Recession as Darwinian Gale

The Futures Company in partnership with Yankelovich undertook a study at a similar scale and while their language is a little different, the findings are similar. The title of their report, The Darwinian Gale: Consumption in an Era of Consequences affirms the radical shift in what the New Consumer values and how they define success.


The authors argue that frugality is a coping mechanism and not an aspiration; so consumers will not give up dreaming but what they dream about is changing. The recession that began relatively unexpectedly in 2008/09 and that is still affecting many today, brought back the notion of risk.  Uncertainty was unleashed and that demanded reflection and the redefinition of “what matters”.


The authors describe the recession as a Darwinian Gale arguing that it wiped the slate clean making way for evolutionary eruptions of a wholly new species of successors and the onset of an Era of Consequences as opposed to previous Eras of Indulgence. In response to this shift they identify the new consumer as being more responsible, vigilant, and resourceful; more likely to prioritize choices based on values; less oriented towards self-expression and more oriented towards networks (communities aligned around similar interests and values).

Luxury will change too under the scrutiny of a more thoughtful eye. This doesn’t portend a retreat from luxuriousness and style so much as a renunciation of wastefulness, particularly in light of heightened social concerns over resource scarcity. Perhaps more than any other single element, not being wasteful will define overall value in the recovery consumer marketplace.

Shopping patterns of the New Consumer will be related more to their personal priorities than their income – a trend that will make it more difficult to identify market segments on the basis of conventional demographics. In other words, middle income earners may well spend on one or two luxury items that are really important to them and make savings elsewhere and high income earners may simply cut back consumption altogether in order to enjoy greater simplicity, more time or avoid the risk of being perceived as ostentatious.

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