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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Is the door closing? What then?

Last year, Roper proclaimed that we were in a "hinge period" where consumers were exceptionally open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I am getting the distinct feeling that the door is swinging shut.

I do not have a particular case here, but a lot of observations seem to point that way.

We have just experienced a period of rapid expansion of what I often (perhaps tiringly) call Personal Autonomy. Or, more simply put, we discover new avenues from which to exercise our free will. When these freedoms present themselves, most of us gladly take it (and like it, thank you). But as has been predicted by others, this phenomena is accompanied by a corresponding increase in societal anxiety. Our stabilizing institutions are called into question as consumers become increasingly self-reliant. Those who place great weight in stability are particularly stressed. They no longer recognize the world we live in. The self-reliant become frustrated because institutions can not repond quickly enough to our demands or expectations for greater control and responsiveness.

This reaction is increasingly clear in our American political and social arenas. However, this is a global phenenomena with global symptoms. Evidence includes the fact that governments all over are lurching from one side to another following elections. The plethora of "happiness" research that appears trendy right now seems to point towards a growing malaise. Stress, as measured by many polls is high, despite generally decent economic conditions. For all the attention given to social networking sites such as MySpace, spend some time there and you can almost taste the boredom, and in some cases, sadness in the content there.

This is not meant as a doom and gloom observation. There is something generalizable about Newton's 3rd Law (For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction). I think we are entering a period of absorption. New boundaries have to be discovered, before we can tear it down once again.

Does anyone else sense this? If so, what does it mean for brands and branding? With so many brands tied to innovation, evolution and constant, rapid change, what if consumers suddenly want familiarity and stability? Will consumers turn inward? Are we waiting for an event or idea to coalesce around? I don't have any answers but I feel a change is afoot.


Paul McEnany said...

Ok, this is off subject, but is there any way you guys can turn your parital post feeds into full posts?

thank ya, ma'ams and sirs. :)

Anonymous said...

this is a nice observation. In the Uk at the moment there are a number of brands that are going back to their old commercials and the feeling they evoked years ago.As well as old brands coming back as well. I work with a food company that has innovations in all of their brands, bar one. Its doing the best. Its just consistent and familar (can even see it in brand scores). I think there will be a place for both as people's mindsets/moods change by the hour. I love change and seeing/doing new and different things. But every morning I go and get the same coffee from the same place and I almost always sit on the same spot on the bus on the way to work. I love testing new things. But I still need some consistency as well. I think its about finding out what part in someones life your brand can take

Adrian said...

I know you posted this to call me out and rile me up. I would debate you but there's too much new shit happening everywhere and I am too busy being optimistic about the future.

paul said...

To the Myspace point, I think that connectivity needs purpose to be relevant, and the large social networks provide nothing on that front. In fact, that's sort of the ongoing lesson from a community perspective. Most people see social networking becoming more purpose driven/collaborative and content channels becoming more niche. Does this leave people feeling disconnected from a larger whole? In this context, do brands have an opportunity to offer continuity?