Affluent consumers around the world: More similar than different.

Moods and mindsets converge.

worldwide affluent consumers

As the world becomes more interconnected, it’s having an impact on the mindsets of marketplaces. A confluence of perspectives appears to be happening.

A good case in point is affluent consumers. The idea that rich or affluent people are something of a homogeneous segment was put forth about 10 years ago in Robert Frank’s book Richistan.

The author contended that affluent consumers are united by shared characteristics and shared experiences that are becoming progressively more distinct from middle-class consumers.

In fact, he posited that Affluents had implicitly become their own country (“Richistan”).

Since then, we’ve had a global recession or two … along with social unrest on nearly every continent. Have the sociological trend lines changed?

A recent analysis of results from an Ipsos MediaCT survey of affluent consumers in ~50 countries suggests not.

Commenting on the research findings, author  and journalist Stephen Kraus writes, “Affluents continue to form a globally coherent segment marked by cross-border similarities in attitudes, lifestyles and marketplace preferences … this analysis also finds a remarkably consistent demographic, psychographic and media profile among Affluents around the world.”

Regarding the consumption of media, Ipsos found that affluent consumers are using mobile devices and digital media far more than before – not at all surprising since this segment is also noted for being early adopters of new technologies and products.

But even with the big growth of mobile and digital, Affluents’ use of traditional media has declined only modestly. Overall, the segment is more engaged in media than ever before, with the newer forms of media usage “layered” on top of older ones.

For companies that market “high-end” products and services to the affluent segment, it’s actually becoming easier to apply the same messaging and marketing across multiple countries and cultures – with allowances for language differences being made, of course.

Despite all the convergence that’s happened, some attitudinal qualities of affluent consumes continue to distinguish themselves between different cultures, however. For example, the Ipsos survey found these differing characteristics:

  • Growth in luxury purchases is strongest among affluent consumers in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Latin American affluent consumers are particularly enthusiastic users of social media – and international media in general.
  • American affluent consumers are strong in spending on recreational activities such as golf, tennis and skiing.

And European Affluents?  Well, they’re more subdued in their economic optimism – and their spending – at the moment.


America’s “Summer of Funk”

Consumers are in a funk in the Summer of 2012.

How much do American consumers spend in an average day? According to a July 2012 Gallup Poll, they spend about $70 per day in stores, gas stations, restaurants and online. (Housing, utility costs and vehicle purchases are extra.)

It turns out that this figure is a pretty big drop from the average daily spend of $104 Gallup found in 2008.

That meme we’re hearing on the campaign trail about people’s livelihoods having shrunk over the past three or four years? Evidently, it’s a fact.

And Gallup is also finding that upper-income Americans have undergone the same degree of spending reduction as everyone else. Their spending is now down to about $116 per day.

Evidently, confidence in the U.S. economy and the stock market’s uneven performance have taken their toll on the psyche of even the affluent classes in America. And Gallup isn’t the only organization charting this. Ipsos MediaCT is finding a similar story in its surveys.

Last week, Stephen Kraus, an Ipsos senior vice president and author of several books on the upper-income sector of society, wrote: “Widespread uncertainty plays a role in a fundamental fact of today’s “affluent” marketplace. For the most part, affluents today simply don’t feel affluent.”

Krauss continues, “This feeling isn’t new; for most, it is part of the lingering hangover of The Great Recession. But it is particularly pronounced in the summer of uncertainty.

Krauss concludes his remarks with this rather gloomy observation: “It’s a summer of uncertainty indeed – about the economy, about the future, and even about one’s own standing in today’s financial hierarchy.”

Reading these very latest reports on the level of uncertainty – even resignation – that people have about the economy, it underscores the collective funk the American people seem to be in as the 2012 presidential campaign grinds on inexorably to its conclusion.

Perhaps once Election Day has come and gone, Americans will “snap out of it” and begin to feel brighter about the future.

Perhaps. But don’t hold your breath.