Bob Shullman, President IPSOS Mendelsohn, is a veteran in the marketing research and strategy discipline for a range of important media brands. Through his efforts, Ipsos Mendelsohn has become synonymous with expertise in the high-end consumer marketplace. In my interview with him, Bob talks about his work at Mendelsohn, the merging of IPSOS and Mendelsohn in 2008, and trends in the affluent marketplace. Bob also offers some interesting insights into future economic trends as it pertains to the wealthiest American consumers.
The videos of the interview can be viewed here. Below is an excerpt.
CW: Bob can you give me some predictions on media landscape over the next five years -- and the affluent market in particular?
BS: The media environment will be volatile over the next five years, just like we are seeing today and over the past few years. In our monthly Affluent Barometer survey, we ask wealthy consumers when they think the recession will be over. While the government is saying that the recession was over about 18 months ago, about 90% in our monthly survey say we are still in a recession and it will be over in 2013 or 2014.
And the Affluents are doing better than a lot of other people. This indicates to us that the affluent market will spend more time “nesting” over the next couple of years, because most affluent consumers tend to have families. So you will see an affluent group that is very focused on their home, home-related activities, children-related activities -- whether it is their kids or their grandchildren.
CW: Where do you see the economy headed in the next couple of years -- and how that will affect the behaviors, attitudes and purchasing of the affluent market?
BS: We field a monthly barometer in which we assess economic confidence of the affluent market. And every quarter we conduct a companion piece of those consumers who earn less than $100,000 household income so that we can compare the two economic groups.
The affluent consumer is more confident than the general marketplace, which I don’t think is a surprise to anybody. The less-than-affluent see the recession going on longer. Media brands should know that the affluent market is getting sick and tired of keeping their wallets in their pockets. We call it “Frugal Fatigue.”
I think the affluent market is saying, “I think this environment in which we live is going to continue for a while and if I wait to do what I want to do, which I probably have the money to do now, I may be waiting a very long time or forever.”
With the type of work we are doing here at Mendelsohn, we are seeing the affluents thinking more about spending. We ask the question “If the economy were to improve, what is the likelihood that they would start spending more?” -- and quite a few affluents state they would start spending more.
According to the study’s findings, those who indicated that they would spend more rather than less are in a ratio of three or four to one. This has been going on since 2009. The affluent want it to be over and they are getting frustrated, and they are starting to spend again.
CW: Is the affluent market as polarized politically as the rest of America seems to be? Or are they fairly consistent in their views?
BS: They are actually quite polarized. As I think most people would expect, there is tendency to have more Republicans, but there are many Democrats and there are many, many Independents. The affluent are a very educated group, in general much more so than the non-affluent. They are well entrenched with news and are more likely to know what is going on and they are finding it frustrating the way things are going.
If you are a Democrat, you are much more optimistic about the economy. If you are a Republican, you are more pessimistic about the economy. And if you are an Independent, at least the way we are reading the results today, you are looking at the economy more like the Republicans.