"The recession may have given people an added reason to think about the way they buy things, but these changes were happening even before the recession hit," Naomi Troni, global CMO of Euro RSCG Worldwide, which just published its new research in a white paper called "The New Consumer," tells Marketing Daily.
"There are something like 16 different kinds of Tropicana orange juice out there," she says. "It's crazy, and people think it's just too much. They are trying to get away from that overcomplication. Obviously, people have been thinking the recession is awful. But it's interesting that it's given them a reason to stop and think, to reassess what they want to do."
The study -- which included responses from 5,700 adults in Brazil, China, France, Japan, Netherlands, England and the U.S. -- found that across the board, people are looking for ways to add meaning to their lives, and are fed up with many aspects of consumerism.
Strong majorities think society is moving in the wrong direction -- in France, 70% agree, in the U.S., 66%, and in England, 63%. Overall, 69% of respondents think people are too shallow, with that conviction especially strong -- 79% -- in the U.S.
They also say they're shopping differently than they used to -- 70% of the global sample and 80% of Americans say they are both more careful and mindful about their purchases, and 68% overall wish they could buy simpler products, with fewer bells and whistles.
Troni says that many of these changes have been informed by a greater sense of environmental responsibility, a majority thinks so in every market: 59% believe we are too disconnected from the natural world, and 51% say they worry that digital communication is weakening human bonds.
"It's bigger than just environmental concerns -- it's really about a more meaningful way of life, and it's more widespread. Even five years ago, things like organics were seen as more of a fringe movement. Now, more people are looking beyond the impact of things on their own bodies and health, and on the global impact of their purchases."
Another clear change, she says, is that consumers are enjoying many of these cutbacks, not suffering through them. In the U.S., for example, 87% say saving money makes them feel good about themselves.
"It makes them feel smarter," she says, "and they enjoy feeling one up on the brand."