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December 2008
ADM logoHappy Holidays? 
It's hard to believe that another year is coming to a close--and what a year it has been! With the market looking like an EKG graph, a historic election, and the personal ups and downs we all have, I feel exhausted--but hopeful!
You may have noticed the question mark in the sub-title of this article. If you are involved (directly or not) in a retail business, these holidays may be scary. If you are somehow involved in manufacturing, the entire fourth quarter has been scary.
Nevertheless, I hope it is a happy holiday season (with an exclamation point!) for you all. Good friends, good food, and good health for you and yours!
"Obama" The Brand
More Innovations From the Supreme CommanderObama plate 
By now, I'm sure you've read at least one (and very likely more) analysis of how many things Barack Obama did differently in this election cycle, resulting in his success. My perrenial focus on Marketing drew my attention to one more thing that is different: marketing Obama as a Brand; and marketing all kinds of products with his name and logo.
If you Google "Obama commemorative products," you will get 71,400 hits. That tells you something right there. This includes apparel, plates, posters, coins, magazines and books. And I have a feeling this is just the beginning. Wait until they get the dog. (Dog beds? Sweaters? Feeding dishes?)
In part, I think this reflects the recognition that Obama's election is truly historic--as is his meteoric rise from obscurity in just the past four years. But I think it also has to do with his charismatic personality. People--all kinds of people--want to have "a piece of him." That is pretty astounding for a president.
Let's see what these items are worth in two or four--or eight!--years!
Marketing In A Down Economy
Mall shoppers croppedValue! Value! Value! 
Lately, everyone has been asking, "In this economy, what's a marketer to do?" During previous downturns, many marketers turned to upscale buyers, who never seem to be impacted by little things like unemployment, high gasoline prices, and consequently higher food prices. Not this time.
But this does not mean that marketers should despair. Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment reached 25%-30%, my grandfather kept his job selling furniture in Macy's.
Yes, people will eventually need to buy all kinds of things--either new or replacement; gifts or necessities. However, they may begin to shop differently. They will certainly look for bargains--and with stores (and factories) wanting to reduce inventory, there will be a lot of that. More importantly, though, they will look harder than ever for value.
Many shoppers have gotten used to good or excellent quality in the things they buy; from apparel and food to cars and vacations. They will not be very willing to buy what they perceive to be inferior products. They may wait to buy; they may charge their purchases and hope to pay them off soon; or they will buy fewer things. Therefore, the three things to keep in mind if you want to reach consumers are: value, value, and value! Lower prices are certainly a draw, but if the products are shoddy, unfashionable, or even poorly merchandised, the deal may not close.
This is particularly true for Baby Boomers, who have (until very recently) had more disposable income than younger cohorts, and the health and time to enjoy it. Some still do. But even those whose retirement income is market-dependent will not want to sacrifice the quality upon which they have come to depend.
I was recently interviewed on this subject by Vibrant Nation (TM), an information exchange web site for women 50 and over. Check out the resulting article, 
Vibrant Nation: Marketing to 50+ Women In an Economic Recession.
So sharpen your pencils and pixels and don't be afraid to agressively market in this economy--it's even more critical than it was a few months ago!
Survey Results
Mouse on $$People Are Cautiously Optimistic 
I am pleased to report that we had a lively response to our survey on what people are observing and how they are reacting to the current economic environment. Overall, people are feeling nervous, but cautiously optimistic.
First of all, nine out of ten respondents believe that the situation is very serious. Some point the finger at greedy people and a lack of faith in government regulation, and others say, "We've teetered very close to a situation as bad as the Great Depression and it will take us years to get out of this mess." Moreover, 74% of respondents think we have "yet to hit bottom." Only 13% say that the economy has bottomed out and that, "I don't think a total crash is inevitable." 
Nearly everyone has seen the signs of this recession at work and in their communities.
  • About one in three has seen a decline in sales in their companies.
  • Others note hiring freezes or pay cuts, and reduction in spending--especially for travel and entertainment--and waste.
  • Delays in pay raises and bonuses have been announced, as well as delays in enacting marketing plans.
  • More than one in five (22%) noted an increase in home sales in their neighborhoods, and one in ten (10%) observed more homes in foreclosure.
  • Many people report restaurants (21%) and retail establishments (19%) being less crowded.
  • Some say small businesses have closed (14%) and construction sites stalled (12%).

Most respondents have changed their behavior in response to this economy (72%), the most common reaction being holding off or reducing spending for all kinds of things:

  • Reducing debt (47%)
  • Eating out (38%)
  • Travel (29%)
  • Major purchases such as a new car (26%)
  • All kinds of purchases, including luxury items (7%)

On the positive side, most of these respondents (admittedly, not a representative population) are not concerned about losing their jobs (62%). More than a third say they are working harder on the job and increasing marketing efforts (38%). They are also continuing to fund retirement accounts.

Just over half are confident that the government will be successful in getting us out of the mess (51%), but about as certain that it will take a long time--up to two years. They also indicate that Barack Obama is a key to improving the situation. "Eventually," though, there is confidence that "it always comes back." Those who are less sure about the government's ability to correct the problem point to the financial markets and other private sectors to get their houses in order: "They're really creative and shourld really be able to get it together to figure out this mess."
How Do We Know It's the Holidays?
Greeting Cards 
If you haven't already gotten your greeting cards, I highly recommend Earth Friendly Greetings, the Green Card Company!
Check out for beautiful designs, interesting greeting text, and quick delivery!
December 3
It's time for the annual SMPS-LI Holiday festivites. This year, they may add karaoke to the fun and games! There's also a fund raising activity to benefit The Sarah Grace Foundation for Children With Cancer. It will held at Genji Restaurant in Jericho. For more information go to
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman