I do not normally wander into random exhibitions, but this one seemed interesting as it was peppered with presentations from respected experts in these areas and offered some rationale as to why their predictions were sound.
I enjoyed listening to Joanna Feeley from Trend Bible in particular. As she works at a company bearing the word “bible” in its name, I too, respectfully, offer you my own prophecy: old money will be the new black.
This might seem like quite a leap, given that her talk was centred on the home and interior design.
Whilst Joanna spoke of many different detailed elements from folk patterns to peacock motifs and the resurgence of purple – which, historically, has always been popular in times of recession – mixed with non-conformist and hand-crafted ceramics, it was the underlying themes which most interested me.
With the slowing of our economy, a lingering banking crisis and the probable depreciation in property values, consumers will shift their priorities towards what they buy, where they live and things that support their confidence.
Suddenly, from viewing one’s house as a pension substitute to be traded as often as possible and decorating it through the eyes of the next estate agent’s brochure, we will express ourselves more individually and think of it as a longer-term nest. We will settle again and be drawn to modern twists on comforting traditional designs. Hand-crafted items and one-off pieces of furniture (Sell your shares in Ikea now!) will make a comeback in place of minimalism and neutral beige.
This is surely a signal of a wider trend which may affect how consumers will behave and choose their products and services in a wider sense, beyond interior design. A return to a simpler life populated by familiar trusted brands of substance, for instance.
Maybe the high street banks will experience less customer churn and money will pour into government bonds and low risk investments like savings certificates.
Our nation’s cultural bias towards risk aversion and historic resistance to trying new things may resurface. The slowing down of media launches from magazine publishers is an example of this; witness the demise of News International’s News Magazines and the stream of title closures elsewhere in the sector.
Nostalgia, and retro brands that remind us of less complicated and threatening times, will flourish. For example Hovis, John Lewis, Domestos, Beechams and Kellogg. (Buy shares in them now!)
In car terms, Mini was the first to leap upon the trend towards individualism and fulfil the demand for greener, more economical transport. It broke the class-snobbery barrier and made each customer feel that their own vehicle was unique because of an almost infinite number of accessory combinations. The Fiat 500 will be another huge success for the very same reasons.
As an aside, last month I traded my Maserati V8 for a 1.2 Fiat 500 after 25 years of showing off through big, flashy sports cars. I too felt the call to downscale, join in and be different through changing my normal buying habits. The Mercedes salesman was disappointed but I sensed I was not the first to make the switch.
With the huge take-up and awareness about reducing our carbon footprint, the demand for eco efficiency and the recycling of our waste, how long will it be before our behaviour changes across all our purchasing patterns?
For example, longer purchase cycles between luxury items and functional goods and even the adoption of anti-fashion as a badge of rejection to commercialism. How long until we no longer crave more and more choice for goods and technology and instead become more discerning, and wish for the constant noise to be filtered?
That would have a profound effect upon marketing, and advertising in particular. First, I suggest that our core skills of craft will become more valued by those guardians of the old money super-brands, as marketing will be the answer for many of their emerging problems in this evolving environment.
Second, some of our skills will need to become more subtle and immersed in the real world. Just look at the debate over product placement and the wholesale adoption of corporate responsibility from the likes of the Co-operative Bank as examples.
Actions and words will be required in order to maintain a super-brand, and newer entrants may not enjoy the same favourable conditions that Google, Virgin or eBay experienced at their launch moments.
It appears we might be entering a period of conservatism, in all senses of the word.
Jonathan Durden is a partner at Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy