It’s going to be a year of big innovation – that’s what recessions do. Companies will devise new ways of delivering stuff cheaper. Think there will also be a shift away from a consumption culture and into one of valuing what we have. So any companies that that help people value the time they have will do well this year.
In this environment, with budgets tight, the tendency will be to focus on smaller, shorter-term innovation efforts. It will be about “how do I make my numbers this year without any advertising budget?”. What will be harder is to keep on eye on innovation that leads to the longer term wins when the economy recovers. Now, a mix of short and long-term focused innovation is always a smart play. In this economy, what short and long term innovating should look like must change.
Recessionary short term innovations have an opportunity to focus on “what value can we squeeze out of what we have?”. This could be using unutilized capital equipment or manufacturing capacity. It could be reaching a core consumer efficiently in a new way to boost consumption.
Looking to recessionary long term innovation work should focus on efficient identification of ‘what’s next’ when the flood water receeds. How will our consumers change due to the recession? What new products/services might be needed that weren’t yesterday? Should our very offering change based on what the world will look like in 18 months? It’s hard to focus on these things, when times our tough, but savvy companies will have the discipline to save some resources for these efforts.
Smart companies will really be assessing what they mean to people and what their purpose in the world is. Retail establishments for example I think will knock back to the bare essentials of what their brand stands for – the whole “sticky tape=sellotape” / “carpet sweepers=hoover” line of thought. Those which fail to do this will suffer, possibly even folding following the Woolies path. Bearing this in mind advertising spend will be much less, and those which do run will have to be much cleverer in their delivery.
The economies of the emerging markets will become more desirable and stronger over the coming year. Struggling western businesses majorly effected by the crisis will increase their presence here probably mainly in sourcing, but also perhaps in sales – like Wal-Mart and Tesco, who opened in Beijing last year – further increasing the blur between east and west/developing and developed consumer markets.