business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Like you, I remember exactly where I was on Sept. 11, 2001. Unlike most of you, I was close enough to experience it first hand and have memories of the Pentagon attack that I’ll never forget.

It’s hard to put Sept. 15, 2008, in a similar place. It was a day without death and destruction, but in many ways it changed the world we live in just as profoundly. As you might have read or heard over the weekend, today marks the one year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Bros, which turned out to be the spark that set off a global economic meltdown.

The statistics from a year ago are stunning. The stock market fell 500 points the day after, but more stunningly fell nearly 5,000 points overall in the following months wiping out $15 trillion in paper wealth. But like most of you, I don’t remember exactly what I was doing when it all happened, nor did I grasp the significance. I have an electronic trail to prove it - my column on Sept. 16, 2008, dealt with the serious lessons of Ohio State’s loss to Southern California as it pertains to competition.

Luckily, it’s easy to recover in a column and one week later I wrote about a change in value advertising highlighted by new Walmart ads contrasting the cost of eating out vs. cooking at home. For many of you, the recovery has been tougher.

And that’s why we should not let this anniversary pass by lightly. Sept. 15th, like it or not, changed the world in which we operate. It changed the way people shop, save and view their economic future. It changed the meaning of value and the notion of frugality and, at least for the moment, has changed the shoppers we face very, very profoundly.

The question is: What have you changed? But don’t dwell on the past; examine the future. Use this strange anniversary as a rallying point to benchmark the world that was and the world that is. Examine trading partner relations, marketing strategies, employee education, cost centers…basically everything you can. This is the time to question everything because that’s exactly what the shopper is doing.

I wish I was enough of an economist to analyze what the new age of frugality really means, what the stimulus really did (or didn’t do) or where the market, inflation, unemployment are more are likely headed. I’m not and the odds are you aren’t either.

But there is still so much we can do. There are so many opportunities to examine as we face a shopper who is worried and looking for new answers. This is a time to truly examine our value proposition and make certain we are in synch with the shoppers we have today. It’s a time to fight for meals by helping shoppers see the financial, time and nutrition benefits of products. It’s a time to examine new answers for breakfast, lunch and dinner - the issues are shoppers are really examining - to build sales profits and relations.

It’s a time to examine the meaning of brands and building on the key points of differentiation.

The world changed on Sept. 15, 2008. It’s still changing a year later. Make certain you continue to change with it.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .
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