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24 September 2014
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Goodbye 'Middle England' – hello 'Big Britain'!

New BBC Magazines-sponsored research has revealed 20 million 'hidden influencers' shaping social and consumer change in Britain.


New in-depth qualitative and quantitative research into today's mainstream UK consumers calls into question the old definition of Middle England. The study identifies that a new and substantial group of positive 'hidden influencers', called Big Britain, is emerging.


Big Britain is a group of 20 million UK adults between the ages of 25-70 who are the new conscientious consumers, have a spending power of £238 billion, share ten distinct common values with each other, and have the will and the financial means to significantly influence key changes in British society and business. Big Britain is not about demographics; it's about people who share common values.


Through independent focus groups, consumer panels and surveys, the BBC Magazines-sponsored research demonstrates how understanding the views and demands of these 'hidden influencers' (Big Britain) can help organisations, businesses, brands and even political parties succeed - or fail. Big Britons know exactly what kind of world they want to live in and they are taking steps to make that happen.


They have positive values as individuals and collectively have strong views about their community, the environment, trust and integrity. Big Britain is going to drive key changes in society.Their hopes, dreams and ambitions are already starting to bring about some of the biggest changes society has seen for decades.


The contrast between the perspectives of Big Britain and Middle England could not be greater. Where Middle England is perceived to be conservative and opinionated, Big Britain is open-minded.


Where the former group is seen as being resistant to change, the latter is exploring the alternatives. And while Middle Englanders are thought to follow the herd, Big Britons are more determined to take steps to make life better for themselves, forever in search of new opportunities.


Equally the significance of Big Britain is such that if their perspectives are not understood, it could signal the beginnings of consumer erosion and doubt.


Roger Silverstone, Professor of Media and Communications at the London School of economics says: "This is, in many respects, a significant and indeed a hopeful piece of research.


"It reveals the emergence of a dynamic, socially-engaged and environmentally conscious consumer at the heart of British culture which should have real consequences for the ways in which commodities are bought and sold, and media are consumed."


Peter Phippen, Managing Director, BBC Magazines says: "This is an incredibly important insight into the values and attributes of a vast and powerful proportion of the UK population. We all sense that society has changed and yet so much of the time we talk as though it hasn't.


"The smart companies, smart politicians and smart commentators are the ones who have embraced this change. Those who choose to ignore this group, should do so at their peril."


The study looked at how Big Britain's values translate into behaviour, and what implications this behaviour is likely to have on the organisations that are dependent on their electoral and financial power.


Independent research company Your Future has identified 10 key influences that Big Britain has, or will have, on the UK:


  • Big Britain is open minded

  • Big Britain is looking for alternative solutions to…everything

  • Big Britain wants to better itself

  • Big Britain is motivated by the quality of life, not just the quantity of things

  • Big Britain wants substance

  • Big Britain wants to simplify life

  • Big Britain will make environmentalism mainstream

  • Big Britain wants to trust

  • Big Britain protests against injustice

  • Big Britain wants to create a feel good factor



Some Big Britain vital statistics:


  • 91% of Big Britons don't believe money equals success

  • 57% of Big Britons are MP3 player owners. (Big Britain likes both “modern” and “traditional” brands – so long as they fit with their values of quality, community and innovation)

  • 75% of Big Britons prefer to buy brands that give something back to the community

  • 76% of Big Britons agree that word of mouth is the best way to gain information about products and services

  • 94% of Big Britons agree that there is so much spin nowadays; it is hard to find the truth

  • 37% of Big Britons are involved in volunteer work; 40% say they would consider it.

  • 86% of Big Britons claim they find it increasingly difficult to trust what they read

  • 73% of Big Britons agree that what they want most from life is to have fun, and enjoy life's pleasures

  • 65% of Big Britons agree that they are currently recycling as much as they possibly can and are prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly products


This research indicates strongly that Big Britain is already driving key changes in society. Defining this group will undoubtedly open a debate and hopefully encourage further work that will inform the actions of decision-makers in the worlds of business, politics and beyond.



Notes to Editors:


Big Britain Research



Research was commissioned by BBC Magazines and conducted by brand consultants Your Future (


The research study used encompassed qualitative consumer insight, future trends and quantitative corroboration with BMRB (TGI). Nine focus groups were held, followed by three mixed consumer workshops of respondents aged 25-55.


A further 1,000 respondents aged 25-70 were surveyed by TGI, creating a total of 1,150 people.


Demographic profile of Big Britain vs non- Big Britain -






Big Britain



Non- Big Britain (%)













Social grade










North England

Central England

London & South West

South West & Wales























































Matthew Higgins, head of brand planning, First Direct: "Big Britain's vital statistics are startlingly close to those of first direct's customers. Both are clearly motivated by quality over quantity and want to simplify their lives. They've also been among the first to shop online and to use text message banking.


"What is particularly interesting is that 76% of Big Britons agree that word of mouth is the best way to gain information about products and services; first direct customers certainly agree, as over a third of our customers chose the bank through a personal recommendation. We see the Big Britain research as a pretty clear picture of the way British society is moving.".


Paul Philpott, Commercial Director, Toyota (GB) PLC: "I believe Toyota has emerged as a favourite with Big Britain because the company realised some time ago that it must address the issue of coexistence with society, particularly in relation to the environment and safety.


"Our true goal is not merely more sales, but to become a trusted member of society."



BBC Magazines is the UK's third largest consumer magazine publisher, selling almost 100 million magazines every year We publish more than 40 regular titles, including nine market-leading magazines across a range of sectors. One in four UK adults reads a BBC title every month, extending their enjoyment of BBC radio and television programmes through the pages of such famous titles as Top Gear, Good Food, Gardeners' World and Radio Times.


BBC Magazines is a division of BBC Worldwide Limited.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.




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Date : 08.05.2006
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