New American Middle Consumer Research Insights

March 25, 2021

New American Middle Value Graphic

Identifying Brand Values for the New American Middle Consumer

Ever since we identified the market opportunity that is the New American Middle, we’ve worked on adding precision and narrowing down the markup of this consumer supergroup—a group that is driven by psychographic overlaps, not by demographic attributes.

This emphasis on a more contextual and holistic definition lends complexity to the process of clarifying the guard rails of this audience, yet through our initial secondary research and now, with added primary research, we’re able to make directional assumptions with more confidence than ever.

And we’re just getting started.

Adding Clarity and Definition to NAM Through Primary Research 

For more than five years, we’ve been digging, reading, curating, pivoting, and synthesizing secondary data sources that have allowed us to identify similarities and overlap in this consumer group’s core values, how they feel about “big” institutions, the importance of authenticity, the importance of brands that express their values with clarity, and several other similarities that you can read more about on our NAM manifesto.

Our latest round of primary research to gather more information about this consumer supergroup validated a slew of our secondary and directional data points, reaffirmed some of our assumptions, and gave us deeper insights into values, urbanicity, brand preferences, exclusion vs. inclusion, and a whole host of directional data points that we will continue to validate and hone in on with our next batch of primary data. 

We wanted to share a few of the biggest aha moments that this research identified—some of the instances where our confidence level is very high and we can get closer to optimal precision. 

From a data validation perspective, here are some of the macro insights we’ve gleaned: 

  • Spirituality and sustainability are more important to single-parent family units than to other family units surveyed (assumptions validated).
  • Family is more important to rural populations and environmental consciousness is more important to urban populations (assumptions validated).
  • Spirituality matters to a higher degree to the 45–60 age group (assumptions validated).
  • Family and environmental consciousness are the top two values held by those living on the East and West Coasts, while family and spirituality are the top values held by those living in the Midwest and southern states (assumptions validated).
  • West Coast shoppers are twice as concerned with whether or not a product or service they are purchasing “provides hope” (further research needed).
  • East Coast shoppers are less concerned with whether or not a product or service has “wellness” benefits or attributes (further research needed). 
  • Shoppers in the South are less concerned with the design/aesthetics of a product or service compared to shoppers in other regions (further research needed).
  • Individuals who value environmental consciousness, spirituality, and sustainability are less likely to favor big institutions, like banks and corporations (assumptions validated).
  • The 45–64-year-old demographic group views large institutions in a more favorable light than other age groups do (assumptions validated).
  • Individuals who value spirituality and sustainability find it important or very important for brands to be authentic and transparent when communicating with customers (assumptions validated).
  • The 18–29 age segment finds brand authenticity and transparency to be very important; they feel much more strongly about this than any other age demographic (assumptions validated).
  • Those that value spirituality, faith, and sustainability the most feel they are not being included in diversity and inclusivity conversations by brands (further research needed).  

Diving deeper, we synthesized data based on a couple of foundational truths to identify core insights within brand preference, value meaning, product attributes, product preferences, and more. Here’s a contextual look into what these insights have yielded so far:

New American Middle Value Graphic
New American Middle Value Graphic
New American Middle Value Graphic

The Importance of Brand Values

Environmentally conscious individuals are 14% more likely to be influenced by a brand that aligns with their values than respondents who cited family as the value most representative of what matters to them. 

 

Purchase Preferences Through the Value/Brand Prism

  • Seventy-seven percent of environmentally conscious respondents chose quality as the most important purchasing detail, followed by 45% of those respondents citing lower cost as the most important factor. 
  • Environmentally conscious respondents were 18% more likely to consider design aesthetics in a purchasing decision compared to family values–centered respondents and 21% more likely to consider aesthetics compared to respondents who highly value spirituality. 
  • Of respondents choosing quality as the most influential purchasing factor, 55% of those respondents identify family as the value that matters most to themselves and to their circle of closest friends. 
  • Respondents that identify with the core value of family consider time savings to be the second most important product purchasing influencer (5.8% less important than quality and 0.5% more important than cost savings).

Transparency and Authenticity’s Impact

  • Seventy-six percent of family value respondents found a brand’s authenticity and transparency when communicating to them to be of some importance or very important.
  • Respondents who value product quality are 8% more likely to consider brand authenticity and transparency to be very important.

Changing Shopping Behaviors and Preferences

  • Fifty-one percent of family value respondents shop at big-box retailers when shopping for home improvement products, compared to 22% who shop at locally owned stores. 
  • Thirty-eight percent of family value respondents shop at big-box retailers when shopping for home decor products, compared to 24% who shop at locally owned stores. 
  • Forty-three percent of family value respondents shop at big-box retailers when shopping for housewares, compared to 24% who shop online marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, or Target. 
  • Seventeen percent of respondents who value spirituality stated that a charity component will influence their purchase. 


We’re in the beginning stages of developing our next research study, which will build on validated assumptions and focus on how the NAM consumer thinks about brand equity, affinity, and loyalty and how brands can activate these insights.

Our next set of primary research will focus on the impact of branding on the NAM, through the prism of qualifying and prioritizing:

  • Extended brand values of importance (beyond the Core Four of family, spirituality, sustainability, and community)
  • Definition of brand equity from the NAM consumer perspective
  • Impact of brand loyalty, qualified through the impact of:
    • Brand trust
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Brand esteem
    • Perceived quality
    • Brand value
New American Middle Value Graphic
New American Middle Value Graphic

Our Brand Values ID Framework Solves the HOW. The NAM Is the WHO. Brand Values Are the WHY. 

The New American Middle is perhaps an overlooked opportunity for your brand. It’s an opportunity for your brand to realize its potential from a future-proofing and growth approach—and from an audience-specificity and deeper relevance approach.

It’s an unmatched opportunity to identify the impact of elevated brand loyalty and brand equity, and the opportunity to make branding a tangible component of your ROI focus. 

We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time not just researching NAM, but also developing the Brand Values ID framework: our proprietary process that allows us to identify “white space” in your category and ownable values that align with your high-value audience groups. 

Our Process of Identifying Brand Values and Positioning Opportunity

When you begin working with BMDG, we will put your brand through our tried-and-true five-step New American Middle Value Identification framework:

  1. Defining the operative set of values within your category
  2. Defining which values are core to your brand and which values are currently being expressed though your brand’s marketing efforts
  3. Learning which values are owned, competed over, and shared by other brands in your category
  4. Identifying the white space in your category—which values the brands in your category are not currently activating around—as well as values over which there is unnecessary competition
  5. Developing creative concepts and a messaging strategy to fill that category white space, while also redirecting creative away from any wasteful values competition

If you’re interested in hearing more about our research or discussing the possibility of implementing our New American Middle Brand Values ID framework, get in contact with us.

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