Changing values

February 2010

“I tell you very openly: we cannot expect the economic downturn to be over quickly,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her New Year speech, so preparing Germans for a difficult start to 2010. Although an increasing number of Germans believe the crisis will soon be over, the crash has left its mark and triggered a reconsideration of established values. Stable and social value concepts, such as home, achievement, trust and responsibility, are becoming increasingly important for Germans. Being secure is the top value in the ranking list.

An overwhelming majority of German consumers think that security will rise as a value in our society in future. This trend is apparent across all social classes, with East and West Germans, men and woman, and high and low income individuals all being in general agreement. These findings are taken from a survey conducted by the GfK Association on “Changing value perception”, in which over 1,000 respondents rated a total of 13 values.

Home was only slightly behind being secure on the scale of important values, which shows that many Germans are currently not feeling drawn to far-off lands. Almost 60% believe that home will become more important to people in future. As a result, the “homing” phenomenon, that is already delighting many sectors and worrying landlords and restaurateurs, could definitely have an impact on the economy in 2010.

Young people believe achievement is particularly important

Consumers attach importance to the refuge of their own home, but does this also mean a retreat from an achievement-driven society? Apparently not, as 60% stated that achievement will become more important in future. This view was even held by three in four respondents aged 14 to 24, which placed the value of “achievement” at the top of the ranking list in this age group, contradicting the cliché of a lazy and undisciplined younger generation. Young people also regard competition and innovation as vital for the future: these values were ranked higher than average in the 14 to 24 age group. One in three of all respondents stated that competition and innovation were becoming increasingly important.

However, the rising emphasis on achievement is not to the detriment of community spirit. Quite the opposite in fact, because the focus is on achievement through which responsibility does not fall by the wayside. Trust, responsibility and solidarity appear towards the top of the values ranked by consumers, in fourth, fifth and seventh places respectively. Approximately half of all respondents were of the opinion that these values, which serve the community, would become more important in future than they currently are. And very few (5%) believed they could decline in significance.

Optimism is becoming more important – as is the willingness to go without

“Showing confidence instead of complaining”: half of respondents take this stance, so calling the clichés of constantly complaining Germans into question. However, this positive view of the future does not mean that consumers are not also able to be pragmatic. In light of rising unemployment and the intended pensions freeze, one in four considers that going without will increase in significance as a value. This opinion is particularly prevalent among older and lower income consumers.

The values at the lower end of Germans’ rankings are power, luxury and adventure. Many people believe that these me-oriented life goals will play a smaller role in future. According to 40% of respondents, luxury in particular will decrease in importance. The thirst for adventure also seems to have declined as a result of the insecure economic situation, with 37% believing that the time for adventure is over for now.

This group therefore completely agrees with the worldly wisdom that adventure is a result of poor planning. And poor planning is something very few can, or wish to, afford in such uncertain times.

Data source: the GfK Association (Omnibus survey January 2010).

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