Having just surfaced from a mountain of research, I’ve plucked these gems out as counter-intuitive market trends that could have an impact on your business or marketing strategy 

1.     Book publishing growth 

Whilst we may think that electronic books have taken over, there were 530,000 new books published in 2011 in Europe alone. In 2012 there was a 66% rise in UK ebook spending (to £411m) and only a 1% fall in physical book sales to £2.9bn. Self-publishing and author back stories are other trends (Source: The Marketer, Sep/Oct 2013)

2.     Luxury goods growth

Whilst some may think that the recession put a brake on the growth, luxury brands grew by 15% in 2012 – more than any other brand category. Consumer psychologists put this down to “uniqueness, authenticity, quality, exclusivity and scarcity”. The Luxury Strategy Book says “If you start asking clients what they want, you are not building a dream – you are just giving them answers to problems” noting the Steve Jobs/Apple avoidance of research to ensure “an aura of mystery”. Interestingly, in early 2013 it was reported that 70% of Harrods luxury goods were purchased by Chinese and Nigerian customers. Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Tiffany, Gucci and Dunhill have all moved to the digital space.

3.     Marketing of universities and Higher Education (HE)

The Guardian reported that universities (130 in the UK) currently spend 0.75% to 1.5% of their revenue on marketing compared to 20% of some for-profit US colleges. Only a couple (e.g. Cranfield and Birkbeck) manage to differentiate effectively. A key problem is thought to be that product development is done by academics rather than marketing folk. International student numbers have increased from 80,000 in 1975 to nearly 3.5 million in 2009 (Unesco). Experiential branding, alumni programmes and digital are trends.

4.     Small businesses thrive in recession

A Grant Thornton/Centre for Economics and Business Research study found that focused, innovative mid-sized firms (with 50-500 people) flourished during the crisis with turnover growth 50% faster than large companies.

5.     Feminisation of leadership – “Soft power”

Leadership is moving to a more collaborative, communicative and nurturing model. “Soft power” (coined by Joseph Nye in 1990) relies on emotional intelligence and focuses on the ability to influence and engage others through communication, persuasion and charm. Google conducted a review of managers in 2009 which saw the following skills come out on top: coaching, empowering your team and expressing an interest in employee’s success and wellbeing.

6.     “She-conomy” – purchasing power of 40+ women

IPC’s Generation Ynot! study showed that 8.5 million 40+ women are responsible for 80% of the country’s wealth. It reported that 93% of women aged between 40 and 60 make all, or most, of the financial decisions in the family which is a £92 billion spend annually. The finance and technology sectors (and the professions?) are most likely to ignore the segment although there are some notable exceptions (e.g. www.barclayssmartwoman.co.uk). Furthermore, 70% of women’s purchase decisions are made on the basis of word of mouth recommendation and they are tech savvy (one in four women over 40 post comments about products online). By 2020, 53% of the UK’s millionaires will be women.