for The Futures Company – which takes you back, deep, into the history of the internet.

The unexamined assumption of the original Information Superhighway idea was that people wanted to dive into a sea of data.  This assumption was mistaken, which is why, today, we don’t have an Internet Information Superhighway in which individuals rummage through every bit and byte of everything ever captured, created or learned about every topic of interest or importance.  Instead, we are headed towards a networked world in which we prefer the answers we get from those we trust most.  At The Futures Company, we saw this coming.

As early as 1999, both Yankelovich and the Henley Centre – subsequently merged to form The Futures Company – anticipated today’s shift from deluge to direction.  Yankelovich referred to this as the “pinpointing” trend, which would see search replaced by ‘smart search,’ thus anticipating years in advance the search model Bing introduced recently to an ever-more sophisticated marketplace as the emerging alternative to the Google model.

Even if people wanted to swim in a sea of data, it’s just not possible.  Human cognitive capacity is bounded by fixed upper limits, something that psychologists have known and shown for decades.  This is all too obvious in every headline about the dangers of phoning or texting while driving.  There is only so much attention to go around, far less than the information available to fill it.  As a result, two competing concerns crash into one another.

On the one hand, people insist on seeing more information as a prerequisite for trust.  Yet, on the other hand, people are simply unable to process all that they see or assess its accuracy or adequacy.  In a world of more information than ever, the imperative is to make do with less.  Hence, smart search.

So it is with The Futures Company as well.  Our newly updated client gateway is built as a smart search engine that doesn’t just list data, it points to answers.  The ambition is to put the future at clients’ fingertips by offering a smart foresight tool, one that not only gives future direction but that is itself an embodiment of where the future is headed.

The image at the top of the post is from RENCI, in North Carolina, and is used with thanks.

23 September 2010 at 9:30 am Leave a comment

Young people and their money

Eleanor Cooksey writes:

How do young people learn about managing money? Earlier this month, we ran a workshop session at an event organised by the Consumer Financial Education Body (CFEB) which was designed to spark debate around how better to engage with young people. The event involved  marketing and compliance representatives from across the financial services industry, and included a short presentation of our recent research for CFEB into how young people make decisions about financial products, and the role of promotions in this process.

Rightly or wrongly, it seems young people turn to their own version of the ‘wisdom of crowds’, which might come from talking to family and peers, as well as referring to online comparison sites and ratings. Echoing findings from our in-house research into the Millennials generation, we also found that young people often identify themselves as confident consumers, perceiving their knowledge of personal finance to be as high as expected to be given the category. This is in spite of a lack of detailed understanding of the terminology required to make properly informed choices. However, when it came to making a decision about which provider to go for or solving problems, the traditional method of talking to someone face to face at a local branch remained very important.

The workshop session triggered useful discussion about how best to address these challenges and balance the risks of under- or misinforming young people by facilitating more peer to peer / youth-focused communication (e.g. the use of part trained online panels of young people), as opposed to failing to engage at all through badly targeted communications which may be disregarded as irrelevant. As one of our respondents noted, ‘facebook is about fun – it’s not for talking about bank accounts’.

The image is from Flickr user Alan Cleaver and is used under a Creative Commons licence with thanks.

17 September 2010 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

Energy levels

Andrew Curry writes:

Sometimes you stumble on good news by accident. So it was recently when one of our analysts – while researching something else – found some excellent coverage in the trade press (which we’d missed completely) of a project we’d done late last year for Red Bull. The project was about how consumer manage their energy levels, a subject we’ve been interested in for about a decade, when we first started to thinking about the idea of ‘consumer currencies’ which went beyond money and time. The Red Bull project enabled us to take a far closer look at how consumers think about energy levels and manage them, day-to-day and even hour-to-hour. In particular, we found that consumers were very aware of energy levels at different times of the day, and the idea of ‘transformational energy’ emerged from the research – making sure that you have the right energy levels to be set up for the next part of your day.

Red Bull used this insight as part of a new creative platform, “Want to Squeeze The Day Dry?”, which launched in May. The campaign was developed both to bring former Red Bull customers back to the brand, and also to inform retailers about the value of the whole energy category. Yannis Kavounis, the Futures Company Director who led the research, observes:

The energy category has only been around since the late 90s, so it’s really amazing to see how savvy and sophisticated consumers have become with their energy needs, and how to satisfy them, in such a short period of time. Gone are the days where people talked about time management and physical kick. Today, it’s about holistic energy management with a wide range of desired energy modes; transformational energy fits really well in this, as people’s efforts focus on managing energy levels throughout the day and making the most of it.

The photograph at the top of the post is by Andrew Curry. It is published here under a Creative Commons licence.

9 September 2010 at 8:01 am Leave a comment

The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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