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Monday, February 27, 2012

Rents on the rise in many cities across the U.S.

Observation:   Many homeowners are feeling the frustration of the recent real estate meltdown.  But in many markets across the U.S., renters are feeling a bit pinched, too, as demand for apartments—and rent costs—rise.  Click here to see a recent New York Times story on the matter.

Implications:  Could high rents be one of the stimuli that cause renters to make a move toward buying?  How long will it be before the pendulum swings back toward home ownership?  Or will apartment building development resume, therefore creating more supply for this impressive demand for rental units?  As another source of rental housing, many investors have snapped-up single-family houses only to rent them to families who lost their homes through foreclosure.  Is that a long-term trend, or will those homes be sold-off again when housing supply and demand gets back into balance?

If you sell home furnishings, appliances or improvements, this range of possibilities affects you.  If you sell furniture, the goods you sell to an apartment dweller will be smaller that the goods you sold to the big homeowner.  If you sell to a former owner that is now a renter, your transaction is more likely to be in cash rather than credit terms.  Do your goods and offers reflect the current set of realities that your most important customers are facing?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

About two-thirds expect a tax refund, and more folks intend to "save" it

Observation:   A recent story from Marketing Daily indicates more than 66% of respondents to a BigInsight survey expect a check from the government this tax season, and 43.8% say they plan to save it.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   My question is, “Save it for what?”  Are they saving it for retirement?  Or are they simply planning to spend it more strategically on one of many big-ticket needs that has gone un-sated over the past several years?  They could be saving it until May when they buy a new car, or until Fall when they buy a new suite of appliances.  To many folks, “saving” money might just mean not squandering it immediately, instead spending it thoughtfully on something they might be able to afford with a regular paycheck.

What is your company doing to convince consumers that your product or service is worth their investment, whether it be using their regular income… or the extra boost their tax return often feels like?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Friday, February 24, 2012

UPDATE: Convenience stores are in the restaurant business, too

Moments after posting the story immediately below, I found this piece from Convenience Stores News about the expanding footprint that the ready-to-eat section has in the typical c-store.  Click here to see the story.  (To understand why that's important read my earlier post on the topic, found immediately below.)

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Fast food meets the family dining room

Observation:   This week, I had the pleasure of talking about Consumer DNA with a really sharp marketing team in Orlando.  One of the things we discussed was the impending churn that we can expect in the in- and out-of-home dining category.  During the recession, lots of folks down-graded from upscale to family casual restaurants, or from family casual to fast food, or from fast food to eating at home.  As the recovery picks up steam, the folks who lost market share will try regain it, and the folks who gained share will try to retain it.

When I got back into the office this morning, an FMI newsletter led me to this story from the Orlando Business Journal, explaining how Winn-Dixie is expanding their take-home meal solutions menu.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   This is another way consumers will be comparing Apples to Oranges… meaning that restaurants don’t just compete with other companies in their category; they must worry about another category they compete with (grocers).

Who are the direct competitors you’re focused on?  (The people who sell pretty much the same thing you sell?)  And while you’re focused on that obvious competition, are there other categories taking a bite out of your sector?  How might you defend?  Or, how can you play offense… and grow beyond your core business to find new veins of revenue?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Automakers introduce “Gateways to Luxury”

Observation:   An article from USA Today explains how luxury automakers are moving down-market, hoping to lure younger, perhaps less affluent consumers into the upscale car market a little bit sooner… and more gradually.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   “Luxury brand owners tend to be more loyal,” and therefore, it’s important to “Capture, Land and Expand.”  What a great series of thoughts from people who work in the upscale car market.  Gain attention the market share you hope to (capture) and develop over the next few years, sell (land) them, and then grow (expand) the relationship.

Makes perfect sense to me, provide there are entry-level luxury vehicles worth buying, and provided there are enough buyers to go around in what appears to be an increasingly crowded space.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Men join the recovery in apparel spending

Observation:   A story in yesterday’s New York Times explains that men are spending more than ever on fashion accessories.  But perhaps more importantly, it points out unemployment and other recessionary issues impacted men differently than women.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   It’s good to see men back spending again, and especially on themselves.  Both male and female heads-of-household delayed personal spending during the recent 2007-2009 recession… opting to support the needs of their family first.  Indulging a little more—or updating one’s wardrobe—might be another indication that the recovery and consumer confidence gaining a little momentum.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Are consumers talking about you behind your back (but in clear view, online)?

