The Futures Company: A Darwinian Gale white paper

12 November, 2009


According to a new white paper from The Futures Company, what the Great Recession of 2008/2009 has wrought is not what is popularly supposed

In a just-released white paper, A Darwinian Gale: The Recovery Consumer Marketplace in the Era of Consequences, The Futures Company projects big growth opportunities just ahead for brands, irrespective of any attenuation in consumer spending over the near-term.

In a white paper released today, A Darwinian Gale: The Recovery Consumer Marketplace in the Era of Consequences, The Futures Company debunks the notion of a new frugality on the rise and foresees instead the beginning of an Era of Consequences rooted in a new consumer psychology about economic risk.

Likening the Great Recession of 2008/2009 to a Darwinian gale clearing the landscape for the evolutionary eruption of wholly new species of brands, co-author J. Walker Smith, Executive Vice Chairman of The Futures Company, says, “Marketing thinking is stuck in Q4 2008, as if what’s ahead will be more of what’s now behind us. The recessionary consumer mindset is giving way to a recovery consumer mindset.” The implications of this shift in mindset, says Smith, are “profound, and smart marketers will see that while affordability is important, prospects for growth need not be limited by an economy in recovery.”

Co-author Crawford Hollingworth, Executive Chairman of The Futures Company, adds, “Consumers are rethinking what motivates them, and won’t go back to the discredited ambitions of before. But neither will they abandon the marketplace. The future will see a proliferating mosaic of ever-more eclectic ways of building satisfying lifestyles and of enormous opportunities for marketers to deliver real value not just cheaper prices.”

The latest data from The Futures Company’s 20-country Global MONITOR study and its U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR study finds that the biggest impact of the recession has been on consumer perceptions of economic risk. The overhang of economic risk, and the greater awareness and salience of consequences that comes with it, are ushering in a new consumer Era of Consequences in which responsibility will be the driving ambition, vigilance the prevailing sensibility, resourcefulness the characteristic mindset, prioritization the consuming passion, and networks of others the defining orientation.

• Across the countries tracked in Global MONITOR, there was an average decline from Q2 2008 to Q2 2009 of 8 percentage points in the percent of respondents agreeing that “I am happy to have short-term debt to allow me to buy the things I want.”

• Similarly, across the countries tracked in Global MONITOR, there was an average decline from Q2 2008 to Q2 2009 of 6 percentage points in the percent of respondents agreeing that “I like to take part in activities that have an element of risk or adventure.”

• Across the countries tracked in Global MONITOR, there was an average increase from Q2 2008 to Q2 2009 of 8 percentage points in the percent of respondents agreeing that “It is important in my personal life today to strive to reach my full potential.” And there was an average increase of 8 percentage points in the percent of respondents agreeing that “It is important in my personal life today to express my creative side.”

• In the U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR, the percentage of respondents agreeing that “being a good citizen” means “not buying a home larger than you really need” has risen from 36% in 2007 to 42% in 2009. Similarly, the percentage of respondents agreeing that “being a good citizen” means “preparing adequately for retirement” has risen from 56% in 2007 to 61% in 2009.

While uncertainty about economic risk has grown, the interest in and ambition to live a full, enriched lifestyle has not diminished. Responsibility has become more central to the ways in which consumers assess consequences and set priorities.

There are a number of fundamental implications of these shifts in attitudes, which are explored in detail in A Darwinian Gale. A few key takeaways include:

• Uncertainty about economic risk will be the backdrop of the marketplace ahead, but that does not mean that consumers will be in retreat from shopping and buying. Instead, it means that consumers will be redefining value to better fit a world in which economic risk can no longer be indulged or ignored.

• Consumers in developing markets will grapple with a clash of values related to the lessons of consequences – the burning desire to move up the ladder by spending more versus the critical duty to avert untoward consequences by spending less.

• Prioritization will be much more important in shaping the consumer decision calculus. Prioritization will even remake the competitive context for brands as consumers decide first whether to even shop in a category, thus pitting brands against other category choices not just against other brand choices.

• Forced back on their own resources, there will be a premium among consumers for acquiring new skills. Resourceful self-sufficiency will become a lifestyle focus for increasing numbers of consumers. Vigilance will define the degree and enthusiasm of consumer involvement in the marketplace, thus demanding a new focus by marketers on assuaging worry and concerns. Affluence and luxury will get a second look. Not being wasteful will be a central element of value calculations.

This white paper from The Futures Company is the first what will be an on-going series of periodic thought-pieces on key topics in global marketing strategy and consumer trends.

This white paper, both the full report and the Executive Summary, is available as a complimentary download at: www.darwiniangale.com.


The Futures Company PR Contacts:
US: Emily Ross
Director of Marketing
+1-919-932-8626
emily.ross@thefuturescompany.com 
 
UK: Jennifer Childs
Marketing & PR Manager
+44 (0) 20 7955 1824
jennifer.childs@thefuturescompany.com

About The Futures Company
The Futures Company is the coming together of Yankelovich and Henley Centre HeadlightVision. The Futures Company is a leading global trends and futures research and consultancy business, focused on its mission of “Unlocking Futures” for its clients.

The Futures Company provides on-going tracking of consumer trends through its 20-country Global MONITOR study as well as the U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR and the U.K. Planning for Consumer Change studies. Additionally, The Futures Company maintains a global ethnographic database of trends manifestations and examples called Global Streetscapes. The Futures Company offers future-facing qualitative and quantitative research along with its trends and futures consultancy to help clients uncover new ways of understanding and segmenting markets, identifying future sources of value, and building powerful brand connections.

The Futures Company is part of the Kantar Group of WPP, with offices in London, New York, Chapel Hill, NC, Mumbai and Delhi.

Acrobat Document futures_pressrelease_darwinian_nov09_guidfdb182b8e.pdf


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