The Prosumer Cometh

At The Licensing Letter’s recent symposium on “The Future of Licensing,” trendmeister Marian Salzman presented the keynote speech, “10 Observations About the Prosumer [that’s “empowered consumer”] in Today’s Mood,” an oration she said had been written long before, but because of recent events, revised up until moments before her October 1 delivery. Salzman, Director of Strategic Planning at advertising behemoth Euro RSCG Worldwide, claims that “everything that was true has been turned upside down,” but nonetheless, we’re “living at hope’s edge” with new opportunities emerging and nascent trends becoming stronger, including such hot topics as “hearth and home,” “safety and endurance,” and “authenticity and values.” To wit, a selection from her ten observations:

Coping With the New Change Metric: Anyone remotely involved in celebrating the home is sitting pretty at the moment, as the nation desperately seeks out the familiar and the guaranteed as a buffer against our culture’s breakneck pace.

The Prosumer Has Arrived: The consumer expects to have things his/her way, or the highway. Still, there is a tug between mass merchandisers who offer discounts, and specialized retailers who offer depth of product and service. Department stores will have an increasingly difficult time in this climate.

Contradictions Reign: Every prosumer trend has a yin and a yang, whether it’s global vs. hyperlocal; mass vs. customization; 24/7 vs. simplification; or anti-religion vs. pro-spirituality.

The Unbranded Rises: A backlash is under way in both the US and Europe against brands, with demonstrators (invariably wearing branded jeans and sneakers) lashing out at various global brands like Nike. Adidas has taken the high road, and now sponsors community parks, rather than posting giant billboards. The “no-brow” look — mixing Gucci shoes with Old Navy jeans — is definitely in.

Boomers Redefine the Youth Market: What is now considered the “middle youth market” (those between the ages of 50 and 70) will experience a boomer adolescence, experiencing life on a global level (traveling, reading about other countries) while living it locally via gardening, pets, and home projects. Call it the rise of “glocal existence.”

New Media? The average American, who already is exposed to 3,000 advertising messages daily, can expect to see more, displayed in ingenious ways. There are temporary brand tattoos; product placement on Survivor; Fay Weldon’s Bulgari book; and advertising on cars in France (with commensurately lower monthly lease payments, of course).

Did I Mention Fear? Watch for a decline in casual sex, as adulterers’ flings are fewer and last longer. And remember, when all else fails, “Safe is sexy.”