“Inspire InFocus” is the world’s largest social study on inspiration. Based on robust data and deep insight, it focuses an investigative lens on what inspires people in their lives—their evolving preferences for the stories, experiences and icons that spark their imagination and motivate change. The study is informed by more than 16,000 interviews globally to uncover macro trends in inspiration and the fundamental human values that drive them.   

Despite the backdrop of the global pandemic, the first wave of this longitudinal study instills hope, with outcomes of inspiration largely centering on positive self-transformation. What’s more, the data reveals that the spontaneous yet familiar feel-good experience of inspiration is triggered by longstanding personal value systems. Fundamental principles like security and tradition manifest themselves through a myriad of expressions across cultures, ranging from art and design to personal stories. These inspiration triggers have the power to transform one’s perception of what’s possible.

Inspiration arouses new desire, inner needs and sense of mission. It makes me have courage to innovate or be willing to find another way.

Chinese respondent, female, millennial, Nurturer segment

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210708 Inspire Infocus Master V2

In 2020 we cracked the code of inspiration in a marketing context and determined that brands are more likely to grow their market share and command premium prices if they can deliver strongly on three pillars of brand inspiration. Here we seek to understand the role of inspiration in all aspects of our lives. By identifying six global inspiration mindsets, today we can help any organization meaningfully connect to people by channeling an elementary human experience that has an almost universally positive impact.

Inspiration is Vital

Inspiration animates our lives and is something most people experience frequently, yet they still want more of it.

More than 16,000 globally have assessed the personal significance of inspiration. Eight out of 10 people agree it is important if not vital to our lives. They rank it above primal needs such as physical intimacy and sleep.

GLOBAL 01 Weighing the importance of inspiration 2x

Most respondents tell us that inspiration feels good, reporting that it makes them “motivated,” “hopeful,” “grateful” and “happy”. They get goose bumps or a rush of adrenaline. Such positive boosts are particularly important during these turbulent times when mental health is in crisis, a global pandemic is laying bare rife social inequality, fake news is undermining trust in our institutions, and climate change is threatening our very existence.

As a result, people are seeking inspiration that helps them discover new things and live a better life. In fact, more than three quarters of the global population (76%) actively pursue inspiration rather than wait for it, while one third strongly agrees that the “littlest things” can inspire action. Inspiration does not necessarily require new experiences, just new perspective.

While inspiration will never be a one-size-fits-all phenomenon, one thing most can agree on is that they wish the world provided more of it. It is something the lion’s share of humanity wants more of, and 84% are hopeful the future will bring. Any brand that can step in and deliver on this inspiration gap is sure to win favor and grow its business.

GLOBAL 02 How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements 2x

What inspires people?

People can be inspired by pretty much anything that strikes their fancy, as long as it aligns with their personal values and world views. While this may seem to present a murky landscape and daunting task for anyone intent upon reaching people based on their inspiration preferences, our research provides not only a clear view on the most popular sources of inspiration but also insight into the reasons they resonate, and with whom. Within a marketing context, the data delivers invaluable direction for engaging consumers and boosting growth. Here we spell out the winning inspiration triggers in today’s changing world across a wide range of contexts.

COVID-19: The Fresh-start Effect

Our research presents an optimistic picture overall, demonstrating that the pandemic has invigorated a newfound sense of gratitude and inspired people to reflect on their life choices, and reprioritize. In stark contrast to the 15% who feel disheartened, stating that the pandemic has robbed them of things they will never have again, nearly half of our global respondents tell us that COVID-19 has made them feel appreciative of what they have, and hopeful for a better future. The pandemic has inspired them to look at things in a new way, and as a result, set new goals and instill better habits - a phenomenon psychologists call the fresh-start effect.

GLOBAL 03 COVID 19 Impact graph 2x
For me, it’s been very inspirational seeing how hard scientists have worked to solve such a massive problem. It’s taught me that even when things get tough and you don’t feel like they can get much worse, things will always get better.

