Lean Living

After spending Friday night in with a pizza and the TV remote for company, I was starting to worry about my social life. But after attending The Future Laboratory’s last briefing session, I now know that in fact I’m just suffering from a case of Leanomics.

No, it’s not a new diet fad or exercise regime. It’s a new consumer trend that is prompting us to cut back, declutter and make wiser choices about how we spend our money.

Post-recession, we UK consumers are licking our wounds after a crippling economic meltdown. The boom of the 80s and the responsibility-free decade of the 90s has left us in a state of shock. Suddenly we need to be careful with our cash. But rather than opting for cheep and cheerful, the current trend of Leanomics is all about buying less but better. We are prepared to pay more for quality goods, food or clothes as long as what we buy into has meaning – whether that’s meaning for us as individuals, for our local community or for the environment. Each purchase now is considered and measured. So gone are the days of flamboyant displays of wealth and status. Modesty, austerity and streamline living are the by-words for 2010.

We are also showing symptoms of Stuffocation due to reduced leisure time and a massive information overload. We’re desperately trying to compute the swathes of data that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis. Technology is giving us an artificial sense of constant crisis! Consumers are reacting by pressing the pause button or learning to filter out the ‘stuff’ that’s just not of interest. It’s no longer a case of short attention span – we’re dealing with hyper-attention and so as consumers, we’re now employing careful ‘attention management’ strategies.

By paring down our lives, our technology, our homes and our consumption in this way we’re electing to make fewer choices. It’s active Reductionism at work. In a world dominated by ‘mega-choice’, consumer trends are moving towards ‘nega-choice’ (or negative choice). Consumers no longer want to choose from 20 different types of shampoo or 16 different brands of cheese. They want to choose from a reduced range of products and they want to buy into a smaller number of brands – brands that best reflect the attitude by which they, as individuals, live their lives.

Leanomics is all about simplicity, efficiency and meaningful value.

So what does this mean for consumer brands?

· The growing mood will be towards companies that offer less rather than more
· Brand communication needs to offer key information essentials or be produced in a way
that adds value to overloaded lives, rather than simply promoting product
· Brands must become quieter and less excessive
· Brands must increasingly offer values (good morals, traceability, sustainability) alongside
value for money
· Products must be made to last: consumers will ‘throw away’ throwaway brands
· Brands and retailers need to take a reductionist approach
· Most of all, brands need to behave with restraint, and search for ways to make life easier
for their consumers

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