What the election results can tell you about what is important to your customers

The European elections are all over our screens today (Monday 8th June).  This is a pretty big poll of public opinion (15m voters).  I have been having a look to see if the results provide any useful insights for business leaders and marketers.
At Differentiate we say you must understand what drives customers to choose one product over another product.  We call these drivers "Power Attributes".  This insight from Power Attributes analysis helps you develop products, services and marketing messages that are more attractive to customers.
These Power Attributes do not shift every month or even every year, but they do change over time as external factors influence what is important to customers.  2009 seems to be one of those times when big changes are affecting customer motivations.  The recession, the banking crisis and the UK political row over politicians expenses seem to have had an effect on what matters to customers compared to just one or two years ago.
Studying the aftermath of the European elections suggests that the themes that arise and we need toi explore are grouped into three A's – Apathy, Apprehension and Anger
Apathy and detachment is demonstrated by the fact that no party got more votes than last time.  Labour lost because they got a lot fewer votes.  It seems that Labour voters could not only not bring themselves to vote Labour but they also did not want to vote for anyone else either!
Apprehension and fear comes from uncertainty regarding our personal financial futures (will I have a job? will I have a pension? I have lost 40% of my savings etc.)
Anger seems to be directed at banks for rewarding themselves whilst squandering our money and politicians for giving even banks even more money and then fiddling their own expenses at the same time.

How is this relevant to marketers and business leaders? 

These emotions are out there and real.  They affect what really matters to people.  These kind of macro changes and customers' emotional responses means it is highly likely that the drivers of how customers choose what to buy in your market have changed in the past 12 months.
We have been looking for some indicators of what might be changing.  Exploring the Google search terms database is just one way to do this.  Here are some examples, we have compared May 2009 with May 2008.
What is up
Grow your own +500%
Best buy +20%
Green +12%
Good school +10%
Healthy +5%
What is the same
Value is level
Chocolate is the same
What is down
Organic is -25%
Holiday in France -23%
Gardening -20%
Luxury -15%
Banks -15% (a long term trend which has accelerated this year)
Cheap -14%
Security -6% (long term trend)
This brief analysis suggests a return to more basic human and community values and decreased interest in fripperies.  Whilst on the other hand, it shows that some basics will always endure like chocolate and value for money.
Making sure you understand how the fundamental drivers of choice are changing is one important tool to survive the recession.