This piece is the third in a weekly series of consumer comments exploring each of the trends Euromonitor International identified in the recent TOP 10 CONSUMER TRENDS FOR 2012 article.

Millions of consumers are enjoying the feeling of greater control both via access to more information about themselves as well as greater tech-facilitated control over their online persona. In 2012, status becomes more than what you consume. It is also about who you are and crucially about how your brand is linked to and ranked by others. The importance of the greater need for control over lifestyle and persona is brought into sharper relief by the financial uncertainty of recession. In this climate, non-monetary forms of status such as skills, eco-credentials, generosity and connectivity will become more of a priority.

2012 will see subjectivity and individual takes on situations as well as the support they garner assume more importance. Weddar is a people-powered weather app, with a strap line of ‘how does it feel?” offering more personalised updates.

Novel technologies and applications are making it easier for brands to offer consumers the chance to be the centre of attention – Intel’s “Museum of Me” takes users on a visual tour of their life on Facebook while the new Aim High app turns Facebook users’ lives into a TV show by inserting their photos and updates into a web action series.

State of health

Real Global Spending on Consumer Health Products: 2010-2012

ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 10 09.28

Source: Euromonitor International from trade sources/national statistics

Note: Data 2011 data is provisional and based on part-year estimates. Data is in 2011 real terms and at fixed 2011 Exchange Rates. OTC is the aggregation of adult mouth care, analgesics, calming and sleeping products, cough, cold and allergy (hay fever) remedies, digestive remedies, ear care, emergency contraception, eye care, medicated skin care, NRT smoking cessation aids, OTC triptans, and wound care. Vitamins and Dietary Supplements is the aggregation of the Dietary Supplements, Vitamins, Pediatric Vitamins and Dietary Supplements, and Tonics and Bottled Nutritive Drinks categories.

Consumer health concerns including the challenges of ageing, fitness levels, calorie intake and medical conditions can now be tracked more easily by consumers themselves with the help of smartphone technology.

Apple’s App Store currently offers over 9,000 mobile health apps (including nearly 1,500 cardio fitness apps, over 1,300 diet apps, over 1,000 stress and relaxation apps, and over 650 women’s health apps).

ID – on and offline and networking

Tributes to the power of self-expression extend to the phenomenal rise of social media in China with the cultivation of a sense of individuality in local consumers. Indeed, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China revealed in November 2011 that around 300 million people use microblogs.

In parallel with current debates on online copyright piracy, are developments seeking to enable consumers to have more control over information circulating in cyberspace that’s related to them. Alongside EU laws on the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ are services such as X-Pire that allows internet users to put an expiration date on their image uploads or DeleteMe helping consumers delete traces of their online presence.

Meanwhile, the online equivalent of personal image consultants and ghost-writers can help online love seekers find the right words to express themselves. Chris Romero, ‘author’ of rapper/actor 50 Cent’s many hugely followed tweets explains: “He doesn’t actually use Twitter but the energy of it is all him”. Spill-over into the non-virtual world continues in 2012. Some consumers are wearing French brand Buump’s plastic bracelets displaying “It’s Complicated” or other Facebook status indicators offline.

With information about us, non-famous people, leaving ever larger footprints about us online, a motivation to get involved in curating the material about us must be that we don’t want strangers to form opinions of us based on a random mix of unflattering comment and photos.

More services are emerging to help consumers track their online identities and networking. September 2011 saw the launch of professional search engine ‘Identified’. Created by Stanford University in the USA, Identified enables users to see how they’re presented to others online. The site assigns each user a ‘relevance score’ based on who and what they know.

At the core of 2012 networking is relative rank. This allows consumers new routes to gauging the trustworthiness of others. These ‘scores’ are increasingly being assigned a financial value that goes beyond so-called ‘blogger payola’. Established marketplace sellers, for instance, can charge higher prices. US based online reputation measurement website Klout offers its users products and experiences depending on their online ‘influence’. It rewards not only those with high scores (earned by having a large, active following on social networks), but also social media users who are respected sources of knowledge on particular topics. Microsoft, for example, offered free smartphones and concert tickets to San Francisco users who had scores above 55 out of 100 and were ‘influencers’ on the topics: ‘Microsoft’, ‘Social Media’ and ‘Technology’.

Look out for the fourth in the series: TOP 10 CONSUMER TRENDS FOR 2012: Emerging Market Shoppers About Euromonitor International’s Annual Study, Global Youth Survey and Quick Pulse Surveys

Euromonitor International’s Annual Study surveyed 16,000 consumers of all ages (15-65+) in eight mature and developing markets in July and August 2011, questioning respondents on the following themes: health and wellness, food and drink, technology, shopping and leisure, personal traits and values.

Euromonitor International’s Global Youth Survey reached out to young consumers living in 15 countries with the largest and fastest-growing youth populations. Fielded August-September 2011, the survey questioned 16-24 year olds on the following themes: financial expenditure, food and drink, technology, leisure activities, personal traits and values.

In Quick Pulse surveys, Passport Survey reaches out to Euromonitor’s network of in-country analysts and in-house researchers around the world in order to find out more about current consumer attitudes and habits on a wide variety of topics, from economic outlook to daily activities.

Note: Euromonitor surveys are online surveys; all respondents are drawn from the online population in any given country, not its population as a whole. This means that in emerging markets, respondents tend to be more educated, affluent and urban.