America’s economy is growing again. Does that mean you can go back to marketing to your target customers the way you did before the Great Recession hit? Not so fast. A sobering new study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that Americans remain deeply scarred and pessimistic about their financial situations and their futures.
- Six out of 10 people in the nationwide survey Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era
- say that the U.S. economy has undergone a permanent change.
- More than half say the economy will take at least six more years to fully recover from the Great Recession.
- Nearly one-third (29 percent) say it will never fully recover.
- Just one in five are confident that the next generation of American workers will enjoy better job and career opportunities.
Why so glum? The recession hit home for Americans:
- Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) either lost a job or saw a friend, relative or member of their household lose a job in the last four years.
- More than half (56%) have less money in savings than before the recession began.
- More than one-third (38%) have a lot less in savings.
Although unemployment is down and private-sector job growth has continued for the past 35 months, less than one in three Americans say the economy is better than it was last year; nearly one in four say it’s gotten worse. Only one in three believe that economic conditions will improve a year from now; one in three think the economy will get worse, and the rest think it will stay the same.
“Five years of economic misery have profoundly diminished Americans’ confidence in the economy and their outlook for the next generation,” said study co-author Carl Van Horn. In fact, the vast majority say college will be permanently out of reach financially for the majority of young people.
“While all segments of society have been hit hard by the Great Recession, millions of students coming out of high school and college have had no place in the labor market to go for half a dozen years now,” said study co-author Cliff Zukin. “There is some evidence we may be seeing the beginning of a new generation in American society —no longer Millennials but Recessionals. Whereas older workers hit by the recession might recover their past consumer habits, this period of the recession might leave a lasting imprint on young people in their buying habits and need for security as they make their way through life.”
What do these results mean for your business?
- Reality matters less than perception. Even if the economy is better in actuality, it’s your customers’ perceptions that drive their purchasing behavior. Show them how your products can appeal to their need for savings or security.
- Target young people differently. What is worth spending on for your younger customers? Whether it’s tech gadgets or affordable treats, look for what your Millennial-aged customers consider worth buying and why.
- Be cautious. With consumers’ outlook still so pessimistic, invest in marketing to reach out to them, but don’t overextend yourself financially, either.
Image by Flickr user Tony Fischer Photography (Creative Commons)Google+