Monday, December 15, 2008

The new black

Just as in the fashion industry everyone awaits the answer to the question: "what's the new black?" business leaders should be asking "what's the new behavior?" The new behavior I'm referring to here is recession behavior. Of course the obvious signs of the new behavior are people being more cautious with their spending. However, the behavior shifts are a lot more complex than that.

The new behavior is built on people replacing one action with another. For example I heard from a friend who is a family doctor that many of the patients that would normally be in her office at this time of year complaining about a cough or cold are simply not coming in. This isn't because they don't have a cold but because they don't want to make their copay. So instead of going to see a doctor they are taking over the counter medicines and riding it out. Put another way they are still doing something. They're just taking a different (cheaper) path. Of course this may end up being an equally expensive route and could even wind up being more expensive.

Replacement recessionary behavior as I'd call it, is something we can expect across all aspects of life and isn't simply limited to consumer behavior. This is something PR people need to consider when they plan activities for '09. For example is your client's product a product that could be a replacement for another more expensive (normal market conditions) option? Or is it a product likely to be replaced by another? In many cases the way the product is sold will need to change. For example if you are selling chocolate or a latte I'd suggest it is sold as a replacement to those who are cutting back on eating out. If you can do this it may actually open up a new market.

As I mentioned this type of behavior won't be limited to consumer markets. For example in business, people are cutting back on off sites and business travel. How about spending some of that saving on Skype video conferencing technology (a few cheap web cams)? I for one would much rather do a video conference than spend hours on a United Airlines flight across country. In other words for every change in behavior there is an opportunity. The challenge is how to make your client's product or service the beneficiary of this change. In some cases it will require some creativity but I can assure you it will be worth the effort.

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