8.13.2007

Still Made Here: The Latest in Consumer Trends

I enjoy the thoughts offered on Trendwatching.com, a site that looks at global consumer trends, ideas and insights. And if you want to pursue a strategy that reflects a trend described in one of their most recent articles, you would do well to make lean a part of that strategy.


            Trendwatching labels this new trend (Still) Made Here.


            (STILL) MADE HERE encompasses new and enduring manufacturers and purveyors of the local. In a world that is seemingly ruled by globalization, mass production and ‘cheapest of the cheapest’, a growing number of consumers are seeking out the local, and thereby the authentic, the storied, the eco-friendly and the obscure.


            The article lists several drivers for this trend. The first is eco and ethics; consumers want to know that products were produced in eco-friendly ways, and they want to know that a product did not involve exploitation of poor workers in a third-world country, for example.


            Story and status are listed as the second driver, referring to the idea that the location of production, usually local, can be regarded as important.


 


            Millions of consumers will gladly continue to pay a premium for these goods as they tell a story of authenticity, of connoisseurship, of the owner knowing where in the world to source the best of the best for each product category.


 


            The third driver is described as the importance of community, meaning:


 


            …to many consumers, ‘global’ has come to represent faceless, rootless mega-corporations and supranational bodies, headed up by money grabbing executives whose golden parachutes seem to grow with the degree of incompetence they've let loose on employees and other stakeholders. Far from being chauvinistic nationalist movements, (STILL) MADE HERE and (STILL) SOLD HERE will increasingly be about supporting one’s neighborhood, one’s city, one’s region, to regain a sense of place and belonging and to safeguard future access to the special and original, vs. the bland, the global and the commoditized.


 


            The article mentions a variety of companies that, in a variety of ways, are taking advantage of this trend. For example,


 


            American Apparel. The most famous advocate of (STILL) MADE HERE deals with ethical concerns in a radical way: by manufacturing its garments in… high-cost LA. American Apparel now operates the country's largest garment factory, employs more than 5,000 people and operates 145 retail locations in 11 countries. Workers are paid (on average) USD 12 an hour, almost twice as much as California's minimum wage.


 


            If Trendwatching is correct, then local production is good. That is also true in the eyes of lean advocates, who view transportation over long distances as an expensive form of waste.


 


            The article does offer this caution:


            (STILL) MADE HERE is a good conversation starter. It doesn't in any way signal the end of globalization and it won't save incompetent, uncompetitive local producers from innovative, global competitors. To further downplay its importance, remember that trends rarely apply to all consumers. (STILL) MADE HERE is no exception to the rule. Some consumers will not care at all about the origins of their purchases, will feel no need to sacrifice money or time for the environment, or have no interest in sharing stories with others. And when it comes to local versus global, never forget that globalization has brought consumers plenty of delights and excitement.


What (STILL) MADE HERE does provide eager marketers with is a fantastic source of inspiration: those consumers who are interested in something with a sense of place, the local, the storied, want you to bring them innovative new goods, services and experiences that appeal to those desires.


            So pursuing a lean strategy will do more than help you achieve low-cost production and rapid time to market. It can help you stay current with the latest trends in consumer desires.


 

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