It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry in this blog. I think this says a lot about the state of things. In general, there’s not much to say, and, in general, there’s not much nice for me to say.
About a month ago while driving home from a night out at the movies, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to Best Buy or Fry’s and wander the aisles. My response was, “For what?” That’s when we came to the sad realization that, beyond the iPad, there is nothing for gadget freaks and computer nerds to be excited about right now. 3D TV repulses me and there’s no reason to buy a new TV just because it has yellow pixels. There are no new speed leaps in PC hardware and I already have a multitude of iPods and PC’s in various form factors. Ironically, the next day, while listening to Marketplace on my local Public Radio station, one of the news stories was about how sales at Best Buy had fallen. I guess my husband and my sentiments are widespread. There’s nothing new and wonderful to aspire to purchase (except for an iPad) and we are only buying on necessity for the purpose of replacing broken items. Sadly enough, our non-functioning XBOX360 doesn’t rise to the level of necessity. We are now watching Netflix VOD on the laptop that’s connected to our TV.
This realization brought about further thoughts about the current state of things. There’s a push/pull conundrum with the jobs situation. People are holding back on spending because they feel insecure about their jobs and finances and companies aren’t hiring because there’s not enough demand for produces and services. I think though, that job and financial insecurity are only a part of the demand problem. I think a big part of the demand problem is that there’s nothing exciting and new for consumers to consume. Why do I say this? Well, because of Apple, of course. Despite the downturn, they continue to churn out great products and they don’t seem to be having any problem selling them to cash strapped consumers. And believe me, my unemployed-behind is saving my husband’s money for a Christmas iPad.
I’m tired of hearing companies whine that they won’t hire because there’s no demand for their offerings. My response to that line of complaints is “what are you offering?” If it’s not something new and exciting, regardless of state of the economy, demand will slump. In good times and bad companies have create demand by innovating and coming up with great new products to drive consumption. So, in other words, big companies are going to have to spend some of the money they are sitting on, hire some people, and offer some great new products and services in order to kick start demand and spark the economy. At the same time, there has to be investment in innovative small companies to get new ideas out.
My Dad likes to say that the economy won’t revive until some sort of phenomenal shift happens — something on scale of the Internet or the steam engine. I’m not sure if I agree. It seems to me that there are a lot of “little” things that can get done, too. Interestingly enough to me, it seems like clean energy isn’t fueling people’s imaginations. I thought the clean energy revolution would be a phenomenal shift, but it isn’t. Why? I think it’s because oil is very much ingrain in our worldwide psyche. I’m not sure I understand this emotional attachment to oil, but despite the damage being done to the Gulf, I hear the tears in people’s voice as they talk about the spilled oil ruining the environment, while at the same time, ruining job prospects and a way of life in which oil and fishing are intertwined. The same is true for families in the coal mining industry — it’s like coal mining is part of the family. It’s weird to me — why love something that kills you and hurts everyone on the planet? Also, I think oil and coal are tangible whereas solar, wind, nuclear, and the biological and chemical methods of energy generation seem abstract to most people. I imagine “blue collar” workers don’t see how they fit into a world that they associate with hard science and engineering — though, it seems entirely ridiculous to me, but understandable since BP saw it fit to fire the very engineers and scientists that could have prevented or more reasonably responded to the Gulf oil spill. (By the way “technicians,” “engineers,” and “scientists” are not interchangeable!) Anyhow…it seems to me that our reliance on fossil fuels is emotional and until that emotional tie is cut, other forms of energy generation cannot rise in its place. The “everyday worker” has to see how they fit into a new energy future before they will buy into it. Making alternative energy seem more accessible is a good problem for marketers to solve…
On the other fronts…well, inventing new ways to print money never got us anywhere. Yet, “Wall Street innovation” will continue, driven by finding new ways to scam people without technically breaking the law…personally, I don’t need it…but I imagine the new legislation that just passed will fuel a whole new round of “Wall Street Innovation…”
On a personal front, I’m watching and participating in the electronic manga revolution. I want to be more active in it. I think, though, this is one of those things in which the large companies have to reach out to the smaller companies and hobbyist groups to get things moving in the right direction for consumers. I just hope lawyers and greed don’t blind folks such that we end up losing the current opportunity.