Searching for meaning: a tongue in cheek look at trends on Trends

19th May 2020 15:43

Written by Elliot Simmonds, Associate Director. Email Elliot
One of the great things about the modern era is the availability of information – both to us as individual consumers, but also to those of us whose job it is to distil information down in to meaning. And by 'meaning', I mean a collection of charts which illustrate some things I find interesting or amusing. If you've come for hard-hitting analysis and insight, you're probably best reading something from Alex McCluckie.
Despite its many ills, one perceived 'positive' aspect of COVID-19, at least originally, was the opportunity to slow-down, spend some time doing those things we had always meant to do, and maybe improve ourselves as human beings a little bit. Blog posts abound on the topic. Course delivery and educational sites downed their paywalls, Audible by Amazon is giving away free digital versions of audio book classics you’ve always wanted to read, but never have (Paradise Lost, anyone?) and Joe Wicks is going to turn you in to an Adonis, you Adonis.[1]
At least that was the plan. But our habits are, for the most part, difficult to break - and I wanted to explore a little bit of what we'd really been getting up to. There's a lot of survey data knocking about on the topic already, and so another COVID-19 Tracker felt like one too many - although, if you are specifically interested in a culture audience, please drop me an email. 
As a free data source, with a fairly large sample size, Google Trends isn't a bad place to start. Whilst my initial focus was on habits, this quickly descended in to 'interesting stuff' and what follows is a fairly loosely connected examination of some of the things we in the UK have been searching for on Google - I hope you find it interesting, enlightening and, in some cases, amusing, in equal measure.[2]

Health and leisure

Starting with that quest for fitness, we saw an initial clamour for multi-gyms which was at a five-year high.
However, the fitness craze quickly began to drop off:
And we turned to other priorities:
The laying of patio actually comes from personal experience - at least three members of my close friendship group (yep, 60%) have undertaken some sort of landscaping project and, generally, with a great deal of success. Given one of them is a Chartered Surveyor, this feels like the minimum expectation. 
Nevertheless, despite the rise in physical activity (it's laying a patio specifically, not searching for someone to lay a patio for you), on Saturdays, some things stayed broadly the same...
...but we also also added a more social element, in lieu of being able to go out...
...though unfortunately, in film and in hygiene, American cultural hegemony remains: [3]


Thankfully (especially given the above), education remained a serious consideration, particularly early on:
However, both those with primary and secondary age children alike struggled with certain aspects...
...with inevitable results...

Opportunities lost, opportunities gained...

Importantly, we quickly understood that the situation wasn't one we could get away from...
...and whilst some of us put off big decisions as a result...
...some of us saw an opportunity to improve our future.
Others, saw an opportunity to experience That said, it's heart-warming to see a handful (excuse the pun) of early adopters in January. 

Closing thoughts

Encouragingly, some of us started to realise what was important...
...and what, perhaps, wasn't.
But more people than ever, were asking the most important question of all:

[1] I have absolutely no connection with Amazon aside from being a customer, but I think this is such a superb offer I’ve linked to it here:
[2] It's important to note a couple of caveats here - the first being that this is purely data from Google, and whilst Google has a huge share of the search market, it isn't 100%. The other, is the charts above show relative figures on an index across a set time period (see X-axis for all charts) - they do not show volume per se and one chart is not comparable with another. Whilst Google says...
Google Trends does filter out some types of searches, such as:
Searches made by very few people: Trends only shows data for popular terms, so search terms with low volume appear as "0" does not provide figures around search volume - so we don't know whether the difference between a score of 100 vs. 25 is 100,000,000 vs. 25,000,000 or whether it is 100,000 vs. 25,000. That said, I'd argue the relative change is more interesting than the absolute change anyway.
If you want to understand a little more about Google Trends and the data it includes, there's a link here:
[3] Very interested to know the cause of the August 2019 spike here...any thoughts?


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