Leading left-wing commentators, voluntary sector chiefs and Labour MPs past and present came together last week for the launch of a report on the working class.
The study, by research company Britainthinks, cast light on the politics, attitudes and brand allegiances of the 24% of the British public who define themselves as working class.
The report, 'What about the workers', of which the findings are a combination of a poll of 2000 adults and focus groups, follows a Britainthinks study in March that shone a spotlight on the 71% of people who define themselves as middle class (Marketing, 23 March).
While the March survey identified six middle-class segments, the working class is presented as a homogenous group. Deborah Mattinson, co-founder of Britainthinks and Gordon Brown's former pollster, says that, there were some differences between the north and south and across ages, but there were 'more common threads'.
Brands are often to be found rolling out 'upmarket' makeovers, with examples such as Strongbow's 'Hard graft' campaign, which celebrates manual workers, the rare exception.
This could be because the working class is no longer seen as a group to which people want to belong. Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class and a speaker at the report's launch, says: 'People see being working class as something to escape from. It's a pejorative term. That sense of pride you saw in the past is not seen as much now.'
Mattinson agrees, pointing out that respondents showed a strong desire to escape from backgrounds by winning the lottery or via a reality TV show.
More than half (51%) of the working class said they 'often have conversations with friends about shows like The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent', versus only 29% of middle-class people.
Mattinson adds that it makes sense that retailer Iceland, identified in the research as the second-most working class brand after The Sun, should use Stacey Solomon, who gained fame via reality-TV appearances, in its ads.
Respondents were also asked about the brands they identified with (see box, right) and to name the most working-class celebrities. Wayne Rooney came top, beating Katie Price and Cheryl Cole.
One unexpected name in the top 10 of working-class brands was PizzaExpress. Mattinson explains: 'Working-class people are much less likely to go to table-service restaurants, but, if they do, PizzaExpress is fairly accessible.' She adds that its presence in supermarkets, may have contributed to this finding.
Sharon Johnson, strategy partner at Iceland's agency, Beta, who also attended the launch, says advertisers often forget the working class, adding that the challenge for brands was to be 'optimistic but in sync with how they live'.
'If one in four people identifies themself as working class, it may not be the majority, but it is still a significant group,' she adds. 'They are worth our attention.'
Read more at Britainthinks.com