In meetings with almost all our clients the same topic comes up: Will our relevant market be hit by the crisis and if so, how hard? While the specific answer differs according to the different scenarios, of course, there is one element all these discussions have in common. It is a growing sense of family, community, society or "We." It will be the most important positive word for 2009. While "We" values have always been elements of the messaging in certain markets (especially food), today it is a different story for two reasons. The first is the reflex of "bunching up" in times of uncertainty, crisis or danger, which elevates the importance of social values vs. individual benefits. The second reason is the opportunities of modern social media -- where the consumer is in control, not the brand. "We" communication does also mean communicating with the consumer on eye level.
This puts those brands that are already positioned as "We" brands at an advantage. Brands like Ikea, for example. Ikea's customer loyalty program focuses on eye-level contact: "IKEA FAMILY is different to regular loyalty schemes. We want to get to know you, our customers, and so we reward each purchasing visit you make to our stores, regardless of how much you spend" (that's an extract from the U.K. site). Some languages, like German and Spanish, offer a "We" approach in the way the brand speaks -- Ikea in Germany, for example, uses the "Du" instead of the formal "Sie" ("Sie" equals "Usted" in Spanish).
There is a recent trend for brands to go for this more personal language. Even the biggest German social campaign -- an initiative of a number of the biggest German companies -- says: "Du bist Deutschland." This would have been a great issue not long ago, as it would have been considered "improper language." A different -- but very exciting -- "We" approach is the much-discussed T-Mobile viral, which is taking the "We" beyond family into a completely new field of social interaction.
All of these are examples already in the market. We will see which brands are the first to go for "We" as a response to changing consumer behavior in the crisis. It will be an interesting thing to see which of them get this right in 2009. They will be the cases we talk about in 2010.