The next great American brand(s)

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It's pretty clear that the U.S. economy is in a funk, and there doesn't seem to be anything in the short term to change that outlook. Despite that, over the past few quarters we have seen CEOs from global companies tout strong earnings during their quarterly announcements. However, time after time they have mentioned that the U.S. is a mature market, and they are not seeing major opportunities for growth. Basically, that's a euphemism for “well, we are cutting marketing spending here to concentrate on emerging markets.”

You can make the argument that this is not the time to retrench, as history shows that continued or increased marketing investment during recessions makes sense in the long term. Two companies come to mind that increased spending during the Great Depression—Kellogg's and Chevy—establishing themselves as leaders for decades to come. In the case of Kellogg's, it was a position the company never relinquished. 

Regardless, brand marketing will continue to see a decline in spending for at least the next two years. Herein lies the opportunity. As larger companies spend less and the media landscape continues to fragment, it is time for small and mid-size brands to step up. Companies that may be more flexible, that can adapt to customers' needs and deliver a differentiated customer experience can take advantage of this marketing spending gap. Companies that have large portions of their workforce who not only understand the benefits of social media and marketing but are living it every day can take advantage, too. And so can companies that can use the power of consumer driven-IT, not to follow the status quo but to invent new ways to do business, ala Zipcar or Netflix.

This is the time for smart marketers to lead and efficiently exploit the opportunities to step up and take substantial market share. I am excited to see who those companies will be.

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