Key trends accelerate during the downturn

12 March 2010

LONDON: The downturn has profoundly affected both consumers and the marketing industry, but its major impact may have been to accelerate trends that were already at work, according to industry experts.

Mediaedge:cia, part of WPP Group, commissioned a research project in late 2009, asking a number of specialist commentators to provide their opinions on how popular preferences are changing worldwide.

Alongside nine essays covering mature markets and areas like China and Latin America, the company compiled a range of videos on this topic, all of which are available here.

In The post-recession consumer trends, Michael Wilmott and Paul Flatters, of Trajectory, argued that a number of short- and long-term factors are shaping shopper behaviour at present.

The "demand for simplicity", for example, began to gain ground prior to the crisis as people's lives became more complex, but gathered speed in the downturn due to a desire to go "back to basics".

Equally, popular interest in corporate social responsibility was building before the recession, but has now accelerated as customers pay closer attention to the activities of brands and their owners.

By contrast, the rise of "green consumerism" and the "decline of deference" have been slowed by the highly uncertain financial climate, although some opportunities do remain in these areas.

More profoundly, previously-observable shifts towards "ethical consumerism" and "extreme experience seeking" appear to have been "arrested" for the moment.

Similarly, Melanie Varley, chief strategy officer, global, of MEC, stated the forces which are remaking the marketing and communications industries were "already with us" before the downturn.

In Are you in control enough to let go?, Varley said the industry is undergoing a greater transformation than that which followed the launch of TV in the 1950s of the mass adoption of the web in the 1990s.

More specifically, digital media offers brands and agencies unprecedented opportunities to influence their target audience and drive sales, meaning communications are more important than ever.

Making effective use of the mass of data now accessible via the web, and adopting a more "organic" approach to media planning and buying, will also be key when adapting to the new world.

Producing "liquid content" which can be spread across a variety of platforms, ranging from YouTube and social media to smartphones, is also vital as media usage habits evolve, she added.

In line with this idea, brands must be willing to "let go" of control, as old business models, and former approaches to communications, become out-dated.

Data sourced from Mediaedge:cia; additional content by Warc staff