THINKPIECE: The key to healing business, the economy, and pride isunderstanding the consumer

With the emotions of the recent terrible events still with us, all

are making a concerted effort to return to "business as usual" - both to

aid the economy and to foster a sense of stability.



As we consider how to best conduct business, the factor that perhaps

will most greatly impact us in the PR community - and that represents

the biggest unknown - is the mood of the consumer, especially that of

young adults.



Further galvanizing the feelings of young adults is the ongoing need to

define a greater significance or meaning from life. Whether it was the

emergence of interest in religion, the spiritual, social, or political

causes, or the desire to recapture individual or self-identity in an

increasingly global world, signs existed prior to September 11 that

young adults were searching for a more substantive purpose. September

11, for better or worse, seems to have provided that focus.



This could also be seen earlier this year in the reemergence of an

interest in American culture among young adults, yet another

manifestation of the desire to find greater significance to life and to

redefine one's self-identity in an increasingly global culture.



For young adults, the recent surge of patriotism is beneficial and

understandable. It provides a much-needed sense of strength and unity,

and a reassuring sense of continuity for those who are frightened,

anxious, and unfortunately likely to bear the brunt of subsequent

action.



Young adults will continue to look to the products and services that

provide the context of their lives because of the comfort that these

familiar items can bring. But many of the emotions that guided purchase

decisions before will no longer hold true. It is likely that the

recently exhibited interest in overt sexuality, ostentatious displays of

expensive brands, and dark humor may be somewhat tempered. Cynical as

this generation has been toward marketing, that's likely to

increase.



However, what are likely to be valued are positions that are more

"human" in appeal. This will be especially true for those brands that

can communicate and foster a sense of community, or that relate to the

strength of the human spirit.



There are certainly significant difficulties to be faced by businesses

in the weeks ahead, both in the form of obstacles to normal marketing

techniques and in the form of personal feelings on what is

occurring.



But by doing what we do best (that is, properly anticipating and

understanding shifts in media direction and consumer emotions), we as an

industry can continue to help our clients, colleagues, friends, and the

economy weather this terribly tragic period in American history.



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