1. Simplicity. Many people who have lost their jobs, taken pay cuts or seen their savings accounts eroded have been forced to reduce spending. While, initially, this scaling-back may feel like sacrifice, over time, many will begin to appreciate and even enjoy a more simplified version of their daily lives.
Consumers who were able to keep their jobs and maintain their incomes will turn toward simplicity, as well. Look for a growth in household activities, both traditional and less so. Knitting is up, as is anything related to home theater. Traditional recipes (comfort food) will continue to gain popularity. Consumers will also seek to find new efficiencies in the operation of their homes and lives. Simpler will coexist with smarter.
What can your brand do? Embrace the spirit of simplicity. Reduce your packaging. Reduce your SKUs. Perhaps it's time to give consumers less choice. Patagonia is already doing this on a few of its items. Your brand will be perceived as being forward-thinking and responsible by proactively reducing its impact on a world that is using its resources faster than they can replenish.
2. The conspicuous absence of conspicuous consumption. The other side of the move toward simplicity will be rejection of ostentatious displays of wealth. More and more, these will be seen as evidence of greed and selfishness, or at best, cluelessness. Think U.S. auto executives in private jets.
More and more consumers, especially Awakening Consumers, will ask, "Do we really need this?" Construction of oversized "McMansions," already nose-diving, will not make a come-back on any sort of meaningful scale. Hummers will be seen as the Official Vehicle of Stupid People.
What can your brand do? Don't be about flash or fashion, be about substance. Consumers have not stopped spending, even on high-ticket items, but they will only support brands whose quality levels legitimately warrant a high price tag.
3. The community will get broader and deeper. Right now, consumer confidence is at an all-time low. When people aren't confident, they look to others for help. Acts of collaboration, while borne of necessity, will forge a spirit of solidarity that will carry on once times get better. A larger sense of community will emerge.
Volunteerism will grow through the course of the recession. People out of work will be more inclined to donate their time -- as opposed to their money -- to causes that are important to them.
As the sense of community gets deeper, the sense of what constitutes community will expand, as well. Global environmental stewardship will be seen as an extrapolated concern for the community.
What can your brand do? Embrace your community -- i.e., your stakeholders. Start with your employees. Look at ways of adding depth to the relationship you have with them. Commit to becoming a better environmental citizen. Recognize that environmental responsibility is a journey, and create a platform that will permit and encourage your shareholders to join you.
The current global economic crisis is tearing down many of the pillars that have supported business and society since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. But from these ashes will rise a consumer marketplace that is more values-driven: simplicity, responsibility and community. If your brand can genuinely live and articulate these values, it will be in a position to thrive.