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Major trends that will impact brands in 2007

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Energy independence: Energy independence will emerge as the No. 1 issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. With national efforts required to find innovative solutions to energy needs, the federal government will create incentives for solutions while mobilizing to get our energy consumption under control. Crisis with unions: America can no longer compete effectively in the world due to the intransigence of unions and management greed. These issues will come to a boiling point in 2007.

Ethics/trust/value issues will fade: The SOX culture is suffocating management and mediocrity reigns. The requirement for SOX standards will fade as the need to become more competitive grows. New gross violations will not become apparent for years until a new major crisis refocuses the spotlight on the importance of ethics/trust/values.

Ford Motor Co.: A corporation once synonymous with U.S. industrial prowess and innovation is broken up and sold for scrap. The various divisions are sold off, as Toyota declines to buy the company for pennies on the dollar.

Third generation of CMOs: Chief marketing officers are more sophisticated and are making significant improvements to the competitiveness of companies. Finally, CMOs are being considered in line for CEO.

Corporate social responsibility: CSR is becoming mainstream for many organizations. A clear strategy to engage in CSR activities is being implemented in leading corporations where integration of CSR within business functions is central to the dialogue. Engaging and managing all stakeholders at every touch point will become a core competency. The trend is developing good corporate citizenship and a new position, chief responsibility officer (CRO) has become integral to Fortune 500 org charts.

Customer experience management (CEM): Getting closer to the customer (one to one), listening to your customer, understanding your customer, having a CEM program with a personal touch is becoming key to every organization's market success. It's not just outsourcing (i.e., India call- center model), and IP technology, which has deficiencies. Smart CEM will grab new customers and improve revenues. The trend will move from customer satisfaction to customer loyalty.

The U.S. is facing a major crisis of confidence:

  • Loss of stature in the world;
  • Loss of major industries;
  • Loss of competitiveness;
  • Loss of innovation; and
  • Loss of new products.

New initiatives are launched to identify how to make the U.S. more competitive. Legislation is introduced to better protect America's vital industries without becoming protectionist. The debate will rage over the next decade. In the end, the ebbs and flows of free market economies will prevail and the U.S. market will be perceived as a "low cost provider."

James R. Gregory is CEO of CoreBrand, a global brand strategy and communications firm in Stamford, Conn. He can be reached at jgregory@corebrand.com.

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