I miss being preoccupied by politics all the time.
Well, somebody might say that. A news media exec maybe. I haven’t seen February’s cable ratings, but they had to tumble. Honestly, I don’t even care enough to look.
Waking up and checking Twitter every morning. Prying myself away from Facebook arguments. Driving past yard signs every 20 feet. Being asked constantly who’s going to win by people who think I’m a political pollster.
I don’t miss any of it.
Call me old-fashioned, but government isn’t supposed to be in the foreground of our lives. It should support us, protect us, make our lives better, but generally stay out of the way and – certainly – not dominate our thoughts every minute of the day.
I used to be infatuated with early U.S. history – pretty much anything written about the period from the 1760s to 1800. Tara was reminded of that as we packed 100 or so of those books for the move to our new house (which was a special kind of hell, but we made it, thanks for asking).
One thing I always remember is how deliberate the founders were in designing our government to be ineffective. Checks, balances, and gridlock can be infuriating, especially in times like these. But the alternative is much worse. Don’t get me started on executive orders.
We aren’t meant to be obsessed with government. Not all of us anyway. We’re binge-watching The West Wing with our kids, and those people are definitely obsessed but it’s their job, their life’s work. Most of us are observers. Our life’s work is elsewhere.
Here’s the challenge. We can’t crawl back into our tribal shells either. Just because we aren’t screaming at each other about politics doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking about it. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place. An entire third of the country was so pissed off five years ago, they elected Donald Trump to the White House. Nobody – not even Trump himself – saw it coming
We may want to sweep everything under the rug, but we can’t. On the contrary, when things are calm – when government isn’t our fixation – that’s exactly when we should talk about it. When the stakes aren’t as high. When emotions aren’t as raw.
We need to build empathy. We need to talk.
Just not yet. I’m enjoying the break too much.
SHAMELESS PLUG: I’m doing a webinar on the macro-landscape and evolving recovery next week. If you’d like to join or maybe mandate that your entire company has to attend – or else – that would be cool. Sign up here.
Here’s what we’re seeing:
Consumer confidence popped as March rolled in. After a lengthy run of stagnation, our Economic Sentiment Index had a pleasantly surprising jump in the latest reading, as hope springs eternal. The big driver was overall consumer optimism for the U.S. economy. As savings rates reach incredible heights and the light of recovery shines at the end of a long tunnel, people are anticipating a boom in the offing. Even as employment numbers still have lots of room for improvement, confidence in the job market is holding steady. Let’s go!
Bet the farm on the home improvement sector right now and let me be 100% clear that I am by no means a qualified financial advisor and I don’t even know where Tara keeps our money. Any-hoo, people are prepping for home renovation projects this year in unprecedented numbers – and big ones at that. Twenty-eight percent of Americans say they have a home improvement budget over $15k this year, which is up from 26% just a few months ago. Maybe more notably, very few people are planning to take on any debt to do it. A lot of people are sitting on lots of cash right now and, with interest rates basically non-existent, they might as well spend it… on a new deck.
This may seem like a complete non-sequitur but the Discovery+ streaming platform could be a big beneficiary of the home renovation explosion. We’re particularly bullish on this entrant to the streaming gold rush, as the Discovery family of properties – think Food Network, HGTV, DIY – engender a powerful level of loyalty (even obsession) among its fans. Upwards of 20% of U.S. adults are likely subscribers, with a high overlap among Disney+ customers. One of the highest correlations we found was among likely home improvers. Makes sense.
People are getting more confident about traveling but – oddly – it seems to have almost nothing to do with the vaccine. This feels like one of the more important insights we see across consumer categories. There is a consistent and sucky correlation between the people who are most inclined to dive back into normal experiences and those who are the least likely to get vaccinated. And vice-versa. I’ll let you play that out in your head.
The second-hand clothing trend took a big hit during the pandemic. This is one of those less-prominent trends, but you can map the underlying logic to other things. People still aren’t buying clothes in droves. And the people who are buying clothes generally have the budget to buy new. As a result, overall interest in pre-owned apparel and accessories has fallen appreciably since this time last year. That said, the second-hand online market is providing a welcome avenue to people whose jobs have been impacted by COVID. As – hopefully – employment numbers improve, it will be interesting to see how this trend evolves.
I learned more about nail polish this week than I’ve learned in 45 years on this planet. We did an extensive study on nail-painting, shopping behaviors, and brand preferences that brought me up from a knowledge base of zero on the subject. I was so clueless, I stared at this chart header below for five minutes trying to figure out why people named Warshowski, Bolewitz, or a hundred other Pittsburghers I know were more likely to purchase in the category.
Since I played hooky last week, we have a backlog of awesome studies you missed. I hope you didn’t have a lot of plans today:
- The interactive at-home fitness craze is still a niche trend;
- Crocs are killing it and I love them, even if people think they’re ugly;
- In quarantine, pet food has become a status symbol;
- Here’s a guide on whether your S.O. thinks it’s cool if you keep in touch with an ex or whether they keep in touch with an ex or whether you should date a friend’s ex;
- Paramount+ is also wading into the crowded pool of streaming services;
- People who watch The Bachelor are less likely to be happy in love;
- Over 10% of people don’t wear deodorant [EOM];
- Even though consumer confidence is solid, paying down debt or bills is still the most likely use of stimulus checks when they come;
- If given the choice, the J&J vaccine is the top pick.
And here were our most popular questions since we last met:
- Which would you rather go see: a symphony orchestra performance, or an opera?
- In general, do you think it’s necessary or unnecessary for parents to ask their school-age children for permission before posting photos of them on social media?
- Do you have a personal celebrity look-alike / doppelgänger?
- Do you feel comfortable talking to your spouse / romantic partner about finances and money?
- Have you ever used an alias / fake name?
Hoping you’re well.