Insights From the Trenches

Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers’ Republic, is a good resource for marketers looking at how we will start to emerge from the current recession and how the new consumption landscape may be different on the other side. Recently, she was interviewed forAdAge.

Cohen’s book is an historical overview on the rise of the whole idea of consumerism. She is careful in the AdAge interview to point out that we aren’t moving away from a consumer economy, but that Americans are cutting back in their everyday expenses and being more modest in their spending overall. She talks about promoting the idea of delayed gratification as a marketing tactic (e.g., “Save first…then buy that new refrigerator”). This tactic is based on her historical analysis of the Depression and the 1970s recession and is good advice when considering your brand’s positioning.

However, I would point out that one huge difference between past economic slowdowns and our current situation is that there is much more pressure on people’s time. So, products and services that can leverage the time-saving/moment-making need have a real market niche.

We see this desire to save time reflected frequently in our social media conversation monitoring, regardless of the context of the conversation or the site. Overscheduled, scattered individuals will continue to pay a premium to save time and spend more quality time with family and friends.

Our ability to see these trends from the ground level is one of the reasons that we can be effective at providing critical insights into consumer mindsets. We interact with all types of citizens, consumers, and “citizen-consumers” (Cohen’s term) every day in our social media work, and talking about a wide range of issues in the social space helps us have a strong sense of sentiment and how it is changing.