Sailaja N. Joshi

Reshaping the American Dream (and the New Economy)

In American Dream, United States on April 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Ah, yes. I know what you’re all thinking. Here’s another blogger talking about the American Dream in the wake of this new economy. Now before you judge, hear me out because my outlook is optimistically real (now there’s a new phrase for ya’).

I recently stumbled upon a Case Study where the researchers delved into buying patterns of consumers as a result of the recession. The company, Context Research, did a fabulous job of doing what I call REAL marketing research as they truly spent time with the individuals learning about their behaviors.

The results of the study were, interesting to say the least, as they demonstrate the emergence of the new American Dream, a dream of less stuff. Up until now, America had been about STUFF. What stuff do you have? What latest stuff thing. Stuff stuff stuff. We became a nation that, well it didn’t matter how much we made but rather how much we had/have/are going to get.

With a philosophy like that, its not surprising we’re in our current situation. We rack up debt like our lives depend on it. And sometimes, they do. So, after the realization that we cannot continue to live beyond our means, what happens?

Do we just stop buying stuff?

Are consumers’ smarter?

You Betcha! (Can’t believe Sarah Palin got a nod in this post!)

Consumers are spending a lot more time carefully planning their purchases and as a result, companies need to be smart. Very Smart. And very real. Because consumers now want a company that cares, and by caring we don’t mean just donating one dollar for every bottle of XYZ sold.  Companies can no longer sweep scandals under the rug or claim to be green when they are truly not.

The truth is companies need to reshape their values based on the new American dream and this means learning what it means to be a new American. We no longer just want stuff, we want stuff that has value and meaning and is made to last. We’re no longer just white upper-class folks. We come in many colors and we have many values that differ from yours.

So to all my faithful business people out there, forget about product innovation and start developing consumer insights. Spend time learning who we are, what we do and what we want. Learn about our human behaviors and then, start your product creation. Because I have a feeling, once you know, and REALLY get to know us, you’ll have us as consumers for life.

And what company wouldn’t want that?

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  1. your post makes me think of this:

    http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    watch the video, its quite good (theres 4 videos, but watch the one called “Story of Stuff”)

    also, your post reminds me of a phrase my college consulting practicum professor always said…”if you want to be successful, listen to the voice of the customer”

  2. Hey Aditya-

    I couldn’t agree more. If you’re a company and you want to be successful, you have to listen to your consumer. The thing is, consumers often say one thing but do another. Modern marketing research is just beginning to understand that consumer confidence is not established through a focus group but rather through a true and deep understanding of consumer DNA aka their cultural values and history. Its amazing what a little bit of genuine understanding of a consumer can do for a business.

    and the story of stuff is good stuff.

    -Sai

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