The current trend towards nationalism and protectionism is powerful. However, due to people’s cultivated appetite for global products, we believe that in spite of this prevalent mood, it has little impact on consumer behaviour or consumption. We took the topic of anti-globalisation to our global network of Trendspotters, who help us to get a better insight into the lives of consumers in their respective markets. Focused on the USA, UK and France, over the last few months, Donald Trump has settled in at the Oval Office, Theresa May called for a snap election and over in France, a close defeat for far-right Le Pen. So just what do our Trendspotters think of the future of globalisation? Is this a decline or pause, and just how optimistic are we?
Champions of globalisation tend to be found among the younger demographics. Notably, the desire to limit immigration was one of the key reasons that voters chose to leave the EU in the UK, which was split not only geographically but by age. Foresight Factory data shows that a large minority of 40% of US and 46% of UK consumers see globalisation as a force for good (and 53% of UK and 46% of US consumers say they can see the advantages of immigration). However, it is the age group of 18-34s that are most likely to regard globalisation positively.
‘We are currently very divided between the young and the old – and the general feeling is that the old are governing and the young have no political representative.’ – Charlotte, 33, UK
In France, the proportion of people who believe globalisation is a positive force is equal to those that believe the opposite, at 37% for each. The liberal mask of France may have slipped for a brief moment with the first round of the Presidential election that saw a 3% difference between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. And although the vote was not just about globalisation but structural issues too, despite the loss – far-right Le Pen earned the highest score for her party than had been achieved previously.
‘I think it just shows that the majority of France doesn’t believe in Le Pen’s populism. However, I’m not sure this means populist movements will become less relevant in the short term.’ – Camille, 27, Berlin/Paris
Amongst older generations, there has been a inclination towards favouring anti-globalisation policies. However, at Foresight Factory, when it comes to consumer purchasing, we don’t measure a rejection of the benefits of globalisation at the checkout. Furthermore, there is no hard evidence of a shift of preference towards home-grown goods – suggesting that spending habits are unlikely to change when it comes to ‘national’ versus ‘global’ brands. (In fact, if you’re interested in the future of US supermarkets, look no further than here).
‘The current mood of uncertainty has definitely slowed down the housing market in London as people wait to see what is going to happen next. I haven’t noticed a big change in other spending as yet.’ – Charlotte, 33, UK
‘I don’t think people are letting this impact their spending decisions. If anything, they might be spending more, because the economy is looking up and treating yourself to certain things can be a way to fight some of the dread people are experiencing.’ – Pieter, 28, New York
In the US, consumers express a desire to buy ‘Made In America’, however, price trumps purchase patriotism where more than twice as many (67%) would choose a cheaper foreign-made product than a more expensive American one. It appears that globally, consumers may regard nationalism as something that institutions need to pursue – yet they do not feel obliged to change their spending behaviour to reflect that.
‘The job market isn’t easy to navigate and people aren’t very confident. In terms of governance, the recent election did bring some hope back into the country, but for now we’ll have to wait and see.’ – Camille, 27, Berlin/ Paris
‘Ironically, in terms of the economy and financially, I think people are feeling quite optimistic and hopeful (thanks Obama!)’, – Pieter, 28, New York
Perhaps it is the unstable economy that is triggering the wave of anti-globalisation and this finds its outlet via elections. Should the performance of global economies improve, we believe that consumers are likely to take a more favourable view of globalisation as wage growth improves. In the meantime, brands do not need to pander to nationalism but rather build loyalty among their customers.
For more information on our Trendspotter network, contact our Account Director for a consultation.