It’s hard to watch these stories about people who are struggling in the economy. And I get the impression that even people who are doing OK are very cautious about spending. That’s a problem for the advertising industry. When people can’t buy what we sell, we’re in trouble:
We don’t need Socialism with a capital S, but we do need the balance that maintains a vibrant middle class. A little spreadin’ the wealth helps the ad industry–not so we can sucker people into buying what they can’t afford, but to ensure the means to buy little slices of a life well lived–a nice dinner out, a new outfit, a vacation here and there, a new garage door on the home, a trip to the ballpark. It’s no coincidence they set “Mad Men” in the post-war boom years of the Fifties and early Sixties. That was a golden age of consumerism and upward mobility for a lot of people. But that era, for better or worse, is long gone.
Our clients today–the brands we’ve surrounded ourselves with in modern living–won’t survive for long if current economic conditions continue. Big brands are particularly vulnerable. When cost is a factor, shoppers will opt for generic brands or less premium brands. And when cost isn’t a factor, there’s still a growing movement among some people to avoid big brands. I’m sure you know folks who insist on supporting local businesses or small brands even if it’s more expensive to do it.
Are there any solutions? I explore this in my new column on Talent Zoo, which will be on the home page tomorrow.