'Safety is the new middle class luxury', says Future Foundation

India: fears about homeland security
India: fears about homeland security

The growing "middleclassification" of the world is making societies increasingly risk-averse, and is a trend that will impact brands across sectors and territories in the near future, says Christophe Jouan, chief executive of trend watchers Future Foundation.

What was once considered to be an acceptable level of risk is changing throughout the world.

While there may be nuances to what people view as the most concerning risk factors in different countries, the trend toward consumers wanting to eliminate risk from their lives is a universal one according to Jouan, speaking at Future Foundation's Fate, Hype & Clarity conference held in London today (23 October).

Middleclassification is driving this, as consumers gain power, education and consumer goods, their understanding of risk grows. "Safety is the new middle class luxury," said Jouan. The movement is toward collectivisation of risk so that the shift in society has been from individual freedom to do things, to the freedom to not be harmed by what others do.

This shift in civil liberty has seen an increasing appetite for regulation from smoking bans to food safety measures across many countries.

And while the glamorous image of the risk-taker remains entrenched in movies and advertising – in reality people are shying away from this behaviour. Jouan said web analytics of search terms between 2008 and 2013 showed Google searches with the word "safe" included had increased across numerous industry sectors including travel and tourism.

But the nature of where risk lies varies according to the Future Foundation’s Trendspotter data:  so while in the US fears about risk centre on school shootings, the financial crisis and housing foreclosures, in India they are more about homeland security and in France concerns are about the future.

Where this trend takes brands in the future remains to be seen. Jouan pointed to three potential routes: the death of risk where we become wired up with devices to monitor all aspects of our lives; a backlash to this where consumers reach risk overload; or the end of guilt, where harming oneself becomes almost medically impossible as anti-cancer and anti-obesity drugs come onto the market. 

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