Friday, February 8, 2008

U.S. Election Only Part of the News In 2008

Posted November 27th, 2007 by James R. Gregory

While the presidential campaign of 2008 will dominate the media and advertising landscape for the next year, here are some issues you’ll be hearing more about in the upcoming year.

1. Energy Dependence deserves to be the hot issue for the 2008 presidential election. It is by far the most critical issue facing our nation. We’ve had decades to fix the problem, and have only made ourselves more dependent on foreign nations for our energy needs. We need to treat this issue as a national priority and mobilize our resources to get energy consumption under control while identifying and expanding renewable energy resources. The presidential politician who provides a workable solution gets my vote.

2. The dollar’s decline means the U.S. will no longer be “leader of the economic pack” on the world stage. It doesn’t mean that we will fade into oblivion, but we no longer have the economic clout to dictate outcomes. The decline of the U.S. dollar is the result of a long list of self-imposed economic ills including the impossibly large federal budget deficits, huge international trade deficit, weak savings practices by Americans and the cost of the Iraq War. As a consequence, Americans might have the ultimate hangover–the need to adjust to a lower standard of living.

3. The U.S. will gain a new sense of competitiveness over the next decade. The good news is that the historic decline of the U.S. dollar is finally having a positive impact on exports. Business and government leaders should be focusing on streamlining business processes to make it more rewarding for manufacturers to export products. Culturally we need to become more innovative, create lean manufacturing techniques, keep our labor costs under control and put our marketing expertise in gear around the world by identifying unmet global consumer needs.

4. Globalization vs. Protectionism is a question that many governments wrestle with around the world. On the one hand, globalization has created millions of jobs, brought technologies to third world countries and helped keep inflation under control in the U.S. The other edge of the sword is that it can wipe out entire industries when inefficient or outdated. There is a growing sentiment in this country that free trade isn’t fair when trading partners have all the advantages. Labor and environmental provisions are weak in most free trade agreements, which puts downward pressure on standards here. Sustainable development and the reduction of poverty are excellent reasons to promote fair trade, but this tool of economic growth needs to take into consideration the American industries and workers that are at risk.

5. The green revolution will continue to expand because it is now beginning to make economic sense, whether you are a manufacturer or a consumer, to think about eco-friendly products and sustaining the environment. In the past, consumers felt that it was important to have recyclable products, for example–but they were not willing to pay a premium to purchase them. That is changing with growing pressure from society to have more eco-friendly products and to live in a sustainable environment. The fact that the price of eco-friendly products is coming down presents a genuine business opportunity that will also improve the environment. It’s a win-win for everyone.

6. Social Networking is here to stay. When I get a question or survey from someone on LinkedIn, I usually respond. It just makes sense that I participate because I would also want them to respond to me. When my high school had a reunion, it communicated through Classmates. When my kids want to find out what their friends are up to, they visit Facebook or MySpace. Amazon knows what I like to read. I like it when they make suggestions of new books, and more often than not, I buy them. The way to think about communication in business is changing and it is not just about frontal assault of the past, it is much more about understanding how people think and where they think–on social networks.

7. The Cool War. Vladimir Putin is returning his country to his roots, which is a darker, mysterious Russia. This means it is possible that the days of the Cold War will return. This time, it may be welcomed by the U.S. leadership because it will give the U.S. a chance to be the good guys again. We need a visible world leader who is worthy of our anger, and clearly a bad guy to contrast against our self-perceived good guy image. In keeping with this scenario, Putin is aligning himself perfectly with other bad guys we love to hate like Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This new hostility will unlikely devolve into anything remotely like The Cold War, but it will certainly remain in The Cool category for some time to come.

Gregory is founder and CEO of CoreBrand, a global brand strategy and communications firm based in Stamford, Conn. With 30 years of experience in advertising and branding, Jim is credited with developing pioneering and innovative tools for measuring the power of brands and their impact on a corporation’s financial performance. He has written four books on creating value with brands.

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