The health industry should pay attention to Mintel’s latest insights into consumers’ mindsets. The long and winding downturn in the economy has inspired five consumer trends…

Trust. With FDA recalls of sick food, banks’ lack of liquidity for consumer lending, and governments the world over breaking faith with citizens, peoples’ trust in institutions continues to erode. 66% of Americans say they have less trust in financial services companies due to the economy. 6 in 10 Americans continue to worry about food safety.

Control. Among the most affluent Americans, 2 in 5 say that spending less will become their new household budgeting mantra. They will rely less on credit to gain more control on household spending. Mintel says, “conservative and pragmatic are in; excess is out.”

Playfulness. Girls (and boys) still wanna have fun, perhaps because of the doom-and-gloom economy and news. 3 in 5 Americans went on some vacation in the past year, although the trend toward ‘staycations’ and staying with friends and family to save money was in play. On the consumer product front, Mintel noticed that manufacturers are marketing more fun-oriented products and brands as a way for people to “escape, engage and build relationships with brands.”

Simplicity. 2 in 3 Americans are simplifying their lives. Mintel’s survey found that 9 in 10 Americans believe there’s too much focus on material things. This has driven, Mintel observes, more clarity in advertising, labeling and packaging.

Trading down. 8 in 10 Americans are trading down when they can. They’re cooking more at home, and buying private labels at retail.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Mintel says, “Savvy retailers who have looked beyond ‘me too’ to truly innovative products that deliver against consumer need are demonstrating they are committed to offering great products at affordable prices … and the consumer doesn’t feel he or she is sacrificing. That’s a winning strategy.”

Listening to the transformed consumer mood could inform health reform in ways that could transform the uninspired plans coming out of policymakers’ pens. Keeping it simple and transparent could help to inspire more trust. Giving people information and tools to help them feel — and actually Be — in control would both engender trust and improve health outcomes. “Playfulness” in health equals engaging ways to get people activated in their own health. What if Disney, Apple and Nintendo mashed up a health reform plan?

“Trading down” in health could translate into health plans, for example, spinning off new health plan units that operate at lower cost. Here, I imagine new health plan entrants into the field that could capitalize on The New Consumer Mood. My colleague and friend Scott Shreeve has presciently defined Health 2.0 in this way. Mintel’s research suggests that Scott’s vision should have traction with today’s new and pragmatic consumer.

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