Posts Tagged ‘Ad Age’
A “culture of thrift” may be taking hold in the US. That scares the many businesses that depend on Americans resuming their profligate ways. But if you’re a business leading the way in sustainability, this consumer shift could be just the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.
A Pew Research Center survey in April found Americans of all stripes are reconsidering the luxuries and necessities in their lives. For instance, fewer of us consider microwave ovens, TVs, air conditioners and clothes dryers necessities. In addition, 80 percent of adults have made moves to economize one way or another in this recession, such as shopping at discount stores, eschewing name brands for cheaper alternatives and opting for lower-cost cell phone and cable/satellite TV plans.
Not surprisingly, those respondents hit hardest by the recession, such as losing their jobs or their retirement savings, are more apt to have taken cost-saving steps than those less affected. Even so, Pew Research says:
(T)his distinction doesn’t apply to changing perceptions about what’s a luxury and what’s a necessity. These shifts have occurred across-the-board, among adults in all income groups and economic circumstances — perhaps suggesting that consumer reaction to the recession is being driven by specific personal economic hardships as well as by a more pervasive new creed of thrift that has taken hold both among those who’ve been personally affected and those who haven’t.
Pew doesn’t speculate on whether this new consumer ethic is a long-term shift. The New York Times, however, says we shouldn’t be looking for Americans to return to spending like drunken sailors anytime soon. “The economic downturn is forcing a return to a culture of thrift that many economists say could last well beyond the inevitable recovery,” the paper reports.
Where the New York Times cites the pain this could cause businesses reliant on consumer spending, TIME magazine finds a silver lining for individual Americans:
A consumer culture invites us to want more than we can ever have; a culture of thrift invites us to be grateful for whatever we can get. So we pass the time by tending our gardens and patching our safety nets and debating whether, years from now, this season will be remembered for what we lost, or all that we found.
And what many people are finding in this painful recession is what’s really important in thelr lives: time, family, friends, community, learning, the security of living within their means, doing meaningful work. For businesses down the road to sustainability, this is your silver lining: You’re already where many of your customers are coming to and where they will expect businesses to be in the future.
Marketing consultant Avi Dan, addressing marketing strategists in Ad Age, says the period we are in now “represents a complete social and economic reset.” He writes:
As consumers learn to live within their means and frugality replaces an abundantly wasteful consumerism, sustainability will become an essential benefit to your customers. Customers will uncompromisingly penalize products and brands that are perceived as wasteful of scarce resources and harmful to the environment, from SUVs to bottled water.
Many, perhaps most, businesses are frightened by this prospect because they have so much catching up to do. Avi Dan is speaking to them when he says, “Marketers will risk being left behind if they don’t rethink everything.”
If you’re among those firms that got serious about sustainability some time ago, you’ve not only rethought — you’ve acted. So smile. The times are now on your side.