Who are the next brand tribes?

December 15, 2015
7 min read

Marketing to the millenials, the sneakerheads, the next-gen eco warriers… today’s tribes are clearly defined and targeted by the sectors most wanting to play on their purchasing power. So which new tribes do brands and agencies most need to understand?

Here Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel,  forecasts the consumer tribes that brands will need to engage, determining six key tribes that will form and present brand opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, a combination of increasingly digital lives coupled with data concerns will have a strong impact on tribe formation. The generation that grew up under a digital cloud will have their own preferences, some continuing to embrace the over-sharing culture driven by social campaigns, others simply craving privacy.

And it’s not just about the next generation coming in with spending power. One of the most significant tribes for 2016 and beyond will be cash-rich seniors – more active, still in employment and with a healthier bank balance than the generations before them.

Secret secrets

Showy, egotistical consumption is in the ascendancy, with consumers more than happy to share images of themselves trying on virtual outfits or using promotional hashtags in return for an ego boost or a discount. However, we are also seeing the emergence of a more discreet consumer who exhibits greater discretion and welcomes privacy. For instance, 58% of UK consumers are concerned about their personal information being used by brands for online advertising purposes – significantly more than those who are concerned about government surveillance. We’re seeing privacy and discretion gain outsider credibility in the digital sphere, with millions waiting to join ad-free social network Ello, and secure-messaging app Telegram boasting 50 million active users.

We expect this mentality to cross over into consumption. Some 62% of American teens say their favourite brand makes them feel “in the know”, and we will probably see more retailers and leisure venues follow the example of the Output nightclub in Williamsburg, NYC, which has banned photography to protect privacy and maintain a degree of exclusivity. Brands that push values of discretion – along with anti-algorithm serendipity – will become more attractive.

Data traders

Alongside this group there will be another, acutely aware of the value of their personal data to brands, but also to their own health and finances. The wearables market is in its infancy, but the AppleWatch has provided a shot in the arm – 24% of UK consumers who currently don’t own a device are interested in doing so. These digital narcissists will demand a new era of diagnostics and data analysis from brand partners, so that the ‘rewards’ of data exchange develop far beyond the current meagre limitations of store loyalty cards into something more sophisticated.

We’re already seeing initiatives in health insurance, such as John Hancock’s Vitality Programme in America, which gives out Fitbit bracelets with its policies and prices them accordingly. This principle will be welcomed by consumers eager for analytical assistance with their wealth of data. For instance, 34% of UK consumers are interested in a mobile or tablet app where they can store their daily calorie intake, and 17% are interested in a nutritional review of their grocery basket content.


As life feels faster and faster, UK consumers crave brands, services and products to grant some respite. Global product launches with relaxation claims grew 20% in 2014 and are up 160% in the past decade. This desire to recharge, recover and regain a degree of control will grow in tandem with the rising pressures of urbanisation, commuting and connectivity.

Some 20% of consumers we’ve spoken to want somewhere to relax and unwind, which presents opportunities for brand experiences outside the traditional territories of venues such as salons. We’ll see a burgeoning group of consumers ready to embrace concepts like Soho House’s sit-down store in Berlin – which looks like an apartment, but where everything is for sale – and Ikea’s policies of encouraging shoppers to take a nap on their furniture in stores in China or take a ‘splash’ in their promotional ball pools for adults in Mulhouse, France.

Kerchinging sixties

Demographically speaking, the most important brand tribe of the next 30 years will be seniors. They are more numerous and more moneyed than other groups, and are neglected by marketers and manufacturers. Some 44% of over-65s describe their financial situation as “healthy”, with money left at the end of the month for a few luxuries or to add to their savings, compared with just 24% of the population on average.

What makes seniors so important for brands is that they are continuing to work beyond retirement. This is great news for cosmetics, fashion and functional food brands, as they wish to remain attractive and competitive in the workplace.

That goes for the dating market too, with a rise in senior divorces and the availability of Viagra creating a sexually active target market. This tribe wants vitality in new forms – they don’t associate with previous generations of elders and demand aspirational, age-appropriate models and imagery, such as Helen Mirren and Charlotte Rampling as the faces of L’Oréal Paris and Nars respectively.

The borrowers

Ownership makes less and less sense to younger consumers reared on digital intangibility and deprived of the space and permanence engendered by home ownership. Brands therefore need to take heed of a savvy ‘why buy?’ generation who are ready to share instead. Some 90% of UK consumers aged 25-34 say they always or sometimes borrow things instead of buying them, and half of the same age group attend ‘big swap’ or ‘swishing’ events to swap items they no longer need.

This means that in high-turnover, fast-paced sectors like fashion, we’ll see more initiatives such as the UK’s Skwag app, which enables users to swap footwear, and the Netherlands’ clothing rental service Lena, which pushes a message of sustainability. We’ll also see more examples of brands such as French DIY retailer Mr Bricolage extend into seemingly counter-intuitive services like La Depanne – a sharing platform for tools.

Right-on, switched off mums

Despite the hype around new dads, it’s mums who are making most of the household decisions, and they are taking an increasingly progressive approach when it comes to ethics, gender and technology in parenting. While just 38% of UK mums are the main earner in their household, they are the main decision-maker in almost all facets of family life, including leisure.

Digital devices are integral to education and entertainment, but 4 in 5 of mums agree that “spending time as a family without using technology (e.g. reading books or going to the park) is important to me”. This creates demand for leisure experiences with a visceral, sensorial, disconnected element, such as parks with ‘tech creches’, and venues celebrating toys and traditional board games. It is mums who decide on leisure activities, ahead of their partners, and they are looking for campaigns not targeted to a specific gender (such as pink for girls, blue for boys), as well as those that avoid stereotypes (e.g. unrealistic body proportions). These parents will embrace genderless science and cooking attractions, and toys like Lammily – a doll alternative to Barbie, with realistic body proportions.

Richard Cope is Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel. He works as a trends analyst, consultant, presenter and facilitator on bespoke client projects. As a globally recognised leading trends commentator, he is regularly called on by media worldwide to provide insight and analysis into consumer trends.

Richard Cope
Richard Cope

Richard is a Senior Trends Consultant, bringing the latest consumer trends to Mintel clients through bespoke presentations and represents Mintel at global conferences.

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