Customer Reviews: Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution Is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell, and Live
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on October 18, 2010
Spend Shift described a hopeful scenario for America as it emerges from the Great Recession. Over the past two years the cavalcade of bad news on the economy and the state of our union economically and socially has been non-stop. In particular, this notion of the New Normal described by some of the savvier investing minds out there has given me the impression that we are a country in decline. What Spend Shift revealed was that the apparent decline was simply a re-shuffling of priorities and a re-engineering of business to align with those priorities. Rather than declining America was simply establishing a foundation for growth for the decades to come.

I did not purchase Spend Shift to be inspired, but rather to understand resonant marketing themes that I might tap into as I start my own business. However, I came away inspired by the entrepreneurs who were taking the risks and connecting with customers and building sustainable businesses by understanding that customers were connecting their product choices to their values. It is stunning to read about these success stories during one of the worst economic periods in economic history. It was also fun to discover businesses like Brooklyn Brin (based in the city that I call home) that I had never heard about and now feel compelled to patronize.

I came to Spend Shift thinking I would learn a thing or two about marketing in the recession and I left Spend Shift having learned that America can go on and in fact can thrive during a time of massive deleveraging. Spend Shift had the requisite marketing lessons, but it was the narrative style and inspiring examples that lead me to rate this a 5.
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on August 19, 2012
Here is a fresh paean to US American ingenuity and our can-do attitude. Gerzema and D'Antonio have written what appears to be a booster book for the US psyche and an examination of conscience for the US businessperson. The subtitle suggests in typical US hyperbole (language that promotes what it describes--the authors are, after all, business boys) that there is a values revolution in progress, a "revolution," not a "shift," not a "tendency," but the whole nine yards.

This claim is much based on the research undertaken with the BrandAsset® Valuator, which claims to show that "Over half the US population is now...seeking better instead of more, virtue instead of hype, and experiences over promises." This research tool is a proprietary tool of Young and Rubicam where Gerzema holds the title of Chief Insights Officer. In the end, it is a book about marketing.

Spend Shift appears apolitical in a sense that it tells stories of how US Americans in various cities around the country are taking charge of their lives in a variety of ways, in the face of the financial crisis. On the other hand, we could say that it is deeply political in the sense that it describes or perhaps promotes the "do-it-yourself," "bootstraps" approach to the revitalization of US life and community structures, while at the same time makes the assumption that there will be a sea change in consumer attitudes that will force organizations and coerce government to behave differently and more responsibly to their consumers and their citizens. This will usher in a whole new era of how money works and how the American Dream and US society will be shaped in years to come. Throughout the book there are parables told of both startups and established corporations who have adopted the new values or, having held such values even before the crisis, are now even more benefitting from them as consumer attitudes shift in their direction.

Is it a utopia leaning slightly to the right of the political spectrum, trying to create a new middle that embraces many leftist energies? Well, we shall see. Let's leave that question up in the air and look at what the book actually does and often does interestingly and well; it recounts how individuals and groups leverage optimism and hard work to improve the quality of their life and the lives of those about them. The stories are both inspiring and serve as models of what is possible on the micro level and how it may go on to both touch and create larger contexts. Written during what the authors call, "The Great Recession", Spend Shift is, given its timing, a present and forward-looking book. There is surprisingly little nostalgia here. Understandably it lacks the editorial retrospection of Studs Terkel's "Hard Times": An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970), and, of course, its marketing subtext makes it quite different from the populist journalism that Studs was famous for, though still a good read.

The types of stories told, are in the main urban, set in Kansas City, Detroit, Dallas, Boston, Tampa, Brooklyn, Las Vegas, Dearborn, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. By and large, whatever the level of hardship its protagonists' experience, one senses that they are as largely middle-class in terms of background, education and attitude, whatever the level of resources they access. The key messages are renewed entrepreneurship, building trust via customer service or serving others, and rebuilding fractured community. Critical behaviors are listening and responding and constant conversation in an era where the Internet, social networking that are the "fusion cooking" of a diverse USA that makes this possible in rich new ways. At the same time there is a sense of familiarity with what is being proclaimed-- the new values revolution is quite in line with what we have long identified as perennial US aspirations derived from national core values. It is an American book with Yankee perspectives.

There seems to be a sense that these refreshed attitudes are the essential building blocks to a bottom up restoration of the middle class that has been in decline no for close to half a century. We are left with the question of whether this "revolution" can overturn entrenched domestic and corporate attitudes in some definitive way, to the point where effective renewal will occur in both business and government at a time in history when we seem to have so definitively outsourced so much labor and imported so many products and services from abroad, and when much of the country is mired in poverty.

The last Chapter lists 10 takeaways, making it easy to summarize what the authors are trying to say:

1. We are moving from a credit to a debit society.
2. There are no longer consumers, only customers.
3. Industries are revealed as collections of individuals.
4. Generational divides are disappearing.
5. Human regulation is remaking the marketplace.
6. Generosity is now a business model.
7. Society is shifting from consumption to production.
8. We must think small to solve big.
9. America is an emerging market for values led innovation.
10. Everything will be all right.

