Friday, July 24, 2009

The Cynical Consumer is the New Reality

Wall Street compensation, governmental bailouts, lost money in the stock market, lower home prices, record bankruptcies, high unemployment and falling credit ratings have made consumers more cynical. Some companies have recognized the new reality, others have not. For example, Hyundai instituted a “job guarantee” program and was widely copied but insurance companies, financial services, and banks seem to be unable to come up with resonant arguments to get people to trust them.

One recent radio ad stated that this particular financial institution will weed out bad brokers. Yep, make them accountable. Why not just say, “We know you lost half your money in the stock market, but we are ready to give you another chance!”

The point is the game has changed and old words take on new meaning. The denotation may be the same but the connotation is different. Words like money, security, insurance, investing, luxury, expertise, trust and honesty tend not to evoke warm and fuzzy feelings like they did in the past. They, in fact, may now be dissonant. You may be thinking “filet mignon” and they are thinking “dead cow.”

How to avoid this type of disconnect? You need to do some open-ended research, preferably the non-directive kind, and I suggest pictographs. You may want to start out with the phrase that was used by Sergeant Schultz in the old Hogan’s Heroes TV show—“I know nothing.” For more info e-mail

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