From the editor

The New Normal

June 26, 2009
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My father-in-law wears a pair of well-worn overalls to do chores on his Colorado hobby farm. The horses, sheep and his dog Cassie don’t seem to mind. But I mention it because the frayed garment represents a philosophy he’s always followed and imparted on his kids and, now, me.
Now, this is not a man in need of the grossly in-demand bailout funds; a successful entrepreneur, he retired as a CPG executive and has since taken on more new business ventures than I care to count. To him, the overalls (not to mention the Mickey Mouse patch over the left knee) are perfectly serviceable, so why replace them?
 
It’s the idea of chasing “needs” over “desires”-something that’s dramatically gaining ground these days. The longer this recession goes, the more we hear that people are buying less, trading down and seeking value, and that these changes are going to stick!
 
“Living standards in America will never, ever be the same,” Howard Davidowitz told reporters at the Reuters Global Luxury Summit last month. The veteran retail investment banker and consultant said, “We’re in the biggest trade down effect in the history of retailing…we’re going to be a different kind of country.”
 
The rapid clip at which it’s all happening, though, has left brands scrambling to adjust. Marketers are all trying to uncover what the “new normal” will look like, rushing to pull insights on who’s buying, how their shopping patterns have changed and, even, how much they have to spend.
 
The challenge is to do it all in the midst of incredible budget pullbacks.
 
Well, to you, I offer some humble advice. First, think about more than pricing; consumers may be bargain hunting during this recession, but they’re likely to come out of it with a renewed focus on quality, authenticity, usability and (gasp!) needs over wants. Take a new look at your brand with just such a lens.
 
Or, simply cut to the chase and give my father-in-law a call. Because to him, the “new normal” is where he and his Mickey Mouse-patched overalls have been living all along. BP

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