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Quiet – the World is Changing

The past year – particularly the past 6 months – have been an economic and emotional disaster.
Perhaps you’ve heard about it?
The loss of wealth, jobs, homes and stability is dramatically challenging everything consumers believe. Formerly bedrock notions about life and dreams and pursuing aspirations are crumbling.
(Remember the good, old days when there was actually a thing called ‘disposable income’?)
David Kamp, in his excellent essay on the American Dream in the April issue of Vanity Fair, writes “…the time has come to consider the idea of simple continuity…where the standard of living remains happily constant from one generation to the next.”
Constant?
What, you mean, like, flat?
Seriously? Seriously?
For a country whose entire cultural psyche is practically based on the notion that anyone can grow up to be President or have Hollywood discover you in a drugstore or write a song in your basement that goes to #1 or magically (or chemically) turn into a professional athlete, the promise of continuity sounds a lot like giving up.
Hell, it doesn’t even sound like America.
Like, I’m sorry, when did we move to Chechnya?
But these are the kinds of notions that are being floated, discussed and otherwise batted around out there in consumerland, my friends.
So if ever there was a time when consumer companies needed to get close to their customers – and stay there – it’s right now.
All of us – agencies, marketing folk, researchers – need to start encouraging, enabling, facilitating and participating in the current consumer conversation. Because out of this we are going to discover the new realities of consumer behavior – as well as new, possibly even radical rules about what consumers want from the companies and brands they choose to invite into their changed and challenging lives.
And figuring out how to navigate these uncharted waters of changing consumer attitudes is going to require some care. A false marketing note in an up economy might be viewed as an annoyance – a false note in the current environment could quickly and irrevocably tag a company as insensitive, opportunistic or worse.
Finding the answers is absolutely critical.
But the good news is, we don’t have to guess.
Even in the midst of the swirling economic and emotional challenges that are transforming everything they know – consumers will tell us.
If we’re respectful and attentive, they will tell us how to speak to them, engage with them, interact with them in this new day and age.
To paraphrase Freddie Highmore in the film August Rush “The [answers] are all around us. All you have to do…is listen.”

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