Editorial: Living on after 9/11

Published on .

What a difference six months makes. In the days after Sept. 11, researchers struggled to understand the attacks' long-term impact-and feared the worst: Americans loath to travel, spend, eat out, shop in malls or leave home. It clearly hasn't happened, proving the resilience of Americans and of consumerism.

That's not to say there are no lasting repercussions. According to exclusive research commissioned by Advertising Age fromWPP Group's Lightspeed Research, 80% of adults still feel the effect of 9/11 in their daily lives, and 23% dwell on the memory once a day.

Sixty-two percent said their daily routines have been marred by thoughts of terrorist threats, but that hasn't stopped them from living their lives. Spending habits have been influenced more by the economy than 9/11. The more permanent changes are personal ones: Many report spending more time with family and trying to stay in touch more with distant relatives.

Marketers, naturally, need to examine 9/11's influence on consumer behavior. A longer-term shift in attitudes and values can't be ruled out. The threat of more attacks is real, and the equation could change radically if one occurs. But the last six months have shown it's folly to buy into flip observations, such as luxury products are defunct, or that comfort foods are sure in the long run to outpace sales of healthier alternatives. Instead, marketers need to proceed prudently and continue to monitor America's pulse to get a grasp on how this and the next generation will be shaped by Sept. 11.

Americans and the world won't forget the World Trade Center in flames. But this nation didn't stop living after 9/11. Above Ground Zero, the sun shone brightly last week. Americans have moved past grief and toward a new normalcy. Marketing must keep pace.

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