Part 2: 2024 consumer outlook: From GDP to Skibidi Toilet

By Oksana Sobol, Senior Director, Insights – Marketing, The Clorox Company 

As head of insights at The Clorox Company, I’m always thinking about our consumers — how they’re feeling, how they’re spending their time and money, and what they’re prioritizing. As we start a new year, I want to share what we’re expecting to see in 2024 and how manufacturers and marketers can harness key themes to best serve ever-changing consumer needs. 

Building on the previous installment about the external environment, this focuses on top trends influencing today’s shopper. 

Here are some topline takeaways: 

  • As consumers spend more time at home now compared to pre-pandemic, they’re gravitating toward products that can elevate their everyday experiences. 
  • The self-care trend has cemented its place in consumers’ collective psyche, now meeting distinct needs across the spectrum of health and beauty. 
  • In media, proliferation of content and platforms is driving new cultural trends that cannot be ignored by marketers.  
  • Sustainability is maturing as a critical factor in how businesses operate and how consumers make purchasing decisions. 

In search of novel in the everyday 

With consumers spending more time at home, they’re keen on elevated experiences that can enliven their routines. Manufacturers are leaning into scent exploration and new flavors. For example, scent is becoming a key element in as many as 49% of newly introduced products in personal care and 58% in home care, according to Circana New Product Pacesetters.  

The beloved brands in our portfolio have been part of this new wave of delivering moments of surprise and delight. Our Glad brand saw success in this space with its scented, Cherry Blossom pink trash bags that capture not just trash but also attention. And just in time for The Big Game next month, our Hidden Valley Ranch and Burt’s Bees brands launched their first-ever collab bringing consumers a four-pack of lip balm in wing basket-inspired flavors of Hidden Valley Ranch, Buffalo Sauce, Fresh Carrot and Crunchy Celery. 

With consumers especially eager to add new twists to food prepared and eaten at home, HVR has also been helping to spice up their meals with recipes that use its dry seasonings.  

There’s likewise been an explosion in beverage innovation to meet new consumption moments (instant, on the go, ready-to-drink), health benefits (hydration, nutrition, performance and energy boosting) and a desire for novel flavors. Case in point: Prime, a new brand of energy and hydration drinks taken to market almost exclusively through influencer tactics. It quickly ballooned to more than $500 million in sales in a highly competitive segment. Prime’s popularity is due at least in part to exotic flavors like Glowberry, Meta Moon, Ice Pop and Venice Beach, with some rare ones reaching iconic collectible status with its young audience.   

The self-care trend: Here to stay — and grow 

It’s not a coincidence that Amazon’s top-selling book of 2023, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, offers practical ways of building good health habits and parting with bad ones. The self-care trend is the newest articulation of consumers’ health and wellness journey. And it continues to mature, with distinct consumer needs now crystallizing around stress management, overall health improvement, longevity enhancement, proactive prevention and better sleep. 

The beauty dimension of self-care is also seeing growth in offerings that can better address the needs of multicultural consumers, including for various hair and skin types. A broader personalization trend in personal care is likewise picking up momentum, with some brands enlisting artificial intelligence to help construct personalized product portfolios and care protocols finely tuned to individual needs.   

What’s more, manufacturers are aiming to satisfy consumers’ growing preferences for more sustainably sourced ingredients.  For example, in launching its new Shea collection, Burt’s Bees offered consumers an ingredient valued for its antioxidants, vitamins and essential fatty acids. Shea is also an ingredient that helps support the livelihoods of 16 million women working in its production throughout Africa. For over a decade, Burt’s Bees has invested in the economic independence of thousands of women producing shea by constructing new facilities and providing skills training including beekeeping through its multiyear SheKeeper program.   

We are what we watch 

The fluidity trend seen in today’s work and lifestyle also extends to shopping and media habits. Virtually all Americans (86%, according to GfK) have now adopted at least one — but mostly multiple — of the eight major paid video streaming platforms. With the ability to access any content at any time, we collectively streamed 19 million years’ worth of videos in one calendar year.  

With the proliferation of content and personalized feeds, your YouTube is not my YouTube. But top-trending topics still capture the cultural zeitgeist: the Peaches song of the Super Mario Bros movie, “Barbie,” The Legend of Zelda, Garten of Banban (an indie horror game) and, yes, Skibidi Toilet. How in the world can something like Skibidi Toilet become the No. 1 YouTube trend? According to one Gen Alpha consumer: “Bruh, everyone knows it’s a singing toilet with a head in it that is very sus!”  

But YouTube is not the only game in town anymore. For content favored by Gen Z and Gen Alpha, tune into Discord, Twitch, SnapChat and, of course, TikTok with its own top trends, including #GirlDinner, Grimace Shake and De-Influencing — which is urging followers to not buy a product.  

Insider Intelligence estimates that more than half of the U.S. population plays video games, including three-quarters of young adults 18-24, putting it behind only YouTube as a mass activity. According to Forbes, gaming has generated an estimated $184 billion in revenue globally in 2022, dwarfing recorded music and box office movies, each with $26 billion. This is also where AI advances come to shine, enabling more realistic graphics, interactive and well-spoken bots, and gameplay depth.

These trends align with our marketing focus at Clorox for personalized experiences that are geared to each consumer and the environment they’re in. It’s important for brands to continue this work to drive relevance and engagement with our diverse consumer base across the immense online landscape. 

Sustainability as a way of life — and doing business 

Desire for more sustainable products is now maturing and coalescing around trends like natural, plant-based and responsibly sourced ingredients, both in edible and nonedible markets. Share of overtly sustainability-marketed products grew to more than 17%, according to Circana. In 2024, we should expect to see a push for more sustainable packaging in new spaces. 

Consumer understanding of sustainability is now expanding beyond product features, questioning not just what is featured on the label but how the manufacturer is influencing the world in a broader sense. As climate and weather challenges begin to hit closer to home for more people (e.g., insurers pulling out of California and Florida markets due to climate-related risks), consumers will increasingly scrutinize holistic company practices, goals, values and ways of doing business when considering who and what they are supporting with their dollars. 

Our own brands have been innovating to meet this growing demand. For example, this month our Brita brand launched a refillable filter that reduces plastic waste by 80% compared to the standard filter. It comes with a reusable plastic shell and filter refills; the only thing that’s discarded is the filter refills, which can be recycled through Terracycle, further reducing waste. What’s more, the filter media uses activated carbon made with coconut husks, and the brand also reduced packaging by replacing plastic shrink wrap with a recyclable cardboard band. 

These innovations help advance our ESG approach, which calls for us to reduce plastic and other waste, including a goal of 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025. 

Appreciating, embracing and serving the discerning consumer 

All in all, consumers of 2024 are likely to be stressed and challenged, but also resilient and discerning. They will seek out products and solutions that give them more fluidity and make less engaging tasks easier. They will remain fluid in their shopping and media consumption as well, being seemingly everywhere all at once. Just as the boundary between brick-and-mortar and online shopping has been blurred by a seamless omnichannel journey, so now has the boundary between retail and media with more “shopping-tainment” integrations. Manufacturers and marketers who harness the nuances of when and how people seek saving versus splurging, ease versus novelty, self-care and sustainability — while connecting in meaningful, personalized ways — will be the ones to succeed.