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Embracing Freedonism, the Consumer Mindset of 2023

February 2023
  • Environmental and economic crises over the last few years have created an atmosphere of apathy in consumers who are tired of restrictions.
  • To combat this apathy, consumers are embracing spending more on fun and on experiences that allow for escape from everyday anxieties and worries.
  • Brands can tap into this Freedonism mindset by creating worlds and experiences consumers can immerse themselves in, incentivizing engagement and embracing the pursuit of fun and lightheartedness that consumers are already seeking.

 

INTRODUCTION

If you are looking to connect with consumers in 2023, one of the most important mindsets you need to understand is that of ‘Freedonism’. Freedonism is a term used to describe a mindset born out of consumers living in a climate of ‘permacrisis’, or a series of continual crises, starting with the pandemic and continuing through the impending recession.

Consumers have become numb to these crises that once caused anxiety. They are seeking to make up for lost time during this permacrisis, with 45% of consumers saying they plan to live more in the moment than previously. This financial apathy, where consumers aren’t as worried about spending during the recession because the continuous restrictions have stopped them from spending how they would normally want to, will be a crucial consumer trend in 2023.

In this report, we explore how consumers are prioritizing fun with a Freedonism mindset, how it will affect consumer spending and behavior, and what brands can do to connect with consumers through Freedonism.  

 

CONSUMER BEHAVIOR

With the recession looming, the general outlook on how consumers will spend is grim across several categories. From last year to this year, 38% of consumers indicate they will be spending less on clothing, 35% say they will be spending less on beauty products, and 30% say they will be spending less on alcohol. Specifically, ‘spending less’ means reining in consumption, trading down to cheaper alternatives, and purchasing fewer non-essentials Instead, they will be prioritizing spending on fun, and this is particularly true when it comes to experiences, with 42% of consumers indicating they are planning to spend more on experiences.

Why experiences?  First, experiences rising to the top has been a few years in the making. Experience has doubled in priority since 2020 and is the biggest priority spending segment in the US. Second, experiences provide value that products might not include, such as enabling a form of escapism from the realities of everyday life, they can form emotional connections that turn into unforgettable memories, and all of this is more valuable for consumers after these few years of continual restrictions.

In particular we expect ‘carnivalesque’ experiences to be sought after, characterized by embracing the irreverent, humorous, rebellious, and iconoclastic elements of life. In fact, there is a positive relationship between feelings of anxiety, boredom, and loneliness in consumers and interest in carnivalesque brands and experiences; these are the same kinds of feelings that have generated the Freedonism mindset, and so we expect carnivalesque experiences to rise to the top for consumers.

More generally, the reason experiences are so sought after by consumers now is that we have shifted from a ‘having’ to a ‘doing’ economy, because doing means active participation, immersion, and ultimately more fun for consumers. And fun has become the number one goal with Freedonism.

 

BRAND ROADMAP FOR HARNESSING FREEDONISM

How can your brand harness this consumer mindset and energy in 2023? To answer this question, we’ve created a mini roadmap for what your brand should do to take advantage of this trend. 

1. Create new worlds for consumers to escape into
It doesn’t matter if it’s digitally, in-store, or as a pop-up, world-building is essential if you want consumers to seek out your experiences. When you create a new reality for consumers to become a part of, you immerse them and make them forget about their daily worries and anxieties, even if only for a moment. But that moment is what allows consumers to emotionally connect with brands, and it’s the same kind of moment that took the gaming industry from a relatively niche hobby for consumers to being a bigger industry than music and movies combined. Gaming creates worlds to escape to, and experiences can do the same thing.

As an example, take the hugely successful Obsidian activation at Comic-Con in 2022 for the launch of their new game Grounded, where they unveiled a giant, 18-foot spider that made consumers really feel like they were in the game, even if only for a brief moment.

Figure 1: Fans fall in love with the 18-foot spider at Obsidian’s Grounded activation at San Diego Comic-Con


2. Create value over time

By integrating your experiences into your brand ecosystem. When we say value over time, that means for both parties, consumers and your brand. For consumers, value over time can be as simple as participation in experiences or attaching exclusive content or products. However, it can also be as complex as integrating rewards or loyalty programs throughout your experiences. How seamlessly a brand can integrate value will be the key differentiator for what should be implemented.

For brands, value over time comes from a few sources. First, the ability to re-engage with consumers after the experience ends strengthens the emotional connection consumers have formed during an experience. In turn, this generates brand loyalty which helps fortify consumer spend on your brand to be more recession proof than it would otherwise be with less engaged consumers. Take Starbucks’ new Odyssey program, where members can earn both physical and digital rewards and immersive coffee experiences.

By using Web3 technology, the Odyssey program creates a new type of value for consumers and the brand alike by facilitating new interactions and experiences between both parties.

Figure 2: Starbucks has now launched its Odyssey Web3-powered experience (Image courtesy of Polygon)


3. Embrace lightheartedness

Not every brand can realistically play in the carnivalesque space, but what you can do is understand how consumers are feeling and tailor your experiences to embrace those feelings.

With the increase in consumer anxiety and boredom arising from years of permacrisis, not taking your brand too seriously and embracing the lighthearted, humorous side of life when it comes to experiences gives consumers exactly what they are looking for – an escape from those feelings. This helps keep consumers immersed in your experiences, therefore making your experiences more valuable for consumers.

There are plenty of examples across brands pivoting to more lighthearted messaging and content. For example, look at Savage X Fenty, Rihanna’s lingerie brand, who created a novel ‘Savage in the Streets’ event, an over-the-top live fashion show in the streets of New York City that brought consumers momentarily out of their everyday lives and into the iconoclastic, rebellious side of life to resounding success. 

Figure 3: Fenty gets experimental with ‘Savage in the Streets’ event (Image courtesy of Adweek)


PARTING THOUGHTS

You might have assumed that the impending recession would mean that consumers are looking to cut back spend across the board, but as we have described in this report, the unique circumstances leading into this recession have shifted consumer behaviors.

For brands to tap into this Freedonism mindset, they will need to show consumers that they not only understand how consumers are feeling, but also what consumers are seeking from their interactions with brands. By using this roadmap and understanding the implications of Freedonsim on consumer behavior brands can feel confident in their ability to rise to the top and provide what consumers need the most right now – fun, unforgettable, lighthearted experiences.  

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