Henry Tucker writes:

The Futures Company has recently released the latest edition of Global MONITOR, our large scale syndicated future-focused Insights Programme. Global MONITOR’s analysis is underpinned by a survey of 27,000 respondents in 21 markets, and its research underpins much of thinking about social, cultural, and consumer change. Over the next few weeks we’ll be running a series of blog posts on themes from this research.

One of the most important themes of Global MONITOR 2011 is about consumer volatility. Three years into the financial crisis, those in richer nations have experienced long periods of austerity, unprecedented since the last World War. Eleswhere, pressures of growth are causing their own problems, from pollution to poisoning, in the case of China’s food scandals. This has made consumers feel both vulnerable and vigilant. And some of the data are striking:

These tensions are expressing themselves culturally as well as economically. In most markets, the proportion of those agreeing with the statement ““I appreciate the influence other cultures have on our way of life in this country” has fallen quite sharply over the past two years. People are drawing in.

What we’re seeing as a result is that consumers are becoming as self-reliant as they can, reducing their exposure to an uncertain world wherever possible. Of course, ‘self-reliance’ conjures images of people storing clean water and tinned food in their cellars, but the emerging trend is, instead, about networked reliance. People use social connections, both to find new information, to look for deals, and to lean on each other for support. As they do so, their expectations of what business should be doing for society have become sharper. The proportion agreeing that “Companies have a responsibility to help support the society in which they operate” has seen a significant jump year on year in many markets. It’s another layer of complexity that many businesses could do without in tough times. But get it wrong and consumers will punish you for it.

The picture at the top is from Global MONITOR, and shows people’s perceptions of how their countries are doing and also how they are doing.

Global MONITOR is an innovative, strategic, future-focused Global Insights programme for clients and agencies. It identifies the key dynamics shaping the world and the consumer marketplace, as well as potential implications for your clients’ businesses. If you want to know more about Global MONITOR, please call Simon Kaplan in the United States, or Deniz Erdem in Europe.

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