Observation:   Over the past few years, I’ve had dozens of conversations about the increasing influence of consumers in a transaction… before, during and after the purchase.  Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune features a story about the extent to which consumers are using their technology tools to manage their consumer relationships.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   Never has the consumer’s Word of Mouth been so loudly and immediately amplified into the marketing message as it is today.  It might be impossible to control what people are saying about your company, product or service on Facebook or Twitter… you still have tremendous control over the experience someone enjoys when they do business with you.

When a customers walks into your business (whether on foot, online or over the phone), assume they have the power to broadcast their experience to the world.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

More on the changing composition of the American family

Observation:   In case you missed it over the weekend, the New York Times had a story about the growing number of women who give birth while unmarried.  For starters, unmarried mom is a title no longer reserved for women in their 30s or 40s who have yet to find a marriage partner and want to make their move before its too late; it is a role increasingly assumed by women in their 20s.  Among women under thirty in the U.S., more than half of all births are to unmarried moms. 

Implications:   If you market to families, it is critical that you are aware of changes that are occurring to the family unit.  How should you portray a family trip to the theatre, theme park or restaurant?  How will cost be taken into account when unmarried moms and dads are pricing the family meal alternatives at their local grocery store?  And how will the social, financial and time pressures be different on moms in 2012 than they were in 2002 or 1992?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Smart phones eating into the camera market

Observation:   As the inboard devices become more sophisticated and take photos of higher resolution, lots of people are leaning on their phone for “spur of the moment” shots.  However, consumers still want a point-and-shoot or D-SLR for those really important shots.  That’s according to a story in today’s Marketing Daily.  Click here to see it.

Implications:   Every industry category seems to be going through change, either in response to technology and innovation, or in the aftermath of the recent recession.   

Do customers sometimes choose a cheaper alternative when considering the products you… but then come back to you for a need that is really important?  (Are you seen as the quality choice, or the low-price option?)  Is technology or an emerging competitor eating into your sales?  Sometimes, a shift like this can happen so slowly that you don’t realize the magnitude of an emerging competitor. 

Just ask Kodak.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Google/IPSOS study: Mobile devices gaining strength as purchasing influence

Observation:  This morning, I had the privilege of speaking to members of the Chamber of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida.  The essence of our conversation was that it is increasingly difficult to keep up with all the changes in technology and digital media… but that life becomes easier when you focus instead on how your consumers are using those tools, and why.

A recent article from Online Media Daily supports this premise and cites research from Google and IPSOS suggesting that people use their different devices for different kinds of shopping research.  Click here to see the story.

UPDATE:  Today's Marketing Daily also had a story about the retailers are flocking to e-commerce as a revenue stream.  Click here to read that article.

Implications:   In the room of 200+ participants this morning, I almost sensed a collective sigh of relief; focus on your consumer and how they’re using technology, rather than trying to know everything about everything. 

Do you have a way of gaining insight or feedback from your most important customers, with regard to what they want from your business in the digital space?  If you don’t know what customers like, it will be a challenge getting those folks to “Like” you on Facebook, or anywhere else.


[Personal note:  My thanks to the Chamber of the Palm Beaches and the Palm Beach Post... it's always fun to brainstorm with people who are eager to explore and embrace what's next.]

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Smaller candy bars more healthy? Or just more profitable?

Observation:  There was an interesting pair of stories about companies that are changing the size or type of their products… in a quest to benefit the consumer.

The first artice came through Reuters, and indicated that Mars would stop selling jumbo-sized candy bars, in the interest of encouraging a more healthy snacking lifestyle.  Click here to see that story.

The second story came from Marketing Daily, and explained that Tropicana will be developing beverages that contain less juice and more water (even hinting that they are yielding to consumer preference).  Click here to see that story.

Implications:   Both of these stories sound like spin to me, but let’s wait and see what the marketing looks like.  Can Mars explain that the reduction in candy bar size is an effort to help people snack in a more health-conscious manner?  (Will the price of diet-friendly bars remain static?)  How will Tropicana sell the idea that people prefer watered-down juice beverages?  Will either company be seen by consumers as simply trying to adjust products as a means toward a price increase?

I’ve been a copywriter for more than 30 years… and I’m eager to see how these hands are played. 

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Men more likely to be behind the cart

Observation:  Over the past few years, terms like employment and head-of-household have taken on all new meanings.  For example, consider this recent story from Supermarket News, which suggests that men are more frequently behind the handlebar of a shopping cart.  (Click here to see the full story.)

