By Mary Meehan
Originally published on Forbes.com, September 28, 2015.
Consumers Are Fed Up With Corruption And Cheats
We’re angry. Americans’ collective craving for even a little bit of authenticity and truth is so ravenous that we are binging on anarchists, entertaining the idea of electing a showman or a (gasp!) socialist, and rallying for activists of all kinds. Suffering through endless empty promises and injustices we’re grasping for extreme options.
Scandals, corruption, and deceit are as old as time, of course. But somewhere in our past, the semblance of a civilized society took hold, and democracy’s fairness and representation became an expectation. Our American social contract guaranteed a trusting, safe, respected life and decent standing in the eyes of the world.
Fast forward to today, and you can see that resentment and anger have crept into our choices in politics, technology, and entertainment. The lies, fakery, and fraud have become too much to contain, like shaking a can of soda and then shaking it a little more. And then a little more. The frustration is ready to foam up and cover the culture.
Sensationalized media reporting and scandalized scoops are big business. Yuck.
Reality TV has reached non-reality doses of TMI. What’s real anymore? Can we even tell?
One thing that’s got Americans mad: Citizens are fed up with Congress. According to a Quinnipiac poll, a “full 71% of Americans said they were dissatisfied with the state of the nation and more than a quarter of Americans said their frustration transcended dissatisfaction and landed on anger.” Grrrr.
Conversations about wealth and income inequality have dug deeper and deeper into the mainstream, calling out big companies for their role in widening the gap. But little changes. More sexual predator priests are exposed. All over the world. Racial injustice has spilled, violently, into the street across social, political, financial and technical sectors of the culture. And that’s just a sampling of today’s frustration-inducing cultural developments.
We’ve hit our limit of corruption and inequity, and it’s showing in our choices like never before. We’ve picked some fringe political candidates in the past, and Hollywood has always given us avatars for our hopes and dreams, but it’s different now.
The embedded charts, from Panoramix Global and Metametrix, analyze publicly available data to show what values are behind important topics, adding cultural intelligence to each issue.
Rise of the Donald
Values defining Donald Trump (Panoramix Global and Metametrix)
Written off by pundits as a momentary blip on the political scene, Donald Trump — that bloviating showman — is now the leading Republican candidate. Angry Americans — mostly white — are flocking to support The Donald. Did he already tell you he was really rich? He doesn’t bother editing any of his comments — and people love it. He has nothing to lose and is beholding to no one. Finally someone who will be their authentic self. As the above chart shows, The Donald’s presence in the media today mostly plays into people’s idea of power — what it is, where it’s going and how to get it back.
Values defining Bernie Sanders (Panoramix Global and Metametrix)
Bernie Sanders is the other side
Bernie Sanders is the other side of that political coin. Similarly written off as a socialist distraction who will wither on the sidelines, Bernie has surged in the polls with his message of “no one else will tell you this, but I will.” He has nothing to lose. Finally someone who will call out the criminals and state what’s politically unpopular. His messages of freedom, justice, and power resonate with those looking for fairness and a return to civility.
Domo Arigato, Mr. Robot
Values defining Mr. Robot (Panoramix Global and Metametrix)
In entertainment, USA Networks’ surprise offering, Mr. Robot captured a huge audience (and critical acclaim) by taking down Evil Corp. (not the company’s real name) and the whole financial system with it, wiping out debt for everyone. Wow! Sounds dreamy? Viewers responded to the cool factor of course, but our unlikely hero faces the system and the man all on his own, struggling with reality at every scary step. It takes hacker vigilantism to face down the fear. Finally, we have found someone who will solve the inequality issue and isn’t afraid to burn the house down. Elliot Alderson, too, has nothing to lose.
Values defining Black Lives Matter (Panoramix Global and Metametrix)
In politics, Black Lives Matter roared on to the political and social scene powered by a small band of devoted social activists. Armed with smartphones and laptops they leveraged social media to create a powerful, highly visible, protest movement that reaches millions. Tapping into a raw nerve of mangled justice, freedom, and power they became the catalyst to put racial equality front and center in the culture. Finally someone made race and equity a cause that can no longer be ignored or discounted. The activists had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Discontent used to be the territory of the youth rebelling against the establishment and their elders. Not anymore. Our collective frustration has boiled over in almost every part of the culture, crossing demographics, as well as political and economic boundaries. Citizens and consumers have more power and control than ever before and will continue to make themselves heard until someone listens.
Check out the originally published version on Forbes.com here.
About the author: I am the founder and lead cultural intelligence analyst and public speaker for Panoramix Global, a research consultancy that helps enterprises understand the complexities and consequences of consumer behavior as a pathway to their own brands’ growth and innovation. With more than 20 years of experience as a leader in consumer analysis, I’ve come to believe that the future of consumer understanding is complex, interconnected, global and dynamic. And my work reflects those beliefs. In 1992, I co-founded the international consumer trend agency Iconoculture, recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in America. Iconoculture provided the research industry’s first theoretical framework for translating trends into practical insights using a highly qualitative, proprietary methodology. In 2010, I founded Panoramix Global, a next-generation research and consumer behavior firm that specializes in providing clients with an analytic perspective on consumers that maximizes cultural data to deliver foresights to innovation- and growth-minded marketers. Recently, I launched Metametrix Data.