Thursday, January 21, 2010

Doom and gloom that leads to a future boom (honest!).

All tend to agree (without specifically talking to each other about it, but rather in a collective news-influenced manner) that we are in the end of the beginning of the toughest year ahead of us, in this latest episode of “Greece has Recession Talent”.

Of course this reality program is a re-run or rather a remake of something that has been taking place roughly every 25-30 years - I will keep on saying that the human kind (me included, I hope) has a short memory, and Greeks have been honing that skill for ages. After all we are one of the oldest civilisations.
Does this mean that we are exaggerating in our fears deriving from, for the most part economic, insecurity? Maybe in our expressions and predictions, but not when it comes to the core of the issue.

Yes it will be a tough year(s), but it will have a silver lining, as all problems have once we change our viewpoint and start treating them as challenges.
This coming micro-era can have a purging effect on our consumer mentalities and, ultimately, behaviours by redefining our core perceptions about our NEEDS.
The word “need” is a funny one or to be more accurate has become that way in the last decades. It didn’t use to be this way. It used to be one of the most serious and respected words, up there with others like “survival”, “happiness”, “truth”, “essence”, etc.
But little by little “need” started slipping up a bit, started to hang around with a rather iffy and dodgy crowd. “Hedonism” became a mate, “shallow” became a mentor, “compensating” became a confidant, and when they caught “need” in bed with “materialism” then it was relegated to the 2nd division of words.
We, meaning the Greek consumers, will upgrade “need” to its rightful plane once more (until the next round of the recession “game” at least), by re-engineering our behaviour, at first out of necessity.

Let’s call this initial stage “rehabilitation”.

After going “cold turkey” and the initial shock of losing our accustomed way of consuming (let’s not call it “living”), we will start moving to the next phase of our re-conditioning without even realizing it.
For the benefit of this syllogism will call this next step “reconnecting”.
During “reconnecting”, we will discover anew the more meaningful joys and pleasures that can be found within our intimate and broader experiential circle. The effect will not be limited to interpersonal relationships (e.g. our home becoming the centre of socialising operations again), but will be extended to our consumer ethos and behaviour.
This is where the “boom” will come from, at least for the companies that have services, products and, most importantly, mentalities that will recognise the social paradigm shift.

It is imperative for the people in the broader area we call “marketing” to understand that their consumers will not lose their affinity and potential for emotional and rational connection (what Adel Saatchi & Saatchi signifies as “love”) with their brands.
No, our relationship with brands (throughout categories) will not end. They will just move to the next level, and as all relationships go, this next level can either be more profound, and create stronger bonds, or will collapse under the strain of incomprehension.

The consumers’ investment in time, emotions and money will become more demanding for truth and essence but not in the way that most companies have already started to react in (reactive marketing was never a long-term success story).
Rational cold-hearted approaches with “reduce” at their heart lack the all important element that will make the difference: optimism. People at this point want to be able to turn to our brands for solutions that contain optimism, independent of how much they moan and groan with companies and institutions at skin-deep level.
But even out of the companies that will go beyond the “reduced” strategy and try to infuse optimism in their approached, few will get it right. They will miss the bulls-eye by not fathoming the nature and scope of the optimism that consumers will need and sincerely believe.
The brands that will be able to master OPTIREALISM will come out stronger than their competitors, becoming meaningful and value-adding to consumers in an era that “needs” become authentic once more.
“But lo and behold! What of this optirealism you speak about you advertising scoundrel?” You may ask.
Optirealism is the current mindset that people start to re-discover in all aspects of their lives (hopes, fears, aspirations) including their consumer behaviour. At its core is it holds three main motivating values: 1)Attainability, 2)Hope, 3)Essence. Its main axiom: “I will appreciate what I have and can realistically obtain”.

This new mindset is quite different in scope than the BR (Before Recession) co-existing ones: “I will project my happiness to all my future acquisitions” – flawed in never being happy about your present and “I will not be happy since there will always be something that I will not be able to obtain” – Flawed in oh so many ways of unfulfilled emotions.
If we are to always keep in minds and heart one thing about OPTIREALISM and its key catalytic role in an effective communication for the coming years, then it should be this (which is as good an ending as one could hope for the particular subject):
The Greek consumer will redefine his “needs” through a better evaluation of where he spends his Euros, but always through a hopeful attitude for investing in “essence” and not just the “essentials”.

Christian M. Lazopoulos / Head of Strategy

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