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2010 Post-Recession

Consumer Study

Eyes Wide Open




Sustainability is the New American Dream

CHICAGO, IL, March 15, 2010 – Today’s consumer is emerging from the recession with a radically new definition of the American Dream and a renewed sense in their own resourcefulness and priorities according to a just released quantitative study of 1200 consumers and qualitative research with nearly 700, conducted by Ogilvy & Mather Chicago in partnership with leading consumer insight company Communispace.

New View of the American Dream

Among the study’s key findings is that “having it all” is an unrealistic goal with 75% of those surveyed saying they would rather get out of the rat race than climb the corporate ladder – and instead, 76% said they would rather spend more time with family than make more money. Moreover, Americans are showing disenchantment with the pursuit of money with 75% again saying they would trade job security over a job that offered an opportunity for raises.

“The most surprising thing about our study was how much consumers were saying what they would NOT do for money, even when money worries are high on the list,” explained Graceann Bennett, Managing Partner and Director of Strategic Planning at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago. “Prioritizing your life based on money is seen as a sure way to be disappointed since the pursuit of money is often reliant on factors outside of consumers’ control. They have gone down this road before and are saying that they are not necessarily happier or better off as a result.”

In fact, the recession has revealed important new consumer priorities with quality of life and peace of mind at the top and a focus on living life in a more sustainable way both from an environmental and financial point of view.

“Sustainability” takes on a new Meaning

According to Manila Austin Ph.D., Communispace’s Director of Research, “Consumers didn’t fully understand the idea of sustainability until they found themselves living unsustainable lives – working too hard, carrying too much debt, and not living or planning for the long term. Now consumers are re-imagining their lives for a sustainable future for themselves and their families.”

Quality is still in according to the study with 73% of consumer saying they would rather have fewer, high quality things. But while they still want some luxuries, their shopping habits have changed as a full 92% say they are using coupons, 91% are shopping at cheaper/discount stores and 90% are buying more store brands

“We are finding consumers make very interesting trade-offs across seemingly unrelated categories in order to get their lives into balance while still feeling like they are treating themselves to those things that make them feel normal and well taken care of,” explained Ms. Bennett. “Holding off a few years to buy a new car may enable them to keep their everyday Starbucks indulgence going while someone else may ease up on their ambitions for a promotion to feel safer in their job even if it means less money.”

The Complicated Consumer

Through a series of in-depth exercises with nearly 700 online community members, Communispace’s Manila Austin noted that “many people feel the recession is not their problem. They say that they are in control themselves, but see others spending and consuming too much and feel they need to change their habits. Importantly, they also believe that it is the consumer who will get the country out of the recession, not the government or the banks.”

A shrinking circle of trust in banks, established institutions and even the media has led 69% of consumers to say that the recession has caused them to rethink their perspective and values with 78% saying that the recession has changed their spending habits for the better. The local community – “Main Street” -- is now the focus for the majority of those polled.

“The consumer is moving forward, but many marketers are projecting the stresses of the economy in their marketing and are not connecting with the new consumer mindset,” explained Ogilvy’s Ms. Bennett. “It’s time for marketers to reflect the new positive self reliance of today’s consumer and to tap into building relationships with more one-on-one marketing efforts.”

Ms. Bennett cautioned however that it is important for marketers to tread carefully into the discount space, because brands that are associated with deprivation and the recession may conjure up less than positive associations once consumers have a bit more cash to spend.

With consumers dramatically increasing the research they do before making purchases large and small, the brand with the better information will win. There are also significant demographic trends that demand a more personal message especially when looked at regionally with consumers on the west coast more optimistic than those on the East. Some 32% on the West say the US will emerge from the recession stronger, while only 19% on the East coast feel this way.

“Today’s consumer is even more complicated than before,” explained Communispace’s Dr. Austin. “There is no one marketing solution that captures a mass value proposition. We called this study ‘Eyes Wide Open, Wallets Half Shut’ to reflect the challenge of understanding and connecting with how post recession consumers view the world.”

How the Research Was Conducted

A variety of quantitative and qualitative research was conducted. Ogilvy Chicago sampled a nationally representative 1,200 American adults through a robust online survey. Communispace conducted a series of qualitative studies including interactive conversations, image galleries, and other dynamic and exploratory activities with its proprietary online community members which involved some 694 consumers participating.