Implications:   It’s time to divide your target consumer into (at least) two groups:  Those who buy what you sell, and those who actually consume what you sell.  It might not be the same person.  (In a world like that, who makes the decisions, and why?) 

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Open mike night… for cooks?

Observation:  In a world where even The Food Network is deploying a reality TV strategy, it was only a matter of time before actual restaurants gave aspiring chefs the chance to cook for the crowd.  See this story from today's Springwise newsletter (click to link) about a restaurant in Paris that’s giving everyday people the chance to show their stuff. 

Implications:  Love it.  Why not the same approach for a home improvement store?  Stylist?  Fashion designer?  All kinds of retail could take advantage of this approach as a creative way to connect with consumers and connoisseurs alike. 

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

If everybody’s doing it, low price is no distinction

Observation:  Today’s Supermarket Guru newsletter from Phil Lempert opines that consumers have come to expect great prices everywhere they shop.  So, to point out the obvious, just having a low price does not make your company, product or service “special.”  Click here to see the story. 

Implications:  A unique selling proposition must be—before all else—unique.  When the market was flooded with discounts during our recent economic turmoil, retailers were forced to become more thoughtful and creative.  Examples?  How about free Wi-Fi in the auto dealer service department so I can work while I wait?  A list of wine pairings offered free at the grocery store where I buy fresh seafood.  Or a hands-on test drive (like the Apple store). 

 Discounting can be a race to the bottom of profit margin.  It’s what you do under the sale sticker that makes you special.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

What were once vices have become habits

Observation:  A BIG Insight study was highlighted in today’s Research Brief that suggests many of the financial survival techniques that consumers picked up during the recession have endured.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:  This fits nicely under the theme of economic reconciliation, something we’ve written about frequently here (click here to see the set). 

Consumer have become generally more:  Prudent, diligent, judicious, deliberate, discretionary.  What do these behaviors look like in your store, lobby, office or dealership?

Another great question:  What are people doing with all that money they’ve been saving?  I would argue that they’re spending more of it… in ways that are also prudent, diligent, judicious, deliberate…

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Consumer credit grows (a testament to increasing confidence?)

Observation:  A recent story from Bloomberg suggests that consumers may be feeling more confident about their future prospects, and therefore more comfortable with the idea of borrowing money.  Click here to see that story.

To see an interactive chart about credit trends, click here.

Implications:  If you sell big-ticket items—or loans—this is great news for your category.  Have you planned a messaging strategy that speaks to this increasing confidence (or at least, a greater willingness to borrow)?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

The anxiety of transparency (auto industry adjusts to new web influences, and vice-versa)

Observation:   A recent story from the New York Times takes an interesting look at how the automobile sales industry is changing, thanks to companies like TrueCar.com, which aggregate data from all over to show consumers the kind of price they should reasonably expect on their next car.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:  I found this story interesting because of the way some stakeholders would discourage greater transparency in the car-buying process. 

Hasn’t that train already left the station?

The Internet has empowered information to flow where consumers want it to be.  (And if that hasn’t happened in some situations, it’s only a matter of time.)

Are you on the leading edge of bringing transparency to your industry category?  Or is your company among those who might try delay the age of more candid commerce?  Can the latter possibly succeed, in an age where information is so difficult to keep in its cage?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

48% of convenience store/gas station customers don’t make it into the store

Observation:   According to a story published this week by Convenience Store News, only about 52% of convenience store/gas stations actually make it into the store for a purchase beyond fuel.  Of that group, about one in four purchases a soft drink.  (Click here to see the story.)

Implications:  The C-Store business has done a fairly good job of taking food dollars from quick service restaurants over the past few years, but this report suggests there is still room for improvement and growth. 

What kinds of things compel a person to walk into the store instead of climbing back into their car after paying at the pump?  Point-of-purchase stickers or video ads played at the pump?  Covering the store structure with posters about cheap corn dogs or ice cream tickets?  How about coupons mailed (or emailed) to commuters that live in the store’s neighborhood?  This is not just a question for the C-Store… but one that anyone who sells lottery tickets or beverages would love to answer.  (And I bet a little research on your customers would provide great clues.)

If you’re in the fast food business, how do you re-take some of the food dollars that the C-Store industry nabbed during the recession?  Dare I say “ambience?”  Freshness?   (There’s a good chance that “cheap” alone won’t do the trick.)

