CHAOS BREEDS GOBLIN MODE?
There’s a reason “Goblin mode” — acting “unapologetically self-indulgent… in a way that rejects social expectations” — was voted Oxford Dictionary’s 2022 word of the year. While the chaos of the pandemic may be (for the most part) behind us, the world has yet to return to a state of calm. In fact, many people feel that things are more disruptive than ever.
Working with SightX, we surveyed 4,000 people with the goal of understanding the various anxieties and struggles consumers are now facing — whether they be political, economic, or health-related.
This type of work isn’t the most comfortable, but it is honest. It’s also the best way for marketers to understand consumers’ current states of mind, and, ultimately, how to celebrate their resiliency through difficult circumstances.
A REACTION TO CHAOS
We utilized a well-defined psychological model known as “the 5 Fs” to understand how people currently perceive society’s response to chaos. Here’s what they said when asked how much they agree with each statement in regards to society at large:
THE 5 Rs ARE WHAT REALLY MATTER
Thankfully, our perception of general society doesn’t necessarily reflect our own personal reality. In other research from Vox Media, we are seeing a trend of defiance among consumers; for example, see what we forecasted as they approached the holiday shopping season in the face of recession indicators.
The post-pandemic world will have ~⅘’s (78%) of people reconsidering priorities, values, and a readjustment to how they spend their time and energy. In fact, ⅖ believe they have a clearer sense of meaning.
There is a desire for change as 68% are tired of the chaos, and nearly half are considerably more interested in reinventing themselves. ~60% say they are more willing to help others and are actively choosing to be more kind to others. In fact, kindness and helping are where we see the greatest difference of perception of self vs. perception of others.
As a response to the outside world, people will choose to focus on what they can control, prioritizing their mental wellness and cherishing their close relationships more than ever before.
REESTABLISHING THE ROLE OF MEDIA
As a result, media will play a very different role in the lives of consumers. At the height of the pandemic, we saw a bifurcation of media we called the “Truth vs. Fantasy Spectrum.” We saw a 60% increase in time spent on news, but also a 75% increase in escapism content. The rise of TikTok and the overinvestment of time spent on SVOD services by consumers was in direct response to a new media construct, as was the number of hours we spent on our algorithmic social feeds. But now, the media habits of consumers are set to evolve in 2023.
We asked consumers to describe to a friend all the things they might watch, read, and engage with using the following words:
Unsurprisingly, words like “upsetting,” “opinionated,” “real,” and “shocking” came up first. But when we asked consumers what they wished they could see more of, words like “necessary,” “practical,” “fair,” and “helpful” came to mind. What came next was a desire for content that is prescriptive, explanatory, and challenges their beliefs.
If you study the chart below, the largest gap difference is a desire for more positively emotive content that ultimately inspires calm, inclusivity, and empowerment.
In contrast to our preferences at the height of the pandemic, where we were looking to escape anxiety and fear, there is now a much greater likelihood that people will want to read about what’s happening in the world.
As Jim Bankoff, Vox Media CEO says, media will not win by way of the algorithm.
Enduring companies will be built on information that is necessary, challenging, and positive.
Simply put, the media will play a clear and important role in what’s next, especially in combating the five Fs and inspiring the five Rs. All of this is consistent with work we conducted last year with Vox audiences, which showed that 84% of news consumers want new ideas to help them solve problems, and 78% want the content they read to help them find real-world solutions.
REFRAMING THIS YEAR
Now that they’re coming out of “goblin mode,” people are approaching the new year with a sense of practical purpose; they’re examining the ways they can make small changes in their own lives before tackling some of the larger problems of the future.
While many of us will continue to entertain ourselves with social feeds, a growing appetite for more substantive media presents an opportunity for purpose-driven content. Brands that align with quality journalism have the potential to make meaningful connections with consumers through 2023 and beyond.
Methodology A survey was commissioned to ~2,500 consumers in March 2021. Our partner, SightX is a premium research partner. Their goal is to automate curiosity.