Square Holes Consumer Insights 2013

As we head to the end of 2013, Square Holes has reflected on some of the consistent themes and consumer insights from this year’s 65 key studies, and where trends can be seen over time.

Here are 10 common views from speaking with average and not so average Australians that illustrate while we are living in exciting times, with flourishing new opportunities the fundamentals still remain…

  1. “We love our family above all else, then good food, our friends and travelling within Australia.”
    ‘Spending time with family’ remains the biggest passion in life [87% love]. Then comes ‘good food’ [83%], ‘spending time with friends’ [77%] and ‘travelling within Australia [74%].’ Australians have busy lives, with lots going on and lots they love about life. They long for more time and money to do what they want when they want. “Where is that lotto ticket?”
  2. “Life’s hard, and busy”
    Money is the biggest stress in life [44%], followed by work and job security [34%], family [31%] and health [17%]. Some have wider concerns such as the environment, social justice and the economy, but the focus is primarily at home. Most would like to do more to support good causes. They have enough difficulty overcoming their own ingrained bad habits. Perhaps the resolutions will stick in 2014!
  3. “We’re confident, and getting on with life”
    Monitoring of consumer confidence illustrates that those confident far outweigh those not. While aware of broader economic issues, the feeling of financial security comes back to ‘your family living in your house,’ and then other family and friends. They are concerned about the rising cost of running a household – 58% expect to pay more on household bills in 12 months. The state of the economy locally and further afield may be in the back of their mind, but the biggest worry is when business and government leaders lack confidence.
  4. “Give me good value and respectful service”
    Australians are willing to pay more if they can easily understand the additional value. This may be by minimising risk of purchase or clearly illustrating the ‘something extra’ they actually care about.  Utilities are perceived to provide the least value [36% gain ‘value’], with the value from insurance, banking and telecommunications services also often questioned. Value in retail – online or off – is typically about the price tag if viewed as a commodity, but can extend into advice, ease, ‘better’ quality, speed and trust. Failure to deliver on value promises is happily shared … and shared, and shared….
  5. “We still share experiences mouth-to-ear”
    Word-of-mouth is still the strongest form of marketing, and 90%+ of word-of-mouth is mouth-to-ear. Wonderful experiences travel fast, bad experiences travel much, much faster and further. Unemotive brands, categories or topics are rarely discussed, but extreme experiences are. In one recent Square Holes study for a passion brand, 93% shared word-of-mouth, it was largely positive discussions with friends [92%] and family [66%], with 98% verbal, 20% via email, 12% via Facebook and 2% Twitter. In other studies the word-of-mouth is skewed to negative and largely verbal. Social media gives good old fashioned word-of-mouth a visibility, immediacy and potential rocket pack. The challenge is often to get people talking online and off – for the good much more than the bad. Often all that’s needed is to give a good reason, a platform, or to simply ask.
  6. “If you are not sincere, we can’t trust you”
    Authenticity is all the rage, yet seldom perceived to be delivered by government or corporate. Whether government, consumer product or professional service, it is hard to build up any degree of trust if the bull s__t detector is going off. Sincerity is easy to promise but difficult to deliver. If there is a problem, acknowledgement and listening is generally all that is required. It’s nice to know someone cares.
  7. “If you are not relevant, you are invisible”
    Relevance is and will continue to be king or queen in marketing, new products etc. People still watch ads on TV and they see them in newspapers, billboards, magazines and hear them on the radio. They also see ads online, in Apps and on the multitude of available platforms. Ads and messages are everywhere! And, ever new products, services, websites etc, etc. Differentiation is nice, but only if it increases relevance to the segments of the population who actually care. Finding segments that care and are willing to pay rather than scatter gunning is critical. Ads need to connect and clearly say something the audience cares about. Product and service innovations need to make their life somehow better or easier.
  8. “We don’t care about brands”
    People do not typically think, ponder or care about brands, and once the marketing campaign ends the audience generally quickly forgets. Too many big brands are believed to have treated the consumer as a moron.  Even being the preferred or the most ‘loved’ brand doesn’t guarantee repeat purchase. Being top of mind and easily available are critical as are many other factors. A strong brand can reduce risk and increases the perceived value. But, even the most well known of brands with the highest of customer satisfaction do not necessarily translate to strong sales. People are much more complex than that.
  9. “We still watch TV [+ radio, internet, apps … ]”
    People still watch free to air TV – around 86% do so daily, and 72% listen to the radio daily. And, they are also using the Internet a lot – 87% daily, with 43% on Facebook daily and 7% Twitter. Only around 2-5% comment or like the posts of their ‘liked’ brand  Facebook pages. They are not waiting eager to type in the URL on the screen or share a message with that #hashtag – unless there is a good reason. However, 75% of households with children have at least one smartphone and 45% tablets or IPads, with this level increasing solidly over time. There is an appetite for and an expectation of services using Apps and the other technology. With 2 billion+ iTune downloads a month worldwide the excitement is there, with the challenge cutting through the clutter and hype. “How can we use technology to make our life better?”
  10. “Don’t say it, do it!”
    People want progress not promises, whether from brand ambassadors or government leaders. They love big, bold ideas that make the world a better place. Whether that is a new sporting stadium or an ‘improved’ way of banking.  But, all in all, they don’t care until the promises are delivered. They are very busy. They are hard to budge and influence. Deeply understanding who consumers are, being strategic and executing well is ever critical. It is essential to have a strategic commitment – philosophically and financially. No brand, issue, product or service is an island, they fit within a broader context of busy lives, greater passions, stresses and an avalanche of competing messages, offers and opportunities. While the world is a different place than it was only a few years ago, the fundamentals basically remain.  “Get on with it.”

The above findings emerged from surveys, focus groups, in-home discussions and other market research conducted by Square Holes across Australia. Some percentages may be of particular States or target markets and are used to illustrate the patterns. For details on the survey methodology, sample and other details please contact Square Holes by mail@squarehole.com.