Future Foundation conferences always inspire debate – and our last one, held on May 3rd, was no exception. Although our fantastic host, BBC Home Editor Mark Easton, fielded as many questions as possible, ideas continued to stream in via our Twitter feed and text service. So the panel have regrouped to answer the additional questions – split into two posts.
Matt Taylor via Twitter (@DJMDT): Richard, is it possible for the Jubilympics Summer to positively influence consumer confidence? Will that have any effect?
Economics Editor Richard Nicholls says: Matt – analysis of previous Olympics reveals no conclusive short term pattern on overall GDP growth (e.g. Spain in 1992, Australia in 2000, Greece in 2004, USA in 1996). Similar for consumer confidence for recent European games. This is the topline though. Below the surface, different sectors will see very different fortunes with a huge boon for some obvious sectors, commercial opportunities for others, and perhaps a short term hit for e.g. manufacturing.
Jubilee? Little overall effect on consumer confidence from either the Golden Jubilee in 2002 or the Royal Wedding in April last year. Retail sales were strong in April 2011 – though this was partly also a function of the weather.
By text: To what extent are the trends and forecasts raised today entirely dependent on economic recovery?
FF Economics Editor Richard Nicholls says: That depends on the trend! But most of those showcased at the conference are not recovery-dependent (or only in detail rather than direction).
In late 2008 as we went into recession, and then in 2009 as we came out, we did some analysis of trends that we being boosted, hampered and impacted in a non-directional sense by the recession as part of our Recession Central Scenario and New Normal documents. Much of the reasoning for this still holds. Examples: many technological trends are largely independent of downturn. Sales of smartphones have soared despite a fall in disposable incomes. So Performative Leisure, Murdered by Modernity, The Quantified Self, etc. are driven by non-economic factors. The same is true of demographic or social trends like The Ageless Society.
Maximising has been driven by downturn (but also by technology – and we don’t expect it to fade away immediately on lasting recovery).
Megan Bannon via Twitter (@anthromeg): If the Internet is impacting how we think, then how is it impacting our culture?
Jim Murphy, Editorial Director, replies: Goodness, what a powerful question. Not easily answered in a bite. But, for example, the internet has revolutionised the whole culture of human contact and indeed intimacy. (Consider how hard it is these days to lose contact with a friend). Whether this is a good story or bad news all round speaks to how one views the Murdered by Modernity trend. But we could talk about this theme all day!
Sue J via Twitter (@spartaksuze): If most brands are offering loyalty rewards and personalised offers, does that devalue loyalty as a concept?
I don’t know if it does. I’d argue that being treated with – genuine – personalised offers that we find helpful or interesting can only make us more loyal. I’m sure that Amazon have won loyalty by acting as a choice-editor for many people and leading them to interesting products that they may not have found themselves. As is so often the case in marketing, it all depends on the quality of the execution.
I think we also need to be careful to distinguish genuine loyalty from people who can’t be bothered to change supplier.
Idiology via Twitter (@idiologists): Have consumers given up on personal responsibility for the environment? We now see that govt should act before individuals
Jim Murphy, Editorial Director: Consumer motives towards green agendas have held together pretty well across the economic difficulties of the last 4 years. But it is indeed true that consumers want companies and governments to do the heavy lifting. One related question is : what happens when so many scientific innovations – in the field of fossil fuel exploitation and use, for instance – create more eco and more guilt-free consumption? What happens when transports systems become so green that active pro-green consumer engagement is not required? This is the world we are entering.
Keep the debate alive – add your own comments and ask us questions!