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The Evolving American Good Life: Roper Reports® at 40

June 27, 2013

What is more a part of the Good Life in the US today: having a lot of money or a college education? The experience of traveling abroad or the possession of owning a vacation home? For the past 40 years, GfK’s Roper Reports® consumer trends survey has been asking Americans whether they consider these and other items are part of their vision of “the Good Life, the life you would like to have.”

“Trending the World” is an ongoing collaboration with GfK’s Data Visualization team, created to mark the 40th anniversary of Roper Reports. In the latest installment, an interactive timeline takes you inside four decades of research on Americans’ aspirations.

Across five points in time – 1975, 1984, 1994, 2003, and the present – we show how Americans’ desires have shifted from the intangible to the tangible before swinging back to the intangible in this tumultuous decade.

Such insights can be critical to wise marketing – shaping immediate plans, as well as long-term initiatives. A too-materialistic pitch can fall flat in a time like the present, when experiences are prized more than possessions. Conversely, a too-experiential can falter when acquisitiveness is on the rise as was the case in the “aspiration inflation” of the 1980s.

Analyzing trends within specific categories can also be invaluable. With the experience of travel abroad climbing the Good Life list in post-Great Recession America, this is a good time to be in the experiential-travel business. Ditto the lawn and gardening segment.

In addition, these studies provide a window onto the hopes and dreams of key segments – today’s young, Boomers, men, women, high-income households, high-asset households, Influentials, and Values types like Achievers and Self-Directeds among them.

Possessions and experiences

In our new Trending the World, we divide 14 consistent items asked over the years into seven “experiences” – like a happy marriage, children, travel broad, sending your kids to college and having a college education yourself – and seven “possessions” – from owning a home and having a nice yard and lawn, to pricy totems like having a lot of money, a high-paying job, a vacation home, and a swimming pool. We then compare them over time, through a series of charts and pop-up narratives that unfold as you scroll down the years.

The Trending the World series also depicts how market research is changing. To GfK, research is not only producing reliable, high-quality data but depicting what it means through innovative, leading-edge storytelling that can transform and inspire organizations to realize the fruit of insight in sales, market share, and profit.

Click here if you would like more information on how you can tap into the consumer expertise of Roper Reports® and the data-visualization capabilities of GfK.

And stay tuned for upcoming installments of Trending the World, in which we will expand our scope into the global lens of Roper Reports Worldwide® with insight from our new 2013 global survey.

Trending the World is produced by Jon Berry, Danielle Carrick, Stephen Shecora, and the Roper Reports team.

Jon Berry is vice president, consulting, on GfK’s Consumer Trends team. He can be reached at Follow Jon on Twitter at @trendsmonk.


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