UK respondent, male, gen Z, Indulger segment

When we look at the kinds of cues driving this trend, the most popular inspiration sources can be interpreted through the COVID-19 lens, such as acts of kindness, scientific discovery, personal stories online, and doctors. In the quest for inspiration, people are also looking to brands for solutions, saying that it is very important that brands inspire them by setting a good example and making people’s lives better.

What’s more, the inspiration outcomes that rank highest on our list are all aligned with fundamental aspects of self-transformation (see below chart). A comparison of outcomes shows that those people (the majority) who were able to find inspiration during the pandemic are more likely to make active behavioral changes such as “join a cause I believe in” or “enroll in an online course,” rather than simply making emotional or attitudinal changes.

TREND Self Transformation 02 Recent Outcomes 2x
The first-line responders in this pandemic inspire me. They work tirelessly to help others.

US respondent, female, Boomer+, Loyalist segment

Inspiring individuals to change their lives for the better must figure as one of the few silver linings of COVID-19. Brands that can enable this process can help catalyze a welcomed fresh start in the post-COVID landscape. For more post-COVID trends, read our “Future 100: 2.0.20” report.

Truth: Why it Still Matters

Truth as a source of inspiration has surfaced as one of the biggest trends from the “Inspire Infocus” study, with an overwhelming 85% of global respondents saying they feel motivated to get to the real truth about things in the world today. This is equally true across all generations, including the younger cohorts who have largely come of age in a post-truth world.

I am inspired by anyone committed to the truth of the facts, and not for their own or ideological interests.

Brazil respondent, male, Boomer+, Nurturer segment

An analysis of people’s inspiration preferences through the lens of truth and motivation reveals a polarization of mindsets. People who place a higher value on truth also experience more inspiration and are more likely to engage in positive, self-transformational outcomes. One segment, the Selective Truths (defined below), values inspiration itself more than any other, with 92% globally saying it is important if not “vital” to their lives. People in segments who consider truth less important experience inspiration the least and report lower levels of positivity and confidence. Here the academic link between inspiration and wellbeing is further supported. What’s more, truth appears to emerge as an enabling factor. A rising number of innovative brands are stepping in to address this need by designing fact-vetting solutions that empower people to surface fact from the ruins of disinformation and provide relief for those who value truth but struggle to find it.

ESUMMARY 05 Truth Mindsets 2x Sept2021

Sustainability: Turning Affinity into Action

Concerns over the state of the planet and biodiversity remain high despite the dramatic health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Of all the problems facing the world today, our global respondents ranked “protecting the environment” as their top priority. A rising appreciation for the Earth is impacting people’s inspiration preferences. Being outdoors in nature ranks number one across all categories. Other notable examples include animals/wildlife and scientific discovery. Scientists themselves rank fifth in terms of inspiring people—only family and friends rank higher. Other sustainability heroes who have surfaced in our research are activists like Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough.

Being by the sea always helps me feel calm and peaceful, and also brings the idea of endless possibilities and a sense of optimism. It reminds me of just how insignificant we are in the world, but in a good way, and always helps to bring a sense of perspective to everything.

UK respondent, female, gen X, Loyalist segment

Infocus Top Ten Sources Sept2021

When we filter these preferences through the lens of the Inspire framework’s three pillars of inspiration - Magnetic, Elevating, Motivating - the importance of the environment becomes even clearer. For those who are most receptive to the Magnetic outcomes of inspiration that lead the way and help broaden horizons, “reducing my carbon footprint” indexes highest as a recent outcome while “march in a protest” ranks third. A newly energized commitment to saving the planet is inspiring positive action by individuals, most of whom (86%) expect businesses to also play their part in solving big challenges like climate change - for an in-depth analysis of sustainability futures, read our “Regeneration Rising” report.

Inspire InFocus Segmentation

Subconscious values inform people’s motivations, inclinations and sources of inspiration. Our research has mapped the psychological link between people’s deep-rooted value systems and their inspiration preferences, enabling us to predict how humanity will be inspired. We have identified six overarching inspiration segments that hold true across all regions globally. Unlike segmentations that largely rely on demographics, our tool presents mindsets underpinned by basic human values.