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Is our house big enough for this TV?

Observation:   Like anyone who was out-and-about before the Super Bowl last week, I saw more than a few people walking out of discount or big-box stores with a grand new television to watch the game.  And I noticed that people are not just buying typical TVs.  They’re choosing between large, extra-large, and ridiculous!

A recent story from the New York Times provided an interesting look at the trend toward owning a massive television.  Click here to see it.

Implications:   Tremendous televisions purchased during a still fragile economic time might seem counter-intuitive, but for many consumers, it makes all the sense in the world.  First, not everyone is feeling financially pinched… in fact, more and more people are feeling confident about their job security and the economy. 

But even for those who are still in a frugal state of mind, a big television is easy to rationalize.  It can be cheap entertainment for households who are going out less.  And it’s not just a place to watch games or shows… it’s a gaming screen, a Skype monitor, and even a computer display.  Like almost any marketing message… it is simply a matter of how the consumer puts it into context.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The simplicity of digital solutions, in theaters now

Observation:   Today’s Springwise.com newsletter has—among other things—an example of how simple a digital solution can be.  Ever decide you’d like a soft drink or some popcorn when you’re half-way through a movie… but you don’t want to leave your seat for fear of missing “the good part?”  There’s a show hall in Australia that has placed QR Codes on the back of every seat in the theatre; you just shoot the QR code and text what you want, and they bring it to you.  Genius.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   It can be overwhelming to keep up with the changes in digital technology.  It can be much easier to focus on how consumers use your product, and how they’re using digital devices… and simply bring the two together.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Re-distribution of restaurant customers continues

Observation:   Today’s Research Brief has an interesting story on the out-of-home dining category, citing Mintel research about what customers want when they stop at a mid-scale restaurant.  Click here to see that story.

Implications:   These kinds of surveys and insights are important, as the restaurant category continues to evolve—and revolve—after the Great Recession.  During the economic downturn of 2007-2009, it was widely reported that many people “traded down” in the restaurants they visited, or trimmed their visit frequency, or made do with more meals prepared at home.

With the fragile but growing recovery, Upscale restaurants are trying to regain the customers who abandoned them for more modest Family Casual fare.  At the same time, Family Casual restaurants would like to retain those upscale customers,  and regain the share they lost to Fast Food places.  Meanwhile, Fast Food restaurants want to regain the customers they lost to at-home dining, while retaining the Family Casual customers who came their way during the recession.  And finally, convenience stores and grocers would like to hold-on to the customers they gained as some people simply began dining out-of-home less.

The fierce competitive challenges facing restaurants during the Great Recession have not ended with the emerging economic recovery.  Those challenges have simply changed.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Finances contribute to a new education gap

Observation:   In recent months, I’ve used the term Dumb Bell Economy to explain an economic landscape that is filled with extremes.  I don’t use the term as a reference of intelligence… but to point out that there are lots of people who enjoy abundance, lots of people who are suffering, and fewer people than ever who feel like they’re in the middle (class).  (Click here to see that series.)

Today’s New York Times explains that the chasm between those who have and those who do not has also visited education.  Click here to see that story.

Implications:   There are a couple of reasons I think this story is important.  First of all, education influences the future.  But secondly, I’m interested in chasms that could expand—or be established—between various economic classes.

Companies generally thrive by super-serving a core consumer group.  Is your customer base making progress in their quest to build a future, or are they facing challenges?  Are they increasingly upscale, or financially challenged?  (By the way, there is great opportunity for businesses that succeed in super-serving almost any core audience.)

By the way, how does this issue impact educators… or the people responsible for selling education to incoming or prospective students?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Temporary staffing appears robust

Observation:   A posting from the AMEX Open Forum blog this morning suggests that temporary employment is picking up across the U.S.  The story is informed by Stephen Berchem, president of the American Staffing Association.  Click here to see it.

Implications:   The reason Temp Staffing is an important benchmark, of course, is that it serves as a canary in the coal mine; temporary workers are among the first cut going into a bad economy, and among the first hired when an economy is picking-up steam.  (Companies can add employee firepower on an as-needed, or contingency, basis.  That allows them to wade toward increased capacity without diving into higher expenses, and getting in over their head.) 

