The New Rules of Engagement

rules-of-engagement

Written for Faith Popcorn on January 1, 2009 

Faith Popcorn’s 2009 Prediction:

The new Rules of Engagement

Leading future-focused Trend consultancy Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve sees 2009 as a year marked by unprecedented fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. A year in which we’ll see a range of consumer reactions to a nation that has seen itself moving in the wrong direction. Faith Popcorn notes: “This is not a momentary correction, nor a down cycle-it’s the end of the world as we know it. What we’ll be deciding in 2009 is whether we’ll simply succumb, or whether through a new set of Rules of Engagement, we’ll find a new way to set our priorities.”

As has been their practice for over three decades, FPBR is applying their TrendBank, 17 insights that are predictive of consumer habits, practices, preferences and behaviors to the ever accelerating changes that drive our Culture.

The four New Rules of Engagement are: Reclaim, Retrench, Reset and Reinvent

1. RECLAIM: Reframing our power relationship with Companies. Driven by Icon Toppling–A new socioquake transforms mainstream America and the world as the pillars of society are questioned and rejected.

Look for: The death of the Consumer, long live the Citizen. With the mutuality of responsibility, Citizenship suggests-shared values, shared interests, democratic decision making, full disclosure and a free ranging, ongoing dialogue.

2. RETRENCH: Hunkering down and praying for survival. Driven by Cocooning: Retreating to home to protect oneself from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world.

We’ll see that: Cuddles Trump Coupons. A premium based on brands that demonstrate “empathy”; an understanding of the consumer plight-it’s going to be a combination of messaging, price, and purchase continuity programs that offer progressive refunds, as just a few examples. The strategy is simple — be with them when they’re down; they’ll remember you when they’re up.

3. RESET: Voluntary cutback to find a new equilibrium. Driven by Cashing Out: Questioning personal/career satisfaction and goals, people opt for simpler living.

It means: We’re Scrooged: If you’re looking for immediate proof, watch Christmas ’08 sales. The worst downside estimate I’ve seen is -5%, it will be double digit. Black Friday’s top-line sales growth is a false metric. Retailers can ignite a consumption spark via discounting, but will the operation survive at zero margin contribution? How many will resist the temptations of store visits and turn to online shopping? Will they ever come back?

4. REINVENT: A rediscovery and reaffirmation of American Ingenuity. Driven by Fantasy Adventure: The modern age whets our appetite for roads untaken.

Watch the development of A Wampum Economy. A shadow economy will emerge; driven by a culture of haggling, swapping, bartering, hacking, and re-using. It all hearkens back to a time where a direct Citizen to Citizen relationship drove the economy, rather than being disintermediated by channel and manufacturing.