I arose every morning this week to discover that Wall Street had been crunched again overnight with a similar outcome expected for the Australian bourse in the day ahead. It got me thinking about the implications for branding as the punters lose faith in institutions and corporate and economic management.
The underlying economic problem right now is the risk of collapsing national economies - of countries defaulting on their debts. Widely referred to as sovereign risk, this is potentially a far bigger problem than the collapse Lehmann Brothers. I must say that, as they face the bailout of whole nations, I am amazed at the resiliance of the humble taxpayers who - whether they're underwriting sovereign or corporate debt - end up footing the bill somewhere along the line. I wonder what happens when taxpayers default - or revolt?
The fortunate thing for politicians is that we have institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who appear to magically produce money to bail out cot case economies. Most taxpayers don't realise that the IMF magic pudding actually rises on the back of contributions from member states who, in turn, raise the necessary taxes to cover their contributions. How's that for adroit sleight of hand?
But I digress. As nations grapple to stay afloat, what are the implications for brands? There is a lot of research around that says, for Gen Y, brand loyalty has gone out the window. According to many, this fickle, demanding generation is almost impossible to pin down. But if you think Gen Y's tough, wait until you see the next mob. My daughter is Gen Z. She's gifted with xray vision and bullshit detection capabilities that us boomers can only dream about.
As current events unfold, they are defining the development years of her generation, which must inevitably grow up to question the integrity of institutions, brands and people behind them. While we in the branding community talk about authenticity, the aftermath of our series of financial crises will surely test our capacity to 'walk our talk'.
So if you're company's only paying lip service to authenticity, you'd better lift your game as the Gen Z shoppers are starting to hit the streets now!