It’s the end of the year and each email brings another list.  The majority try to chronicle the best, worst or most important events of 2011.  The best recognize the true game changers, the real losses and the unexpected surprises that made 2011 so interesting.

Yet while anyone can say what happened in 2011, more difficult are the predictions for the future. I’m talking about insights that dive deeper into what we learned in 2011, which is the most valuable learning and, how that will change what we will do in 2012.  What is the correlation between what’s happened and what’s going to happen?

The Resonate team has some experience with insights, specifically values-based insights that represent larger sea changes in consumers’ beliefs and attitudes. We know that these insights can be hard to find.  Once you find them, watch how they impact your relationships with consumers for more than just the next selling season.

So here goes:

Education: The Issue That Won’t Go Away

We’ve been watching the election issues closely.  The drum beats on the economy and jobs have been loud and consistent.

Less loud than the jobs drum beat, but equally consistent, is consumers’ concern with the quality of education in America.  It might not be hitting the pollsters’ radar, but we are hearing it nevertheless.

  • 47% of adults (in the OAP) name quality of education as one of their top 5 societal/charitable concerns

And, in a similarly themed question:

  • 22% of adults (in the OAP) name improvements in education as one of the issues that they find most important when choosing what candidates to support for public office

What these consumers look like and value may surprise you.  Those most concerned with improving education are between the ages of 18-24 (index 136 versus the OAP).  Typically this degree of concern is associated with parenthood, but these people over-index for lack of children in the household, and have a HHI at $150+high income (index 138 versus the OAP). This group also over-indexes on preserving the environment and caring for others.

Marketers leading their brands’ corporate responsibility initiatives may want to take a closer look at this concern with improving education. Doing so will help brands find a whole new group of consumers who both match their values and bring an above average income to the cash register.

Boomer Moms: The New Influentials

Earlier this year The Cambridge Group published “Tuning Into Mom: Understanding America’s Most Powerful Consumer,” which describes how moms have more influence with their kids for longer than ever before.  In fact, Millennials are closer to their parents than generations past.

Acknowledging this dynamic and understanding how to leverage it for marketers suggests the need for more insight.  These moms and their older children have different values.  Our research into Millenial children reveals how they value sense of self and a sense of accomplishment.  Positioning a brand to match those values makes sense, unless you want mom’s help.  Boomer moms under-index on sense of self (35) and accomplishment (54) compared to their children and over-index at 186 on social responsibility.

If your brand wants a nod from mom, adjust the positioning to show how a brand embodies sense of accomplishment and delivers on social responsibility.  Recent examples include Seventh Generation or Hyundai; brands that understand these boomer influentials can lead to new sales among younger consumers.

Here’s what will be interesting: as Millennials age (the oldest are only in their mid 20’s), and these strong ties continue, will today’s teenage consumers look to mom as Millennials do?

Friends Don’t Buy Friends; The Real Role of Social

This year, Resonate discovered that heavy social media users, defined as people who spend 26 percent of their time on social media, are less likely than light social media users to purchase online.

When these users do spend online, they spend less than light users (who are defined as spending 0.42 percent of their time online in social). Marketers should tailor their social goals appropriately.  If it’s about “influencing,” social may be useful, but if your goals are more tangible, like sales, think twice.

So there they are; three insights that should help marketers mine some new profitable territory beginning in 2012.  They may not look at anyone else’s, but then we don’t see what everyone else sees.