5 emerging themes in a down economy

Dow drops 20% in the last week! GM stock sinks 31%! TSX posts biggest weekly loss in 30 years! Economists expect crisis to deepen! These attention grabbing headlines out of the US and here at home can make focusing on business in Canada pretty unnerving. Although we’re undoubtedly in better shape than our brethren south of the border, our economies are inextricably linked. Reassurance about our conservative lending practices aside, the optics on this one can lead to only one conclusion: a retrench in spending.

On first glance this might seem like bad news, but from this shift opportunities can emerge. Last week we identified five emerging themes for marketers, as we secure our footing on this new ground we find ourselves on.

To review, the 5 emerging themes I see growing:

1. Backlash against anything big and corporate

2. Rising anti-consumerism

3. Seeking value in life’s precious moments

4. Low cost and high value offerings becoming more prevalent

5. Humour and escapism as themes

Let’s take a closer look at low cost and high value offerings becoming more prevalent. We’re already seeing and hearing this emerge. Traditional low cost retailers such as Walmart and Toys R Us are staking out the low cost ground for toys this upcoming Christmas season. The rationale: people may buy less, but they’ll still buy and they’ll be looking for deals. We can expect this theme across all retail. Furniture retailers such as The Brick offering ‘no down payment and don’t pay until 2010’, although offering a savings, seem slightly disjointed from reality. Furniture, appliance and home renovation services will have a tough go in the coming months. Offering credit on something that may not be all that necessary just won’t move people the way it used to, genuine savings and value might. Thrift and consignment stores will have a real opportunity as people seek out high value finds at low prices. The Winners and Home Sense model will likely fair better than others in the fashion and home decor categories.

And how is this playing out on the B2B side? Remember Nortel, the darling of the markets in 1999? At first glance it might seem as odd example given the markets we are in, but they emerged from their tech bubble crash with an offering that just might carry them through this crazy time and position them as leaders of tommorow. Although Cisco controls over 70% market share in their category, Nortel has launched products that make a data network use 40% less energy. When you consider that IT consumes more energy than the airline industry, using less energy translates to a significant cost savings and positive environmental impact for business. Conventional wisdom right now says you have to PAY A PREMIUM to be green. Nortel is offering a green solution at a COST SAVINGS. That is a unique position. They’ve ruffled some features doing it. Although the environment seems to have taken a slight back seat amidst the economic turmoil, this type of positioning and offering represents the type of shift we’re apt to see more of. This is a low cost and high value offering tied up with a green bow. Email me if you have heard of other examples like this: I’d love to hear about them.

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Mary Charleson

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