Who cares?  Anyone who sells anything.  Paychecks are the prerequisite to purchasing… it’s that simple.  In the aftermath of the recession that ended in June, 2009, many employees were looking for two or more lower-paying jobs to replace the career position that they had lost.  A temporary staffing spike gives those people more options, as well as an entrĂ©e into new companies and career opportunities.  Further, it is a signal that overall employment can be expected to gain momentum.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

$4.6 Billion in coupons redeemed last year

Observation:  This morning’s Research Brief offers another angle on a topic we wrote about a couple of weeks ago:  That coupon redemption was up more than 12% last year.  The source is listed (again) as NCH Marketing, a Valassis company.  Click here to see the complete story.

Implications:   This week, I’m preparing to talk with a major group of Chamber of Commerce organizations… so I’ve been spending significant time thinking about the current state of the economy and business.

If you weren’t paying close attention, the past thirty-one months (since the recession ended) may have felt like economic purgatory; we were no longer living through the Great Recession, but hardly felt as if we were in the glow of a Great Recovery, either.

For those who have been paying close attention, the past 2½ years have been a period of reconciliation… a term we’ve hammered on quite frequently at this site (click here to see a set of stories on the topic).  The NCH Marketing study on coupon redemption seems to support that idea; that people are sticking to spending habits and saving strategies that help them cope with a set of financial realities that are different from their pre-recession purchase priorities.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Group coupons effective at driving product trial (and loyalty, if you do it right)

Observation:  Results of an IPSOS study were published in a press release this morning, suggesting that deal-of-the-day tactics can lead to new product trial, as well as a degree of loyalty to new companies that a consumer has discovered through the coupon redemption.  To see the story from IPSOS out of Vancouver, BC, click here.

Implications:   I think this report supports the idea that the most important element in determining whether a consumer will return to buy at full price is whether the company, product or service was able to demonstrate important value during the discounted experience.  While some of the group coupon deals I’ve seen look more like free samples than discounts, the daily deal tactic might make sense if the redemption experience leaves the consumer wanting more… and willing to pay for it.


Now that companies and consumers have figured out how to make daily deals work... it will be interesting to see whether the companies built on that premise can make it work.  A story in today's Wall Street Journal indicates that Groupon is not yet taking a profit on the business model... disappointing some investors.  Click here to see that story.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Consumers take increasing control by aiming their smartphone

Observation:  This month’s Trendwatching.com update summarizes what they refer to as “Point-Know-Buy,” the tendency of consumers to take increasing control of shopping and purchase experiences through technology.  It’s an awesome update, and you can click here to see it.

Implications:   Is your company, product or service ready for a more empowered consumer?  Are you ready to sate their hunger for knowledge about your offering (aka “Info-lust”)?  It is an exciting time to be a consumer... and to serve them.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Appearances still a factor in the job search

Observation:  Yesterday’s Iconoculture newsletter had a brief but interesting story about the increasing number of people in Spain who are having tattoos removed.  It seems that in a tight labor market, job hunters don’t want to risk that their former symbols of irreverence or personal expression will be a turn-off to potential employers.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   A tight labor market can influence a wide variety of business categories.  Job hunters need reliable transportation, and a wardrobe appropriate to the position they would like to hold.  Personal grooming might be taken particularly seriously, as well as office supplies and technology tools that can help secure that next gig… or preserving the career they already have.

Do you sell any products or services that might be particularly attractive to a job-seeking consumer, or people who are being proactive about retaining/growing their current job? 

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More warnings of rising fuel prices

Observation:  Several news organizations are reporting that gas prices are projected to rise significantly this spring and summer, to as high as $4 per gallon or more.  Here’s one example of the coverage, from USA Today (click to link).

Implications:   The last time gas prices spiked like this was the summer of 2008, aggravating an already painful recession.  This time around, it seems as if we’re getting more warning; I’m not sure that will make prices at the pump less painful, but perhaps at least they will be less shocking.

If it happens, and consumers restrain spending in other areas to fund their commute, what kinds of messaging could you do to make sure your product or service avoids the chopping block?  In what ways does your product or service add value to the consumer’s life?  Is that value substantial?  Are you explaining it effectively? 

For more on the volatile price of energy, see other stories related to The Fuel Economy by clicking here.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Twitter reports Social activity related to the Super Bowl

Observation:  A story from today’s Washington Post features the final score from yesterday’s Super Bowl… not in terms of the game, but the chatter.   According to Twitter data, there were an average of 10,000 Tweets per second during the final three minutes of the game.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   What were the conversations about?  I bet a few were something like, “Great catch!” or “Bad call!”  Perhaps there were even some, “Hey, did you see that Doritos ad with the dog!?”  But it doesn’t matter whether people were commiserating, congratulating, or ad-watching… they were sharing the biggest game of the year with friends who were not necessarily in the room. 

