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Context Research: Coming Of Age In The Great Recession, The Grounded Consumer
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Context Research: Coming Of Age In The Great Recession, The Grounded Consumer

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Americans are coming of age in the Great Recession. What's in store for consumers and businesses? …

Americans are coming of age in the Great Recession. What's in store for consumers and businesses?

New in 2010, Context-based Research Group has released a follow up to our ethnographic insights with a new quantitative report, Coming of Age in the Great Recession. In the fall of 2008, we conducted an ethnographic study on the cultural impact of the economic crisis and what it might mean for the future of consumerism. A year later, in the midst of the recession, we followed up with a quantitative survey.

Together, our two research efforts document the "grounding" of the American Dream and the emergence of a new kind of consumer — The Grounded Consumer. The reports portray a society and culture going through a "rite of passage" and moving into an era where we measure the quality of our lives in social terms before economic ones.

Let us know what you find interesting about our research. We'd be happy to apply our insight and experience to your business.

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  • 1.  
  • 2. Study 1: Grounding the American Dream
    • From this work, we produced Grounding the American Dream:
    • A Cultural Study on the Future of Consumerism in a Changing Economy . http://www.groundedconsumer.com
    Consumer Anthropology Rocks! It’s the Fall of 2008 and as consumer anthropologists we see the writing on the wall − a cultural transformation is in the works and an ethnographic study is needed to document the moment and forecast cultural and consumer attitudes and behavior for 2009 and beyond.
  • 3. Study 2: Quantitative Look at The Grounded Consumer
    • One year later, we conducted a quantitative survey to monitor and quantify post-recession attitudes and behavior for 2010 and beyond and test our findings and predictions from the original research.
    • The survey was conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults nationwide (age 18+) and the sample was balanced to ensure representativeness of the U.S. population in terms of gender, income, race, age, and region.
    Let’s Get Numbers!
  • 4. What Did We Find?
    • Our two studies found that people are Coming of Age in the Great Recession.
    • What does Coming of Age mean and why does it matter?
    • Well, people “come of age” when they experience a major epiphany on how life works, which 1) triggers a “rite of passage,” 2) that produces a major life transition, and 3) leads to new attitudes and new ways of acting in the world.
    • The question is − what will this Coming of Age moment mean for our culture and for consumerism?
    People Coming of Age in The Great Recession
  • 5. So How Did this Coming of Age Process Happen?
    • In our initial study, we identified a five stage process consumers were going through, culminating in becoming what we called Grounded Consumers.
    • The Stages to Grounded Consumerism
      • 1. Goodbye Homo economicus
      • 2. My Life is Not a Loan
      • 3. From a Me to a We Economy
      • 4. unSTUFFing Our Lives
      • 5. The Grounded Consumer
    And here’s more or less what we heard people say as we watched them go through the five stages.
  • 6. Going Through the Stages to Grounded Consumerism
    • I believe the American Dream has died. We’ve gone from the being Land of Opportunity to the Opportunity to Buy. So I am saying goodbye to Homo economicus [Stage 1] – I no longer want to be defined by what I buy.
    • And I should have known you can’t live your life on a loan [Stage 2] – so I cut back my credit and started to save.
    • I took the time to move from a Me to a We way of living [Stage 3] – seeing that transacting life is not as valuable as building and growing social relationships.
    • Then I unSTUFFed my life [Stage 4] – getting rid of things that held little to no value and surrounding myself with people and things that matter.
    • Now I am a Grounded Consumer [Stage 5] – more strategic and smarter – connecting my emotional, rational, and social senses to how I live and consume.
    On My Way to Grounded Consumerism
  • 7. And Our Survey at the End of 2009…
    • … tested the stages and the level of agreement was very high:
    88% took steps to spend less 58% made permanent changes in how they approach investing 51% planned to give time/volunteer as gift for holiday season 78% agreed American Dream has died I believe the American Dream has died. We’ve gone from the being Land of Opportunity to the Opportunity to Buy. So I am saying goodbye to Homo economicus [Stage 1] – I no longer want to be defined by what I buy. And I should have known you can’t live your life on a loan [Stage 2] – so I cut back my credit and started to save . I took the time to move from a Me to a We Economy [Stage 3] – seeing that transacting life is not as valuable as building and growing social relationships . Then I unSTUFFed my life [Stage 4] – getting rid of things that held little to no value and surrounding myself with people and things that matte r. Now I am a Grounded Consumer [Stage 5] – more strategic, smarter – connecting my emotional, rational and social senses to how I live and consume. 61% de-cluttered their home and/or consigned items 83% planned to spend more time with family and friends over the holidays then they had in previous years.
  • 8. Begging the Question – What’s the Post-Recession Mindset?
    • So where were these “new” people and consumers attitudinally and behaviorally? In simple terms – how were they thinking, feeling, and acting ? Statistical analysis gave us four discrete mindsets/segments.
    • Post-Recession Mindsets and Segmentation
    • Rational: Understanding true value and how things fit into your life (26%).
    • Relational: Putting social relationships over transactions (23%).
    • Balanced: Spending with thought and care, but with some fun too (26%).
    • Joyful: Experiencing true joy often from non-consumer spaces (25%).
    And here’s more or less how we will hear people talking about themselves in 2010 and beyond…
  • 9. Post-Recession Thinking, Feeling, and Acting
    • I Came of Age during The Great Recession. I now measure the quality of my life on social terms before economic ones. And I’m also experiencing a new kind of Joy in my life that more often than not starts at a non-consumer place. In short, I think, act, and feel more Rational , Relationa l, Balanced, and Joyful . I live my life this way and my consumer behavior follows suit.
    Rational Relational Balanced Joyful
  • 10. Coming of Age = Finding Joy and Ourselves in the Process
    As anthropologists what these two studies show us is a society and culture moving into an era where we truly measure the quality of our lives in social terms before economic ones. How is this possible?
    • It is possible because by Coming of Age in The Great Recession we now see:
    • how the marketplace and our identity as consumers came to overshadow our greater sense of culture and humanity, and
    • the potential to maintain a healthy balance between our consumer and non-consumer sense of selves.
    This is why one year after the stock market collapse our survey showed that 43% of Americans already believe that the recession has had a positive impact on their lives.
  • 11. For the complete study: www.thegroundedconsumer.com
    • For more information on the new Grounded Consumer and the implications
    • for your business, please contact:
    • Robbie Blinkoff, Ph.D., Principal Anthropologist, Managing Director
    • Context-Based Research Group
    • 410.223.3589
    • [email_address]
    • Jamie Rice, Chief Strategy Officer
    • Carton Donofrio Partners
    • 410.223.3506
    • [email_address]
  • 12. About Us
    • Context-Based Research Group
    • Context-Based Research Group is an ethnographic research and consulting firm that has provided companies with an anthropological perspective since 1999. Working with a global network of cultural anthropologists, Context designs and implements ethnographic research projects that uncover cultural and consumer insights and deliver better market research. To learn more visit www.contextresearch.com or call 410.223.3589
    • Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc. Carton Donofrio Partners is an award-winning advertising agency in Baltimore. With a vision to change advertising by making it welcome and invited into customers’ lives, they help their clients become more meaningful to their customers. To do this effectively, they tap their proprietary global network of anthropologists who study customer motivations and needs to uncover more relevant insight to inform their creative, media, digital, and integrated ideas. The agency is a member of Worldwide Partners, which enables them to work seamlessly with 91 independent agencies in 51 countries around the world. For more information, visit www.cartondonofrio.com or call 410.576.9000.

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