Welcome back, friends. I hope your holiday was as fabulous as mine. I watched the entire Harry Potter series with my kids, lost track of what day it was, let a gazillion emails sit idly in my inbox, and almost ran out of wine. So, yeah, it was pretty awesome. Thanks for asking.

FYI- I’m heading to Atlanta next week to visit clients for a few days. If you’re in the 404 with time to visit, hit me up.

In the meantime, here are some interesting things we’re seeing as the new year gets rolling:

Consumer confidence ended the year on a major upswing. After a steep post-Thanksgiving drop, our Economic Sentiment Index bounced right back in the days leading up to Christmas. Whether it was good old-fashioned holiday spirit or the federal tax bill (probably both) the rebound was driven by a big spike in optimism toward the U.S. economy. Hopefully, we’ll see the evidence in last-minute holiday spending and strong momentum going into 2018.

We are becoming a nation of hermits. A whopping 31% of Americans say that their desire to leave the house has decreased over the past six months. That number climbs to 35% among women. I could give an entire presentation about why this is happening (actually I have) but you could probably figure most of it out for yourself. We don’t like being around strangers anymore – particularly people with different views from our own. We’re afraid of the next act of violence – especially in crowds. And Amazon, Netflix, and Postmates make it too easy for us to stay in our slippers all day. See also: My holiday staycation.

Speaking of Amazon, feast your eyes on this. After relatively steady adoption numbers throughout 2017, the growth in Amazon Prime users before the holidays was pretty incredible. In November, for the first time, a majority of U.S. adults identified as Prime members and the number peaked at 54% by year end. Adults who use the service “at least weekly” grew 20% from October to December. I repeat: 20% growth. In 90 days. That’s nuts.

Watch out for McDonald’s in 2018. In the middle of a solid turnaround (not that things were ever that bad), Mickey D’s relaunched its Dollar Menu this week, no doubt striking fear in other price-centric QSRs. But we’re seeing something even more promising for the Golden Arches in our data. We’ve tracked the question below on a weekly basis since early 2016 and the third response – “I don’t usually like McDonald’s but I am open to trying new menu items” – has always been fairly flat. That is, until the past few months, when that number began climbing. It’s up 3 points in just the past 60 days, a strong indication that negative stigma for McDonald’s might be dissolving. What’s even more interesting is WHO these new, open-minded consumers are. But I can’t give everything away now, can I?

The war on commercials is an ageless one. As media companies and advertisers fret over consumers’ increasing ability to avoid ad content (see: ad blockers, time-shifted TV viewing, etc.) the conventional wisdom has been that this is primarily a younger, tech savvy-person problem. But just because Baby Boomers might be seeing commercials, doesn’t mean they’re working. Check out the chart below. Boomers have their own tried-and-true technology for ducking commercials – the mute button – and they do it at a rate far more frequent than younger cohorts. This would seem to be important for brands in pharma, financial services, or other categories aimed at older consumers. Use more text on the screen. And, as someone who is about to get his first ever pair of glasses, I can say this without sounding ageist – use large fonts.

And as we’re freezing our faces off all over the East Coast, what would be more appropriate than some random weather stats? 

  • 67% of people admit to regularly complaining about the weather
  • 28% of pet owners dress their pets for cold weather
  • 35% of people don’t like to eat outside, even when the weather is warm
  • 53% of people typically trust the weather forecast – 43% don’t
  • 42% of people think snow is “white” – 58% think it’s “clear and colorless”
  • 84% of adults remember eating snow as a kid

Hell, I just ate snow yesterday. And it was white.

Hoping you’re well (and warm).


In case you’re wondering, this is an informal email I write to CivicScience clients, friends, and other VIPs every Saturday morning. If you’re getting this, you’re either one of those people or were referred to me by one of them. I always love your comments and feedback.