By  on January 13, 2010

This will be a year of living without.


The U.S. is heading in that direction, marketing experts said. Brands face the challenge of consumers now accustomed to doing without things they once considered essential: attending a concert or sports event, dining out regularly, buying a new car when an old one was still running, and buying premium liquor or a status handbag.

In short, the country’s long-running, pre-recession spending spree isn’t likely to resume anytime soon. Consumers are expected to stay focused on buying fewer, more important things, in a time of the “anti-big” — a period in which they are redefining what they value, engaging in more local activities and spending more time at home with friends and family.

“People are in a less and less mind-set,” said Marian Salzman, president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR. “They’ll be acquiring things that make them more productive or more relaxed. Peace of mind, respite, an escape will be in demand.”

A Zogby Interactive poll of 2,841 adults taken Dec. 28 to 30 found 40 percent of Americans anticipate having less disposable income at the end of this year than they did at year-end 2009, while one-third foresee having about the same amount in their coffers. Most hopeful among them are the Millennials, ages 18 to 29: Thirty percent expect to have more funds at their disposal.

The wealthy are no exception to the conservative spending outlook. Luxury consumers “haven’t recovered anywhere near to their wealth of 2007,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of the Luxury Institute. “They splurged a bit over Christmas, but I expect conservative spending on luxuries this year,” with interest centering on innovative products.

In times of more limited consumption, simply getting people to consider purchasing a brand “won’t be good enough,” said Walker Smith, executive vice chairman of The Futures Co., a London-based unit of WPP. “The single-biggest issue facing marketers is learning how to reconnect with people about what’s worth paying for and what’s worth paying extra for. People are learning how to live without things. There’s this seething outrage people feel about things. It’s all about irresponsibility — the financial crisis, the housing crisis.”

The 10 percent U.S. unemployment rate, depressed housing market and a forecast for widespread home foreclosures to continue through 2010 are expected to keep exacting a toll on the consumer’s psyche. Almost half those polled by Zogby Interactive, or 47 percent, said their financial situation was worse than it was as 2008 ended.

Even the advertising extravaganza that is the Super Bowl is being reevaluated by CBS and advertisers. The price of the average 30-second commercial is ranging from $2.5 million to $2.8 million for CBS’ Feb. 7 telecast of Super Bowl XLIV, down from $3 million in 2009, TNS Media Intelligence reported Monday, citing ad buyers. If the average cost ends up at less than $3 million, it won’t be the first time the price of Super Bowl spots dropped: They dipped 4 percent to about $2.4 million in 2007, versus $2.5 million in 2006, said Jon Swallen, senior vice president at TNS Media Intelligence.

PepsiCo Inc. has bowed out of the Super Bowl telecast for the first time in 23 years, as it allocates more than $20 million to its new Pepsi Refresh Project, which will be financing local causes submitted by people around the country to Pepsi’s Web site at refresheverything.com.

A reevaluation of fashion goods may result in sharing and cooperative ownership of certain items by young adults, Euro RSCG’s Salzman said, like “five women pitching in to buy and share evening coats.”

Thought leaders engaged by marketing consultant Zandl Group, Millennials and Gen-Xers believed to be on the leading edge of new trends, “are ready to get involved with fashion again,” said Irma Zandl, president of the consumer insights specialist. “But with the economy so bad, it isn’t that must-have item.”

For the near-term, apparel’s primary appeal is likely to lie in things that are practical, flexible or needed in someone’s wardrobe, predicted John Zogby, president, chairman and ceo of Zogby International. “The most practical becomes the most fashionable” in 2010, he said.

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