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FORUM;RIDING WITH TECHNOLOGY TO MILLENNIUM : PEOPLE REMAIN LEERY, EVEN AS THEY ADMIT THEIR RELIANCE ON IT

By Published on .

This summer tbwa undertook its first annual technology audit. We learned that 50% of global opinion leaders believe technology will impact their lives a great deal, and fully 78% express concern that new technologies will invade people's privacy.

Moreover, 85% are concerned that technology will dehumanize us.

As indication of the extent to which consumers have embraced new technologies, 48% of those surveyed agreed with the statement, "I could not live without a modem-it's vital to keep me in touch." In comparison, only 24% indicated they could not live without a telephone.

Despite their reliance on technology, however, these opinion leaders feel strongly that technology is far from the most important thing in life. Fully 83% agreed with the statement, "Composing music will always be more important than writing great computer software," and 24% agreed that "New technologies make me nervous." (This compares with 20% who indicated, "I'm excited about new technologies.")

Only 17% of respondents consider their country to be a "leader in technological development."

Half of the respondents believe that, when it comes to technology, the U.S. is far ahead of Europe, but a solid proportion of respondents (33%) believe the opposite: that Europe is far ahead of the U.S.; 75% believe that Europe is far ahead of Asia, technologically speaking, and 72% believe that Europe is far ahead of the Middle East. Only 9% believe that Europe needs to adopt new technologies more quickly.

But while there's growing awareness that there's "technological change" in the air, there are also a number of other shifts among new consumers, typically consumers of online services and the Internet (among their media mix), worth noting. These include:

Breaking down of borders

(Multicountry marketing approaches)

Although cultural interests continue to be defined largely by national borders, there is a clear trend toward media globalization. This is all part of a deepening sense that the "global consumer" is becoming more of a reality and that marketing messages can-and should-be transmitted across borders. The trick lies in providing messages that balance universal appeal with sufficient "localization" to attract and retain the interest of each consumer.

Helping to spread global messages/images/icons are such world news services as CNN and the BBC, as well as the Internet.

A move toward `pure' consumerism

A tandem trend we're seeing in Europe is consumers' desire to limit their impact on the environment at the same time they're trying to limit the environment's impact on them.

Though consumers in Europe generally continue to stress quality and price over environmental concerns, more and more large retailers are beginning to stock "green" items in an effort to appeal to younger and more environmentally conscious shoppers.

This trend is being manifested in such ways as the increased use of natural (vs. synthetic) cosmetic ingredients; manufacturers' claims that their products are "all natural," "hypoallergenic," and/or "not tested on animals"; increased use of organically grown materials in apparel; the promotion of "sustainable architecture" and recycled building materials; the expansion of the overall market for organic and other forms of health food (this is particularly evident in Germany); and the trend toward clear products.

The old are getting `younger'

Worldwide, half of all people 65 and older who have ever lived are alive today. The senior market is no longer populated exclusively by "elderly" consumers, however, as Europeans are prolonging their youth by marrying later, taking better care of themselves physically, and living longer.

The result is an increase in products and services catering to this group, including drug and beauty products intended to maintain one's sense of self and sexuality into one's 70s (currently in developing labs throughout Europe).

Also significant is the lengthened span of retirement (nowadays, men and women can live for decades after they leave the work force or see their last child leave the nest), which has serious implications for everything from financial planning to leisure industries to healthcare.

The polar attraction of nostalgia &

futurism

At the same time that consumers are embracing new technologies and planning for the millennium, they've also grown nostalgic for the innocence and pretechnological simplicity of their childhoods.

Manufacturers are responding by reintroducing long-defunct product lines (e.g., the Pashley Princess bicycle in the U.K., which features a wide leather saddle, ding-dong bell and a wicker basket) and by reviving fashion and popular icons from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

Effective marketing strategies against today's ambivalent consumers are those that meld the essence of nostalgia (reliability, quality, beauty and comfortable familiarity) with the positive elements of futurism (new technologies that maximize product functionality, convenience and versatility).

Conclusion: Tips for media planning against new-media aficionados

nNew media is about satisfying an individual's hunger for knowledge. But it's also about maintaining the target's interest. When sharing information about everything a company does and everything a brand/product has to offer, the key is simple: Make it fun. Make the process of learning about a brand's/product's attributes enjoyable and rewarding.

nInformation is valuable. And new consumers, particularly new-media aficionados, want to know what companies know. Turn your intellectual fodder-and product attribute messages-into digital matter, and it will earn you money.

From our directed conversations with information specialists, we learned that they trust the following sources: free phones, fax-on-demand query initiatives, CD-ROMs. Both cable and satellite TV are sources of great interest to them even though they are paying for this information. These individuals are more likely than the mainstream to pay for and embrace "enrichment" channels for their homes since their jobs are proof that "knowledge is power."

nThose who turn to new media are there, in part, because they need to make decisions quickly. Therefore, when messaging information specialists, one should create imperatives as if the purchase were imminent. These individuals want information at their ready disposal.

nMarketers of computer technology must create marketing communications initiatives that take full advantage of the world of digital electronics. Text, graphics, video, and animation all should be used, preferably in an interactive product that lets consumers make choices in terms of how and when they receive product information.M

Ms. Salzman is worldwide director, Department of the Future, TBWA International, based in Amsterdam.

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