Mainstream is cool: you heard it here first. Gone are the days of revelling in choice; people are bamboozled. Consumers are beginning to mistrust fad following brands and running back to old faithfuls. There’s comfort in our favourites and in this tumultuous time, people want to settle down and cosy up with what they can rely on.
The best example of this is craft beer. Independent micro-breweries were all the rage a few years ago and consumers would avoid your Carlsbergs, Foster’s and Becks like the plague. It’s the same as “I knew them before they were big” claims with indie bands; as soon as they’re famous, fans move on. At one point, big beer brands even tried distressed labels to seem more “authentic.” But as craft beer has boomed, it’s no longer hip to namedrop the obscure. Fast forward a few years and consumers have circled right back by coveting friendly brands they’ve known their whole lives – we call this “poptimism.” We’re now experiencing a serious backlash to craft beer in the media, but isn’t the whole definition of being cool being different? So shouldn’t contrary consumers be doing the opposite of what the media is preaching? The whole thing makes your head spin.
The same is happening with coffee. Those iced almond-macadamia milk lattes are just too much to fathom when you just need a good old-fashioned caffeine kick. When you’re trudging into the office on a Monday morning, the warm lights of chain coffee shops represent a home from home. They draw you in during sensitive moments like a moth to a flame. It’s times like these when consumers opt for cheap buckets of filter coffee over a brag-worthy flat white (even the Instagram likes aren’t worth it). Campaign explains that the media has nicknamed this movement “normcore.”
Just look at “clean eating,” which has shaken up the food industry over the past few years. Causing endless opinion pieces on spiralizers, now consumers are retreating back to cake and abandoning complicated courgette recipes. The rainbow plates of exotic fruit and vegetables may look better on Instagram than a greasy burger, but who can be bothered with that? Cutting out entire food groups is not only time-consuming but the effort is pretty damn stressful. VICE’s Munchies is leading ‘food porn’ media by quashing health food fads one dripping cheese toastie photo at a time. As soon as people, along with hoards of trained nutritionists, started to question the credibility of fancy food aficionados, the trend was dissected and is, thankfully, slowly dissolving. The biggest issue? The complicated recipes isolate a huge chunk of the population who can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods for bone broth, sumac, chia seeds and the like. On top of that, most of those behind the clean eating surge are white, attractive, thin women (more on that in our blog on diversity). But we digress, all this aside there is proof that consumers are going back to basics – just look at soaring supermarkets.
Time and time again, consumers get sucked in with fancy logos and ridiculous names, allured by something new, only to be disappointed in the product. In other words; the novelty and fleeting excitement does not justify the risk of losing out on what they really want deep down. What’s the lesson for brands? Think it through before jumping on the bandwagon as you could end up wasting piles of cash and crawling right back to where you started. You also risk losing loyal customers who always loved your original product in the first place. Don’t follow the trends for the sake of it, choice wisely and be 100% sure your market will understand and respond well to your new tricks. But trust us; there is really, really, wrong with sticking to what you know.