1 - A presidential election takes place this month of April
The backdrop: new issues are gradually superseding Covid-19 among the population’s top concerns: cost of living and inflation is now the number one worry (57%, up seven points on 2020). Inflation could soon negatively impact discretionary consumption. The main questions in the campaign as it now stands revolve around whether the major reshuffle of the political system initiated by Emmanuel Macron’s election five years ago will continue and whether a President reelected for a second (and last) term would be more likely to implement far-reaching reforms of social welfare, pensions, and education. The war in Ukraine has added further uncertainty and one in two voters declare they are still uncertain about the near future.
Another important dimension of the 2022 election has so far been the popularity of candidates who claim France is declining and want to curb this decline by enhancing national pride and independence, bring immigration to a full stop (10% of French residents are born abroad from foreign parents) and prevent the spread of multiculturalism and so-called ‘woke-ism’.
2 - Diversity and Inclusion topic is rising up the agenda
We are seeing some of the confrontational rhetoric long prevalent on the other side of the Atlantic. No major party or organisation has gone so far as to resolutely and officially embrace multiculturalism, identity politics and affirmative action. Private businesses have been less shy than the Government, but most brands still adopt a rather discreet, low-key approach to diversity. Any brand which would aim to ‘ethnicise’ its marketing (e.g. in using skin colour, ethnic background and religion as official segmentation criteria) is confronted with a major obstacle: race, religion and ethnicity statistics are prohibited by law in France in the name of equality and this kind of data can thus not easily be collected through surveys.
3 - Empathy-based marketing has been thriving since 2020
Marketeers have been responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and the more vocal expression of social concerns like police brutality or sexual harassment (#BlackLivesMatter and #Metoo) by an increased emphasis on Empathy. They used advertising to showcase their respect for the ones who were on the frontline, their regard for diversity and inclusion and, more generally, for more human relations and closeness. Many listed companies have officialised their CSR commitments by including a raison d’être in their corporation charters, as a recent law allowed them to do. This makes them officially accountable to all the stakeholders they thus designated and not just to their stockholders anymore.
4 - Climate change awareness has progressed
Four consecutive presidents, from Jacques Chirac to Emmanuel Macron through Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, have taken symbolic steps to showcase their commitment to curbing climate change. 50% of French people express strong concern about climate change, just 10% express skepticism and barely one percent deny it altogether. Yet, if even two in three agree that only a change in their lifestyle could be enough to curb climate change, many reject the practical steps that could be taken, particularly when it comes to increasing the cost of petrol and electricity. The 'Yellow Vests' were at first a revolt against a petrol tax hike in the name of climate change…
5 - The French are far more pro-business than one usually thinks
Public trust in private businesses has progressed and its role in helping the public sector deal with the pandemic and preserve employment has been widely acknowledged. Trust in big businesses, traditionally less positively viewed than small businesses, grew from 34% before the pandemic to 50% in 2020 and remained at 49% in 2021.
6 - Just like all other nations, the French have spent more time at home, and this has changed their priorities
Sales of home appliances grew 30% in the first quarter of 2021. Home cooking, home entertainment, gardening, and home fixing, but also outdoor activities around barbecues and motorhomes…all of these have traditionally been popular pastimes. The pandemic only increased their popularity.
7 - Home cooking remains a key component of French culture and lifestyle
French home-cooks are increasingly keen on combining recipes rooted in a long family and regional heritage with healthier ingredient and of thus allying indulgence with well-being. "Food Hacks" are hence extremely popular on social media, just like cooking contests are in TV prime times. Preserving taste while reducing fat and sugar, or even substituting vegetal for animal protein, are among the key challenges addressed by these hackers and the many tutorials (“tutos” in French). Best-selling recipe books are being published by those influencers and they now play an essential role in the marketing of food products. The most salient trend of the past two years has been the rise of batch cooking (search for this term was up 38-% in Google).
8 - The French like their pills
Medical drug consumption levels in France are high and preventive healthcare is underdeveloped. This excessive reliance on curative medicine probably helps to explain the speed with which France was hit by the first waves of the pandemic. Just like anywhere else, telemedicine progressed in the wake of the pandemic and is certainly here to stay. Digital platforms used to schedule medical appointments and attend virtual consultations have also changed habits in depth as well as simplified and rationalized patients’ access to general practitioners. The reform of hospitals, potentially a major issue of the next presidency, didn’t follow apace but catastrophic predictions were fortunately not realised.
9 - French car sales are plummeting
New vehicle registrations are 16 percentage points down in January-February 2022 when compared with 12 months ago. Used car sales have hit record levels (in terms of price and volume) in 2021, but 2022 already seems to be poised to be a bad year for both the new and used car market. Many factors converge to explain the current slump: a shortage of microchips, automakers strategy shift from volumes to margins, the lack of charging stations, etc. One thing at least seems certain: a radical change in consumer preferences and lifestyles is not in prospect: 75% of French workers still use their cars to communte every day and the rising popularity of cycling is mostly limited to major urban centres and only affects individual mobility and not family trips.
10 - Gaming is extremely popular within French grownups
60% of French people played video game in 2020, while France is home to major companies like Ubisoft. Video games no longer are the preserve of kids and teenagers, and their social function has considerably changed in the past two decades. They are today as much a medium of communication as they are a medium of entertainment and they can contribute to fighting social isolation as well as providing a new touchpoint between brands and consumers.