"I realized something, buying things is not the same as doing things," says Brandy Agerbeck, graphic facilitator and RenGen culture scout in a recent newsletter to her fans. Turns out she's part of a larger chill that is keeping consumers out of stores, looking instead toward experiences to enrich their lives.
In some cases, this has become a movement. The Methodist Church in the U.K. recently launched a campaign for Lent entitled "Buy Less: Live More." Here’s how it works. When you sign up for the campaign, you get a pink credit card embossed with a scripture passage instead of an account number. The card rests in your wallet in front of your credit cards to remind you to stick to your Lenten pledge. The "Buy Less: Live More" campaign wants to encourage Christians to "opt out of the consumer culture." Or at least slake their desire to acquire.
The worsening economy, the post-holiday bills that are coming due in people's mail boxes, and the fact that many people will begin their spring cleaning only to discover they own things that have little meaning in their lives, will trigger a growing sensibility that echoes Brandy's sentiments.
This shift in attitudes was forecast by Pitirim Sorokin, sociologist who envisioned a decline of consumer-based culture and the rise of an idealist culture. Meaning that people will trade in their credit cards for a set of ideals that give them altruistic satisfaction. His four volumes on the rise and fall of civilizations is described in my book, RenGen:Renaissance Generation.
Now more than ever, selling anything will require that the product or service deliver incredible value. It should be truly useful, beautifully designed, well constructed, emotionally relevant, and convey a sense of altruism. Tall order, I know.
The bright spot is a return to community and events. People will want to be out, to be seen and have an exchange. Festivals and free concerts should see huge audiences this spring and summer. Farmer markets will grow into community cultural "scenes" with live music and crafts. Smart marketers will snap up sponsorships to such events because they deliver some of the elusive elements that keep a brand authentic.