Creators 3840 x 2160

Creators (17%)

Eager to be in the vanguard of change, Creators are inspired by innovative and technological progress that sparks new ideas that they can bring to fruition. These confident self-starters are thirsty for inspiration.

Nurturers 3840 x 2160

Nurturers (28%)

Selfless and cooperative, Nurturers are motivated by family bonds, relationships, and a sense of belonging. They aspire to set a good example by helping others, and are inspired by ordinary people who persevere despite all odds.

Advocates 3840 x 2160

Advocates (21%)

Socially conscious with an activist spirit, Advocates are driven by egalitarian ideals that promote the well-being of people and planet. They are mostly inspired by charismatic figures and political leaders who share their values, and expect an equal sense of responsibility from others, including brands.

Indulgers 3840 x 2160

Indulgers (14%)

Extroverted and outgoing, Indulgers work hard and play hard. They are motivated by pleasure, gratification, and social acceptance; and they are inspired by celebrities, famous athletes, and social media influencers.

Guardians 3840 x 2160

Guardians (8%)

Protective of their heritage, Guardians celebrate time-honored traditions and channel an optimistic approach to life. Seeking life lessons, they are most inspired by religious, historical and political leaders, as well as community elders.

Loyalists 3840 x 2160

Loyalists (12%)

Conservative and security-oriented, Loyalists respect established order and crave structure. Drawn to well-known, trusted sources that they can emulate, they are inspired by people and organizations that are widely regarded as the best at what they do.

Read the full “Inspire InFocus Segmentation” report, where we flesh out the full details of each of the six values-based inspiration segments, outline the cultural nuances at play in our four key markets, and spell out the myriad of opportunities the tool presents as an actionable framework for brands.

Inspiring Brands

Understanding people’s inspiration preferences is critical to the growth of any business, as revealed in our 2020 study, “Inspiring Growth.” A brands inspiration score predicts 63% of the variation in consumer demand, 52% of its ability to command higher prices, and 48% of its ability to convert customers at the point of purchase.

Inspiring brands are made through inspiring experiences - in daily life, when people are buying, and when they are using brands. Understanding rising trends in inspiration gives us new perspectives on how brands might meet emerging consumer needs and better resonate in culture. Our new Inspire InFocus segmentation helps brands to design different experiences for groups that are tailor-made to the types of inspiration they value most. Inspiration doesn’t have to be personalized, but it is always personal. The application of our inspiration data and insights helps us speak to millions of people, one at a time.

While inspiration will never be a one-size-fits-all phenomenon, one thing most can agree on (77%) is that they wish the world provided more of it. It is something the lion’s share of humanity wants, and 84% are hopeful that the future will bring it. This unmet need echoes similar findings from our original “Inspiring Growth” report, which revealed that globally 72% of customers want brands to be inspirational, but only 53% experience brand inspiration. Any company that can step in and deliver on this “inspiration gap” is sure to win favor and grow its business.

An understanding of people’s inspiration preferences provides a critical key to growth for any business. As revealed in our 2020 “Inspiring Growth” study, Inspiration scores predict 63% of the variation in consumer demand for brands, 52% of brands’ ability to command higher prices, and 48% of brands’ ability to convert customers at the point of purchase. Wherever you look, inspiration is a powerful growth accelerant.

Mel Edwards

Global CEO, Wunderman Thompson

In the report, you can expect the data to reveal ground-breaking findings:

  • Inspiration is vital, a powerful vehicle for change, and a need insufficiently met. 
  • COVID-19 has elicited a positive paradigm shift for people, most of whom aspire to create a kinder, more sustainable, and truthful world. 
  • Values systems are a shared, human phenomenon that guide inspiration. 
  • Across borders and cultures, people can be organized into six fundamental inspiration segments. 
  • Activating these segments enables brands to effectively deliver on inspiration preferences that will drive change.

Download Inspire InFocus Global Report

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