Tracking Cultural Change

The very nature of consumption activity may be shifting as different value pattern emerges. Futurist Alvin Toffler, in his book The Third Wave, argues that consumers are a phenomenon of the industrial age. As society moves toward the post industrial age, some of the pure consumers will be replaced by prosumers (called makers in the VALS 2 typology) who produce many of their own goods and services. Why will people move toward more prosumption activity? Several reasons are advanced by Toffler. First, a decline in the work week will continue. More leisure time may be applied to self reliant production activities. Second, people’s higher education level will result in their not accepting boring work readily, allowing them to use their time in other ways. Third, the rising cost of skilled labor, such as of plumbers, electricians, and carpenters, will push more people to do their own work. Fourth, people engaging in increasingly mental work in our technologically advanced society will seek more physical activities, including self reliant production. Fifth, some people will feel that their own production is of higher quality than what is generally available in the market. Sixth, people will seek individualization by producing their own goods and services in order to avoid mass produced items.

If Toffler is correct about the growth of prosumption activities, marketers will face a challenge but also an opportunity. Prosumers should be viewed as another market segment to be identified and helped to meet its product or service needs.

Alvin Toffler discusses the corporate mind set necessary for adequate understanding to and dealing with changes in the future:

Simply tracking trends is not an adequate way to understand an environment and upheaval. Straight line predictions are treacherous. The starting point is to assume that tomorrow will be different may be radically different. That may sound obvious, but there are many executives who really believe that the future will be pretty much like today. They feel that if they continue doing what was successful until now, it will work tomorrow. As long as that assumption guides the major actions of the company, the company will be a candidate for destruction also, the company can’t rely on a group of geniuses at the top of the tower a futurist who senses change in his particular specialty. Look at changes overseas look at technologies in other industries, build scenarios. Marketers are probably more alert post change than most people. If you look at the functions of the corporation, they tend to be less aware of the fragility of the present.

Several information services are available to track the changing cultural pattern of values, attitudes, and lifestyles. One of these is SRI International, which has over seventy major companies supporting its research in the area of values and lifestyles described above. SRI also publishes a report that identifies society’s newest conditions in which the will have to do business in the future.

A second approach to identifying social changes uses a technique known as content analysis, developed during World War II for the forerunner of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It is scientific, objective, systematic, quantitative, and general description of communications content. Taking this approach the Naisbitt Group scans each issues of over 200 daily newspaper around the country and categorizes every local news article into one of eleven major topics – consumer affairs, energy, housing, transportation, environment, employment, health, education, law and justice, social relations ,and government and politics – and into fifteen subtopics. The company’s newsletter Trend Report is subscribed to by such major corporations as Americans Broadcastings, Arco, Beatrice, Dow and Holiday Inns.

Numerous pollsters and survey researchers are at work taking the pulse of American consumer in third approach to determining the direction o cultural trends. Those active in the field are such names as Louis Harris and George Gallup. Perhaps the best known surveys research service keeping up with social changes while working for over 100 sponsoring companies, however is Yankelovich Clancy Shulman. The company produces Monitor which annually tabulates the responses of 2500 people surveyed nationwide, about for example how important they think it is to plan in advance and how much they enjoy doing things at the spur of the moment. The in-depth interviews take approximately ninety minutes and are conducted in respondents’ homes. The survey covers fifty value categories affecting shifts in cultural trends. Another service examines how the public and a cross section of the leadership community feel toward thirty widely discussed public issues, such as pollution control, truth in advertising and business regulation. The goal of these research services is to provide useful data on broad social trends and changes in values that affect demand for companies’ products and services. The need for such data is increasingly recognized by business people.

The very nature of consumption activity may be shifting as different value pattern emerges. Futurist Alvin Toffler, in his book The Third Wave, argues that consumers are a phenomenon of the industrial age. As society moves toward the post industrial age, some of the pure consumers will be replaced by prosumers (called makers in the VALS 2 typology) who produce many of their own goods and services. Why will people move toward more prosumption activity? Several reasons are advanced by Toffler. First, a decline in the work week will continue. More leisure time may be applied to self reliant production activities. Second, people’s higher education level will result in their not accepting boring work readily, allowing them to use their time in other ways. Third, the rising cost of skilled labor, such as of plumbers, electricians, and carpenters, will push more people to do their own work. Fourth, people engaging in increasingly mental work in our technologically advanced society will seek more physical activities, including self reliant production. Fifth, some people will feel that their own production is of higher quality than what is generally available in the market. Sixth, people will seek individualization by producing their own goods and services in order to avoid mass produced items.

If Toffler is correct about the growth of prosumption activities, marketers will face a challenge but also an opportunity. Prosumers should be viewed as another market segment to be identified and helped to meet its product or service needs.

Alvin Toffler discusses the corporate mind set necessary for adequate understanding to and dealing with changes in the future:

Simply tracking trends is not an adequate way to understand an environment and upheaval. Straight line predictions are treacherous. The starting point is to assume that tomorrow will be different may be radically different. That may sound obvious, but there are many executives who really believe that the future will be pretty much like today. They feel that if they continue doing what was successful until now, it will work tomorrow. As long as that assumption guides the major actions of the company, the company will be a candidate for destruction also, the company can’t rely on a group of geniuses at the top of the tower a futurist who senses change in his particular specialty. Look at changes overseas look at technologies in other industries, build scenarios. Marketers are probably more alert post change than most people. If you look at the functions of the corporation, they tend to be less aware of the fragility of the present.

Several information services are available to track the changing cultural pattern of values, attitudes, and lifestyles. One of these is SRI International, which has over seventy major companies supporting its research in the area of values and lifestyles described above. SRI also publishes a report that identifies society’s newest conditions in which the will have to do business in the future.

A second approach to identifying social changes uses a technique known as content analysis, developed during World War II for the forerunner of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It is scientific, objective, systematic, quantitative, and general description of communications content. Taking this approach the Naisbitt Group scans each issues of over 200 daily newspaper around the country and categorizes every local news article into one of eleven major topics – consumer affairs, energy, housing, transportation, environment, employment, health, education, law and justice, social relations ,and government and politics – and into fifteen subtopics. The company’s newsletter Trend Report is subscribed to by such major corporations as Americans Broadcastings, Arco, Beatrice, Dow and Holiday Inns.

Numerous pollsters and survey researchers are at work taking the pulse of American consumer in third approach to determining the direction o cultural trends. Those active in the field are such names as Louis Harris and George Gallup. Perhaps the best known surveys research service keeping up with social changes while working for over 100 sponsoring companies, however is Yankelovich Clancy Shulman. The company produces Monitor which annually tabulates the responses of 2500 people surveyed nationwide, about for example how important they think it is to plan in advance and how much they enjoy doing things at the spur of the moment. The in-depth interviews take approximately ninety minutes and are conducted in respondents’ homes. The survey covers fifty value categories affecting shifts in cultural trends. Another service examines how the public and a cross section of the leadership community feel toward thirty widely discussed public issues, such as pollution control, truth in advertising and business regulation. The goal of these research services is to provide useful data on broad social trends and changes in values that affect demand for companies’ products and services. The need for such data is increasingly recognized by business people.