As Consumer Optimism Grows, Brands Benefit

Many U.S. consumers began to express renewed spending motivation late last year, and now brands and advertisers are recovering. The good news is that optimism is growing among consumers, and they are confident that they will return to their normal activities this year, which means spending money, according to Nielsen. 

That’s an open invitation for brands, and, according to ad spend trends, many have turned the corner since mid-2019, which is when most of the year’s drop in ad spend occurred.

For the fourth quarter of 2020, ad spend was only 5% below the previous year, compared to much steeper year-over-year declines over the last two quarters.


Notably, the increase in ad spending complements rising consumer confidence in the U.S., which increased 16 index points in the fourth quarter of 2020 according to the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index.

So, as consumers increasingly think about life and their activities outside the home, brands and marketers should focus on how individual consumers and consumer segments prioritize their resurgence.

In terms of time, a recent Nielsen survey found that 55% of Americans over the age of 18 believe they could return to their normal routines this year.

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Men, however, are notably more optimistic than women, with 63% believing they will return to their normal activities this year, compared to 49% of women. Also, Hispanics are the demographic segment demonstrating the highest level of optimism.


Financial well-being is a crucial consideration for consumer spending habits, and U.S. economic conditions continue to improve from an employment perspective.

While the unemployment rate remains above its pre-pandemic level, it has fallen dramatically since peaking at 14.7% in April of last year. For example, when unemployment dipped to 6.2% in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that many of the recent gains were in the hospitality and hotel industries.

That information aligns with consumer interest in travel, with 73% of Americans surveyed saying they are very or somewhat interested in planning or booking a vacation.

The only activities that rank higher are attending a religious service in person (75%) and going to a hair or barbershop (74%). Interest in air travel is also increasing, with 67% of respondents saying they will be ready to fly in the next three months.

It will take some time for all consumers to feel comfortable being away from home, but the tides are beginning to turn. Improving optimism, sentiment, and purchase intent are clear indicators for marketers to assess whether their campaigns reflect the consumer mindset that seems increasingly ready and willing to return to normalcy.