About Ogilvy & Mather Chicago:

Founded in 1976, Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, includes Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, OgilvyAction, Ogilvy Public Relations and OgilvyOne, providing its clients with fully integrated marketing solutions. Its clients include CDW, Sears, Unilever, American Family Insurance, American Bar Association and others. Ogilvy & Mather Chicago is a unit of Ogilvy & Mather North America, which is part of WPP Group plc (NASDAQ: WPPGY,) one of the world's largest communications services groups.

About Communispace:

The world’s most admired brands turn to Communispace Corporation, the leader in generating game-changing insights via private online customer communities. Founded in 1999, the company has created more than 350 customer communities for industry leaders such as Kraft, Hewlett-Packard, Charles Schwab, Hallmark, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline and Hilton Hotels Corporation. Headquartered in Watertown, Massachusetts, the company has offices in Atlanta, Chicago, London, New York, San Francisco, as well as San Remo, Italy and Sydney, Australia. For more information, please visit: www.communispace.com.

Market Your Website

Web Design


Marketing Approach


by Ben Skelsey

A successful agency-client relationship must have honesty, equality, commonalities and trust. Such a relationship is the gateway to and the foundation on which good work, great ideas and effective strategy can be implemented.

I’ve seen many attitudes towards client/agency relationships in my time. From the agency being seen as just another supplier, to strategic partnerships, and even one that was more like a good friendship.

Then someone mentioned the idea of a marriage to me, and that the agency/client relationship should be viewed as such a partnership. A little cheesy, right?

I’m no marriage expert (just ask my girlfriend), but the fundamentals of a great marriage are probably good communication, openness, honesty, trust and equality. When I compare this list with some articles from a quick Google search, like this one and this one, I find similar themes.

So let’s look at some of these common themes:

1. Good Communication

I’m going to use the briefing process as an example. This could be the equivalent of requesting your partner do the shopping while you do the cleaning. There’s a lot of information that needs to be shared before a shopping trip: the basic “what” and “why”, costs, preferences, mandatories, etc. Good communication is essential.

Another example is planning (a 5-year business strategy for example). Your partner is a part of your future so he/she needs to be consulted on your future plans. They need to know they can help, if they think something is wrong with the plan, or more importantly, how this will affect the future.

Which leads me to my next point…

2. Plan and Grow Together

Your future plans should not only be shared with your partner, they should be built with your partner. There is no analogy needed for this one – how can you grow together if you don’t know what the other is doing? Relationships involve planning and growing together. This can only occur when a similar set of core values and desires exists. If you don’t share these, then it will be difficult to agree on anything. That’s not to say you have to agree all the time, but if the big picture doesn’t look similar, then the path to achieving that picture will never be agreed upon.

3. Honesty

No, this does not mean your agency or client needs to know your latest exploits.

This means that each partner needs to be honest at all times about the work, the relationship, the ideas, the plans, and limitations to do with any of these things. It is often very healthy to disagree (a lot of these ‘marriage websites’ certainly say so), and it is ok to question things along the way – for both partners. The key here is honesty, not blame…

4. Mutual Commitment

”To err is human”. But a marriage must rise above this. The partners must realise that every decision is made together, and the risks are worn equally. When things don’t work out it is more important to look at why these things happened, than who caused them (great article on ‘The Success of Failure’ here).

Marketing is neither art nor science. Marketers need to constantly test and assess their activities to determine what’s working and what needs fixing. If a mistake happens, it should be seen as a learning experience and a plan to learn from it should be put in place.

The key here is not to make it personal…

5. Fighting Fairly

Disagreements are a natural part of all relationships (as said by Allison Mupas, Marriage and Family Therapist). Allison says:

“If you are the type to pull punches below the belt, name calling, screaming or using a threatening tone… drudging up past history or slipping in that sarcastic comment just because you know it will hurt the other person then you are not fighting fairly. Some behaviors or interpersonal patterns must be decidedly eliminated from your relationships if you wish to have a healthier relationship.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

6. Willingness to Compromise
   (or not, in some instances)

This one is a little trickier. I am all for compromise and think it is vital to any relationship. However in the context of a business relationship, one must tread very carefully. The work must never be compromised. It can be improved, but ‘improving’ vs ‘changing’ are different things. Compromise can encompass both…but proceed with caution.

If you disagree on a particular concept, do not whittle it down to something that doesn’t resemble the original. Rather, start again and build something better. If you can’t agree on a particular course of action, it is often better to go back to the drawing board than combine several.

It is your attitude to the relationship that matters most. If you do not respect each other, if you do not want to be together, then you’ll need more than marriage counseling to help resolve things.

So if I ask you to marry me, it’s because I think we would be brilliant together… and you have to think that too before you say ‘yes’.

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