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The 2001 Consumer:


January 1, 2001
By Pulp & Paper Canada

It’s the beginning of a New Year and time to examine the emerging mindsets, moods, and habits of the consumer. These are the same consumers that will influence advertising expenditure, content and med…

It’s the beginning of a New Year and time to examine the emerging mindsets, moods, and habits of the consumer. These are the same consumers that will influence advertising expenditure, content and media choices — all issues of critical importance for the broad paper business. An overriding theme is more individual empowerment brought about by a higher information flux and the Internet. Consumer empowerment will influence product

choices and service demands as well as the relationships between government, businesses, and society as a whole. It will not be business as usual.

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The Intelligence Factory, a global market watch organization, has identified the following 10 significant consumer trends for 2001. The challenge for strategy thinkers and planners in the paper sector is to identify potential business opportunities arising from these trends.

1. Demanding new thrills: Entertainment will become even more sense-ational as the “extreme” trend spills over into just about every aspect of leisure. Consumers are seeking new sights, sounds, and sensations. Successful shopping malls are delivering experiences.

2. Sci-Fi living: The stuff of science fiction will become [virtual] reality as “intelligent” appliances and housewares invade our nests. Smart everything with wireless Internet connection is poised to have significant impacts on the housing and packaging sectors, as well as business models for the supply and distribution chains.

3. Undercover aging: From health care to fashion, business will strive to keep up with a graying world. Yet even as this trend continues, those at its center will be doing their best to ignore it: Boomers have already succeeded in renaming their middle age “middle youth,” and are using every tool at their disposal to stave off the inevitable. Smart marketers will play along with the mass delusion.

4. Minding one another’s business: Going it alone will give way to getting and giving guidance, as mentoring becomes an increasingly institutionalized part of corporate, educational, and even neighborhood life. Companies will recast still-vital retirees as corporate gurus and will send executives into schools and communities to pass along their business smarts.

5. Commerce and media blurred, blended, and reconstituted: The growth of contextual commerce where advertising is embedded in the content, entertainment, or editorial matter. It will be harder to distinguish information from persuasion. This as yet unnamed hybrid will be controversial, and it represents another “slot” for advertising to find consumer attention.

6. Everyway people: The query “Who are you?” will be more difficult to answer. Defining ourselves will no longer be a matter of checking one box or another: Sometimes we’ll be single, sometimes we’ll be partnered; we’ll be corporate executives one day and contract workers the next. We’ll identify with multiple ethnicities, interest groups and philosophies. Marketers seeking to segment consumers will try in vain to set their sights on a moving target; an opportunity for special interest magazines and other paper products?

7. “Brand me:” Having caught on to the value of brand building, people will aim to stand out from the pack by forging distinctive brand identities. Creating a personal brand will be an ongoing process and may include the adoption of unique “packaging” (clothing and accessories) and individual “taglines” (pithy statements of personal philosophy). Up next: personal branding coaches.

8. Are you talking to me? Advertisers desperate to cut through the clutter will be seeking space in every imaginable place — and some unimaginable ones as well. Marketing messages will become truly inescapable, emanating from sources ranging from talking gas pumps and food displays to people who rent out their cars and bodies as billboards.

9. Hagglemania: The bazaar is back. In the near future, the Internet-auction mentality (a.k.a. the eBay ethic) will permeate every industry with something to sell, online or off-. Consumer confidence and heightened competition will weaken the notion of fixed prices throughout the retail world, while the rapid growth of B2B e-commerce will facilitate bidding for materials, services, and talent.

10. The great free-for-all: Price resistance will start at a lower point than ever — namely, any price will be considered too high. In the post-Napster era, consumers will expect free access to all kinds of data and services, even those they once paid for without question. Those doing business as usual will be vilified, while outlaw hackers will become the heroes of this particular Cultural Revolution.

Why is this important?

As we go forward into the converging multi-media world, the only sure thing is that paper will have to compete with more alternatives for consumer’s attention. Keeping track of an ever-changing consumer mood will be important for everything from workplace culture and organization to corporate branding, business models, and new angles for delivering goods and services. The demanding and empowered consumer will also be looking for media products associated with these Trends, and many of these would represent spaces for new and incremental advertising activity. Organizations may wish to use this list as a brainstorm prompt for addressing an internal focus issue. Any other thoughts out there for the “2001 Consumer?” Send me your feedback.P&PC

Alan R. Procter can be reached at a.r._procter@telus.net for more information, visit www.futureviews.net


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