Have you given your customers something to chat about?

[Interesting note:  If each of those Twitter comments represented one person, you could have filled the Super Bowl venue (Lucas Oil Stadium) more than twenty-six times in just the final 180 seconds of the game.]

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Cargill: More people = higher food prices

Observation:  An article from this morning’s Bloomberg Businessweek explains that higher food prices will be a natural consequence of the growth in global population.  Click here to see the story. 

Implications:   Yes, this story looks out a few years… but it’s important, because we’re seeing a dress rehearsal right now in the energy markets.  Higher demand from developing economies like China and India are, in part, a reason that oil prices are climbing across the globe.  The Bloomberg story simply suggests that the same thing will happen to the world’s food supply; as populations grow, countries will increasingly find themselves in a supply-and-demand competition for groceries.

After seeing real prices fall, in effect, for the past fifty years… how will consumers in developed nations react to food prices that very definitely rise?  Can we expect particularly strong pressure on meat and seafood prices?  Might that stimulate a change in the kinds of foods people consume?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Auto sales pacing up

Observation:  Earlier today, I wrote a story on the stabilizing job market, and mentioned how that stronger employment could positively impact consumption.  As if on cue, another email alert popped into my in-box this morning, explaining that automotive sales for January were very strong.  The note came from Automotive Digest, and cited this story from Bloomberg News (click to link).

Implications:   Many people demonstrated restraint both during the recession and in the 31 months that have followed.  By now, though, if there is a job or two and a stable income in the household, we can expect consumers to act on their pent-up wants and needs.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Continuing trend: Parents helping adult children get their feet on the ground

Observation:  Yesterday’s USA Today featured an interesting story about the wide variety of ways that parents are providing help to their adult children; the assistance ranges from free rent to help with buying homes and cars.  Click here to see the story.

Implications:   If you’re in the business of selling any big-ticket item, it might be smart to keep your radar up on this issue.  If your customer is getting financing from The Bank of Mom and Dad, they might also be receiving opinions from those parents that could influence a purchase decision.

If you’re in the business of financial planning, perhaps you should be asking your clients about the extent to which helping their offspring could be impacting their ability to plan for retirement.  It’s a delicate question, but one that needs to be considered as extended families reconcile the way they collectively move through an altered economy.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Job opportunities coming out of hibernation

Observation:  Frequent visitors to this site know that I find it hard to resist sharing good economic news… and today’s labor report is just that.  The unemployment rate fell again for the month of January.  You can read the Washington Post version of the story by clicking here.

Of course, the employment rate varies by region and job category.  Today’s Washington Post also provides some county-by-county data that you can review by clicking here.

Implications:   There are two reasons to share this kind of news.  First, in an age where we are bombarded by headlines of gloom and doom, I think it is important to amplify the optimism of good news when we can.  (Sometimes, temperament and progress can be self-fulfilling prophecies!)  Perhaps more importantly, a more stable workforce with more reliable paychecks can lead to more stable and reliable consumption. 

It is important to have great timing when heading into a recession, so that one knows when to trim inventories, restrain hiring, etc.  But it is no less important to have great timing when coming out of a recession… and having the goods and personnel required to satisfy customers when they come out of hibernation!

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Your company flaws could make you more approachable


Observation:   Ever felt uncomfortable (or disinterested) at a cocktail party or meeting when talking to someone who pretended to be just a little too flawless?  Lots of people feel that way; enough that scratch-and-dent marketing strategies are the focus of this week’s Trendwatching.com newsletter and briefing.  Click here to see it.

Implications:   We’ve all had plenty of experiences with products or services that didn’t function according to plan… or companies that didn’t live up to our expectations.  When that happens, we don’t tend to focus on the problem, but on the way that problem was handled.  A company that denies underperformance tends to aggravate our frustration; the company that faces an issue head-on tends to mitigate it.

I dare say that everyone has been through this at one time or another.  So that makes “flawsome” a marketing strategy that many folks can relate to; they know companies, products and services are not perfect, so the ones that start a conversation on that premise—if done carefully and while still delivering value to the consumer—tend to strike a chord with consumers.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.