This year, the Iconosphere Conference was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was hosted by CEB, a company recently acquired by Gartner, making it the world’s leading global research and advisory company. The conference promised a strategic, energic, and inspiring vibe that would leave attendees with valuable consumer insights and data from relevant categories and demographics. They didn’t disappoint.

The takeaways

After three long days (and some fun Vegas evenings) I left the city of sin full of useful consumer insights. I was ready to apply my takeaways to the work we do at Zion & Zion and inspire my co-workers with innovative and forward thinking ideas, all generated by consumer trends.

Here are the five key insights I brought back with me:

1. Consumers are pushing productivity to the max and are looking for permission to play.

Today’s society is in a play deficit. Researchers noticed this trend when children no longer went outdoors to play, but that was just the start. Now, this trend is true for adults as well. CEB, now Gartner, develop a total of 93 different values each year in their CEB Iconoculture Values and Lifestyle Survey. These values range from joy and discovery to learning and empowerment. Observing the changes in values year over year allow consumer strategist to build insights as to how consumers feel and react to certain situations.

When taking a look at the results of this survey in 2016, strategist and speaker Rebecca Kolls found that consumers value success over fun—in a major way. Success is ranked as the fourth most important value, whereas fun is ranked at 67. This confirmed that consumers push productivity to the max.

When consumers push productivity to the max, they look for permission to play, and in some cases, justification that taking time for themselves is the right thing to do. The Iconosphere Conference framed this discussion around three distinct mindsets consumers may be in when looking for permission to play:

  • Free Yo’Self: Consumers in this mindset are responsible and have a checklist mentality. They won’t allow themselves to play until everything’s off their to-do list. Marketers targeting these consumers should provide solutions that’ll help consumers save time or money.
  • Treat Yo’Self: Consumers in this mindset are guilt-free and spontaneous. They like to reward themselves, in some cases, just because they can. Marketers targeting these consumers should insert messaging about being spontaneous.
  • Justify Yo’Self: Consumers in this mindset are practical and rational. They’ll only allow themselves to play if playing also simultaneously checks something else off their list. Marketers targeting these consumers should promote the crucial benefits of their product or service.

2. The science and technology industry is merging with the food and beverage industry.

Speakers and consumer specialists, Jasmin Sage and Emily Moquin, predict that the future of the food and beverage industry is pairing science and technology with clean eating. Think chicken-less chicken grown in a lab, plant-based burgers that bleed, and vegan shrimp grown from red algae. Food choices like these are slowly being introduced to the market and researchers predict that there’s more to come.

This prediction was gathered from various consumer indicators and patterns. Starting in the 1970s, the food and beverage industry moved towards natural, fresh, and safe ingredients. In 2000, the industry sided with the farm to table concept. Today, the industry is all about eating clean. And tomorrow—with approximately 61% of consumers saying they’re more adventurous with their food choices than ever— researchers say tech-based food is next.

3. Consumers are losing touch with smartphone screens.

Consumers are slowly losing touch with their smartphone screens. United States smartphone sales have plateaued and mobile application abandonment is at an all-time high. Before, smartphone demand was out of control as everyone wanted to get their hands on one. But now, since everyone already has a smartphone, this high demand is fading.

This prediction is backed by several emerging consumer behaviors discussed at the Iconosphere Conference, including:

  • Device agnostics: The smartphone is no longer the holy grail. Researchers found that 40% of smartphone users are increasingly interacting with more devices at once.
  • Physical freedom: With products like Amazon Alexa and Apple Watches, consumers are becoming more comfortable without their phones in their hands. Approximately 67% of consumers say they’d put their phones down if they could do what they wanted in other ways.
  • New channels: The smartphone is being seen as a vehicle, not a product. Speaker Mike Garrison said it best when he predicted that smartphones are becoming a way consumers experience stuff, not THE way.

Taking a step back, as marketers, it’s important to think about how these new smartphone consumer insights are going to influence your brand and company initiatives.

4. Millennials aren’t just tweens. They make up 60% of all parents and have big buying power.

News flash—millennials aren’t just young adults consumed by social media—they’re also parents. According to the US Census Bureau and the Current Population Survey and CEB Iconoculture Values and Lifestyle Survey 2016, millennials make up 60% of all parents with kids under the age of 18. As a marketer, it’s important to understand what millennial parents value, what challenges they face, and how they compare to parents from other generations.

First, it’s important to note that millennial parents are experiential. Speakers Mike Garrison and Traci Croft share that millennial parents rank higher compared to other parents in values like purpose, creativity, and discovery. Millennial parents want to raise their children in a world where they can do anything, be anything, and discover anything. They also want to experience things for themselves first—59% of millennial parents identify as parent first, not kid first. Similarly, millennial parents feel like they need to rediscover their own identity after having a child.

Second, it’s also important to note the challenges millennial parents face. Millennial parents are challenged by what researchers define as survival essentials. Now more than ever, parents depend on technology. According to the CEB Iconoculture Millennial Parents Survey, 64% of millennials parents say smartphones make them a better parent. But, at the same time, many face an internal struggle to prove that technology can be a good thing, especially in front of their children.

Moving forward, when targeting parents, don’t forget about millennials. Millennial parents have unique values and challenges you can be using to your advantage within your marketing tactics.

5. Consumers intuitively don’t trust you or your brand.

Today, consumers are quick to distrust brands, articles, press, and mostly everything in between. Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” the word of the year for 2016. According to the CEB Iconoculture Trust and Skepticism Survey, approximately 35% of consumers distrust big brands, and 60% of consumers distrust corporate America.

Speakers Lindsey Roeschke and Derek Stubbs claim that consumers are taking part in a post-truth era. They’re on edge and prone to cherry picking facts, which can be confirmed by the change in values seen from 2010 to 2016. According to the CEB Iconoculture Values and Lifestyle Survey, the values belief and confidence declined, while the values learning, security, and safety were on the rise. This means that consumers are becoming increasingly doubtful. But, on the other hand, this also means that consumers feel empowered to call brands out and take matters into their own hands.

Just another confirmation of this trend is how consumers are reacting to the slip-ups major brands have made in recent years. Think of Volkswagen, Uber, and United Airlines. Consumers aren’t happy with the way these brands handled themselves in recent situations and feel empowered enough to call them out and share their opinions on the matter, even if this means exploiting a brand they once had long-term loyalty for.

The final verdict

The Zion & Zion strategy team has already been working with some of these insights, and moving forward, we encourage you to also take note of these consumer insights and think about how you can strategically leverage them to accomplish your company’s goals.