27.2%, 216,000, 1.6% / by Dan Weingrod

These three numbers floated by me during the past couple of days. Respectively they are:

·         Drop in existing-home sales in July

·         Drop in cable TV subscriptions nationally in Q2

·         Decline in birth rate between 2007 and 2008

Together these numbers tell a story  which will make an impact on how marketing will change in the near future.

You may have heard about the housing number, the worst drop in 15 years. It indicates a fundamental shift in the kind of mobility, upward and geographic, what we have been used to for years. Families are not willing to trade up in housing, or move for a new job for fear that their spouse would not be able to find a job in this employment market. The drop in cable subscriptions is the first one that has ever been seen. Cable operators see it as a blip, but it is easy to ascribe it to the growing double whammy of personal cost cutting and new online technologies that deliver programming at a much lower, (or free), cost. The birth rate number is preliminary, but you have to believe that if people are concerned about housing and don’t have the money or time to watch cable then they are probably less and less inspired to make babies.

I’m not even remotely qualified to predict how this will affect the American consumer, but these numbers confirm that the “Great Recession” will herald a seismic shift in how we spend, consume and live. And the effect will be felt equally across generations with differing results. Boomers may hunker down and stay put, the middle class may have to fight even harder to stay in place and twenty-somethings may live at home until they become thirty-somethings.

It doesn’t make things any easier for marketers. Certainly “tried and true” ideas will not cut it anymore. We will need to work harder to earn the right to become relevant to customers, who are already overwhelmed and over-informed. We’ll probably need to experiment, fail and react more quickly as we  learn how consumers are changing.  Ultimately it will fall to what agencies are best at, great and relevant ideas that connect no matter what the technology.