In December last year, Diageo launched ‘Distilled’, its inaugural consumer trends report.  Here, Alberto Romano explores what is driving consumer conversations around the world. 

To be the world’s best brand builder, Diageo is committed to championing curiosity and driving a deeper understanding of our consumers in all our markets. If we are to understand socializing better than any company on Earth, we need to recognize the forces that are shaping it, and rather than react to change, be ahead of shaping consumer attitudes. 

We do this through the ‘Foresight System’, the ‘Hubble Telescope’ of Diageo’s insight work. This is a powerful tool we have developed with our partners that monitors and tracks global conversations from a wide range of web sources and social media platforms. It's not a passive observer, it's an active influencer that is shaping our day-to-day activities and strategic decisions. And by sharing ‘Distilled’ with the world, we hope that brands can use our insights to not only develop their own strategies but ultimately contribute to creating a better society. 

Below are the five trends Distilled explores, and some of the key lessons brands must take away if they are to win in 2024 and beyond. 

Neo-Hedonism

Sparked by a changing relationship with luxury and indulgence, people today are seeking meaningful experiences that infuse the everyday with multi-sensorial delights. While traditional pursuits of luxury and excess still hold their allure, consumers are expanding their definition of hedonism, seeking new and innovative ways to experience pleasure – something we have coined ‘Neo-Hedonism’. Despite being one of the newer trends, Neo-Hedonism is on the rise (+39%), as people re-look at how they want to spend their money. 

For example, nomadic experiences are a standout sub-topic of Neo-Hedonism with consumers, especially in North and Latin America, with people increasingly seeking adventure, travel, and a better work-life balance.

There’s a variety of ways for brands to utilize this trend, such as creating immersive narratives that resonate emotionally with consumers or investing in alternative social spaces. However, brands must play a role in continuing the growing democratization of pleasure, and ensure that their goods and services are accessible to broader audiences. Whether it is through creating affordable luxury offerings or budget-friendly multisensory experiences, brands need to ensure they make indulgence inclusive and attainable.

Betterment Brands

Consumers are increasingly eco-conscious, becoming more aware of the environmental impact of their choices, and are seeking ways to align their purchasing decisions with their values and habits – a trend we call ‘Betterment Brands’. Despite this trend not being a new phenomenon, there was a 44% growth rate in mentions of the Betterment Brands trend, showing it is still very relevant. 

No longer is it enough for organizations to simply provide a good or service. Consumers today are seeking brands that offer high-quality products whilst demonstrating a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Social Change & Ethics was our fastest-growing sub-trend (+119%) as consumers become more aware of social disparities and what brands are doing to tackle them.

Consumers are seeking brands that align with their values, with many seeing planet-positivity as a mindset rather than an add-on. To win in this space, brands must treat sustainability as holistically as possible, and focus on closing the consumer ‘say-do gap’ by removing physical barriers to purchasing Betterment Brands. 

Conscious Wellbeing 

There has been a transformation in what it means to be healthy and happy. Health and wellbeing are no longer merely focused on physical attributes, but on psychological, physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing, bringing focus to the trend ‘Conscious Wellbeing’.

Consumers today are seeking not just fleeting moments of happiness, but sustained contentment and fulfillment in their daily lives. This is obvious with there being a 30% growth rate in mentions of Conscious Wellbeing, with celebrating self-love a prominent sub-trend as consumers look to slow down and create at-home sanctuaries.

As consumers are becoming more conscious of their overall health, brands must understand what their role is in society’s search for holistic wellbeing. Whether it is wellness-oriented food or clothing designed for comfort and emotional wellbeing, brands have the opportunity to shape the future by carving out unique and meaningful roles and purposes that resonate deeply with consumers’ wellness lifestyles.

Expanding Reality 

In today’s increasingly digital-first world, the boundaries between the online and offline have blurred, giving rise to a trend known as ‘Expanding Reality’. 

Technological advancements such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality are revolutionizing how we perceive and interact with reality. Coupled with increasingly interactive and immersive platforms, these technologies are shaping a new paradigm of experiences that transcend the traditional boundaries of the digital landscape.

Expanding Reality is our fastest growing trend (+96%), with AI for example now playing a role in everything we do from supporting productivity (+165% in North America) to concerns around diminishing creativity (+108% in Latin America).

To avoid falling behind, brands must integrate this ‘expanding reality’ across all points of their consumer journey. The business landscape will particularly see a shift towards immersive virtual collaboration to further enhance global interconnectivity, with brands needing to invest in technologies like AR and VR for remote meetings, education, and product development.

Collective Belonging

At a time when it can feel like society has become less tolerant, people are yearning for a community and connection. Fuelled by technology, this has led to the proliferation of niche online and offline communities, a trend called ‘Collective Belonging’.

Collective Belonging is our largest of the five trends with 28.7M conversations (JUL 21' - JUN 23'), largely driven by the sub-trend Championing Inclusive Cultures as consumers seek brands that empower everyone to express themselves authentically, ensuring that every voice is heard and valued.

Communities are no longer confined to geographical boundaries, and brands must utilize the power of uniting diverse groups, successfully fostering a sense of belonging on a deeper, more personal level. Brands need to implement comprehensive campaigns that celebrate diversity, going beyond just acknowledging its existence, as they are central to consumers finding a sense of belonging in a more fragmented world.

Shaping the Future

In today’s rapidly evolving world, adaptability and innovation are paramount. The trends showcased in this report underline the need for brands to embrace change, reimagine strategies, and stay agile in responding to evolving consumer needs.

To navigate this ever-evolving landscape, the power of external awareness and data-driven insights cannot be overstated. Brands at the forefront of change are those that embrace a keen understanding of their consumers and their constantly changing environments, and having the right capabilities to interpret and leverage data is the driving force behind shaping the future of consumer trends and industry dynamics.

The future holds exciting possibilities for brands and organisations that are willing to embrace these trends with an open mind. By staying informed, adapting, being proactive, and putting the consumer and culture at the centre of their strategies, brands can navigate this changing landscape and thrive in 2024.