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Darling, you've changed

True friendships will weather the storm

David MacGregor

[Advertising]

Let’s talk about love. Would that be okay with you? I know it’s hard, an awkward subject at the best of times. And we have had good times, haven’t we? It looks like the best of times are over and the worst of times are about to begin.

It is hard times that define relationships—as true for the relationships between brands as it is for relationships between individuals. In fact, it’s how we behave when things are tough that galvanises us and makes our bonds stronger and—dare I say it—enduring.

‘Good times’ are usually defined by abundance. We made hay while the sun shone. Consumer credit was freely available. As the perceived equity in your home grew, your sense of wealth and good fortune grew with it. The media obsessed over home improvements and filling every nook and cranny with technology and designer ‘stuff’. We lapped it up and cosseted ourselves in a flat-screen paradise and admired the vista of our indoor-outdoor flow as we lolled about, secure in the belief that the growth in the value of our property tomorrow would be sufficient to offset our largesse today. Bring me another credit line—this one’s split.

We were in command. Promiscuous, drunk with choice and willing to engage in unprotected consumption.

‘Good times’ are usually defined by abundance, but It’s hard times that define relationships. In fact, it’s how we behave when things are tough that galvanises us and makes our bonds stronger and—dare I say it—enduring

The rude awakening to a credit crunch, spiralling into a recession, put the dampers on things. Suddenly prudence and thrift are being burnished and yesterday seems decadent. We fiddled while Rome burned, corrupt and adrift.

It’s time to reassess. Not only how we buy, but also what we buy. Which brands will weather the storm?

Here are my picks.

  • Brands that show empathy with your plight. Quality will be an issue—the goods we buy will have to last a little longer. Fashionable items will be the classics, which don’t change from season to season quite so suddenly. We will expect warranties to be scrupulously observed and will measure brands against their after-sales care as much as their widgety brilliance.
  • Brands that speak in measured tones will be heard. If your advertising continues to look like a scene from Studio 54 when the party is over, then the party will truly be over before you know it.
  • Brands that comfort will have a special place in our hearts. We will embrace old familiar faces, like returning to the family home. Trusted, reliable, comfortable. We’ll be reminded of traditions and values that bind us; our shared experiences, like flipping through a family album.
  • Brands that don’t scold or judge will be favoured. We don’t want to be reminded of our flaws, have our peccadilloes pointed out or our noses rubbed in our reduced circumstances.
  • Brands that are calm and reassuring, that talk about positive, optimistic ideals, will float to the surface of our consciousness—leaving the glossy, superficial and facile to sink irrelevantly to the bottom.

Realism will be colourised and sanitised. Harsh truths are harder to swallow when we’re confronted with grim reality. We will escape into escapism. Watch the trends in entertainment carefully and follow suit. Unscripted drama will have less appeal than when we kept reality at arms length. Fashion models will go up a size or two. Skin and bone only serve to remind that choosing a wasted look was a luxury when you knew the fridge was full. The fertile, nurturing, mothering meme will abound. Our imaginations will instinctively want to be embraced, to suckle at the warm, protective teat. Little House on the Prairie ’08 will replace Beverly Hills 90210.

Unlike the sensational love of Lovemarks (sensuality, mystery and that other thing I can’t remember), the new romantics in the world of brands and marketing will be those that embrace simple, nurturing human truths. Mark my words.

Now come here and give me a hug.