My colleague, Katy Miller, and I attended the 29th Annual Economic Outlook Conference last week at the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business. We attended last year as well, just as the economy began to diabolically unravel, and as Riggs Partners began to offer commentary through this New Economy Consumer blog.
Last year's predictions at the conference were dire, and they all came true. As a result, we were more than eager to hear discussion on 2009 and all prognostications concerning 2010.
Sure, most economists agree a modest recovery has begun. While many indicators remain negative, they are at least relenting a bit. Last Friday's unemployment figure of only 11,000 jobs lost was a welcomed surprise.
Still, worries remain. Much of our financial system remains unsteady. The U.S. cannot afford another stimulus package. Dubai, UAE offered another ripple in the fallout that persisted throughout this year. Fears remain about the solvency of much of the commercial real estate market, and of a possible bubble fueled by the Chinese economic stimulus efforts. The consensus is that the recovery will be long and hard-fought.
Simply put, most of us remain worried, intent on retiring outstanding debt and increasing our savings. Historically, Americans have had short memories, and old spending, or overspending, habits seem almost genetic. Yet from the onset of this crisis, we at Riggs Partners have hypothesized that this time was different, more acute, and most likely to result in fundamental attitudinal and behavioral shifts.
Now brings us to understanding a new normal.
To summarize comments from Coastal Carolina research economist Donald Schunk, the new normal means individuals spending money they actually have, banks making loans to those who have sound credit and companies investing in endeavors based on the likelihood of a favorable return on investment rather than the inexpensiveness of leverage.
Enter the era of common sense.
Common sense tells us we can't avoid overspending forever. It dictates that our choices be prudent. And it tells us that the companies with whom we do business demonstrate relevance and value.
The new normal is basic - stripped-down, and devoid of nuance, subtlety or gimmick.
The resulting ramifications for marketers are huge. If your product is a commodity, evolve or perish. Our current business environment is over-populated with parody products and services. It's time to be aggressive and rethink what you are selling, and retool your organization and marketing communications efforts accordingly.
The new normal is full of opportunity for businesses and individuals. Don't let it pass you by.