Is this real or potentially real? Is this the contemporarily refreshed American Dream, a way of looking at hopes and possibilities that motivate us to start on a journey as immigrants to the future? One also wonders to what degree the Great Recession is itself receding worldwide and, especially with the USA currently swimming in election campaign hype where we are polarized into separate and seemingly incompatible versions of the American Dream. Are we really "post crisis?" Is what we read here "too good to be true?" Would this shift in values hold in better in the more economically balanced society that it aspires to create, or is it simply an unconscious strategic response, an adjustment to the environment shaped by the recent crisis? Would it be far-sighted enough to fix itself as a new culture that insists on corporate due diligence, financial honesty and governmental decision-making? Can it not only address planetary survival, but also lead us to thrive in new more humane ways? Is this book, in fact, also an entrepreneurial step designed to take us in the direction of the values shift it intends to identify? One turns over the last page of Spend Shift with many such musings, and with the disturbing personal question of one's role in what it describes as taking place.
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on December 7, 2012
Great insight into the changes in behavior in our rapidly changing world. Our clients and customers are changing and "Spend Shift" gives a us a look at just how important the recent changes have been and more importantly, that these changes are not a temporary trend. Important information for anyone trying to adjust their marketing to meet current attitudes. The changes that were brought about by the "great Recession" are here to stay.
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How people make decisions and their irrational behaviour at times is the focus of many books that have come out recently. What I liked about Spend Shift is that it tackles the all important question of culture and environment which so many books leave out. For Americans, the choices they make related to how they consume products is based as much on their own emotional state as the environment around them. In this book, John Gerzema and his Pulitzer prize-winning co-Author Michael D. Antonio use exclusive data from marketing agency Young & Rubicam's vast database of public attitudes to spotlight how people across America are returning to "age-old values such as self-reliance, faith and thrift to redefine the good life." In John's words, the macro trend is that "mindless consumption becomes mindful" - which is evidenced also by the rise of tools like Good Guide which help to shine a light on the practices of companies that we buy from. Spend Shift is an apt title for what is happening in the minds of these consumers, and for anyone who wants to get the inside scoop on how to prepare for this shift - Gerzema and Antonio's book is a great starting point.
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on October 19, 2010
Spend Shift should be required reading for every business person. Everyone has been wondering how the economic crisis has changed us, and this book and its research spell it out. If you're waiting for the consumer to "come back" quit holding your breath. Gerzema and D'Antonio help us understand what's different and how we need to reposition our business to appeal to the new sense of value.Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution Is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell, and Live
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on October 18, 2010
Spend Shift is John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio's antidote to recessionary gloom. In contrast to the tired narrative of American decline, this book offers a countervailing vision of innovation and opportunity. Through the real-world examples of entrepreneurs confronting the downturn, we can understand the emerging values important to consumers. This book is an essential primer to the new economic reality.
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In the worst year of the Great Depression Fortune Magazine was started by brave, risk-taking men who believed in themselves and their product and their country. Fast forward to The Great Recession and we see a new sort of risk-taker and rule breaker. We see the average person using the tools at his or her disposal --- very often a laptop --- and building a good life for himself and others and depending on no one, especially the government that has failed us yet again.

The authors interviewed people in many U.S. cities who are doing something unique to create new lives and who care less about money and the things money buys. Moreover, they tend to be people who form bonds with others and these people help one another to get through this crisis and to grow their businesses and lives.

In times like these, people tend to think as socialists. By that I don't mean the Karl Marx sort that is a tool of a self-empowering government. But socialist as in collective. They are less capitalist and generally, history shows this will affect two generations before true capitalism returns and before the tightness with money ends and creates a generation like the Baby Boomers.

I read this book because, as a marketer and advertising specialist, I have a keen interest in how people relate to money and the things they buy. While I was somewhat disappointed in the small amount of space that particular topic took up, I learned a lot. The Great Recession has changed how people relate to money. It has affected what they feel is important to buy and not buy. What they thought was a "necessity" only a short time ago is now considered only a "luxury." This is a shift. And that's what this book is all about.

Highly recommended.

-- Susanna K. Hutcheson
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on April 28, 2011
The authors assert that people are actually starting to return to good old fashion virtues of thrift, caring, and self-reliance. They want more meaning and purpose in their lives and apparently this new outlook is reflected in the purchases that they are making. The assertions are backed by Young and Rubicam's marketing data that has been collected since 1993.

With each chapter, the authors explore different geographic areas in the US to provide examples of this values revolution. It is a positive message - one that provides hope even to the most economically desolate areas like Detroit, MI.

The lesson for businesses and the managers of those businesses is to heed this information and find ways to embrace these virtues in the making and selling of products and services. The rewards for doing so will be great, to include the accelerated emergence from the recession.

There is a quote in the book from a British economist named E.F. Schumacher that encapsulates this message well - "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage- to move in the opposite direction."

The uplifting message resonating throughout the book has this reviewer rooting for the ongoing manifestation of these values in the marketplace - a most welcome and refreshing change.

--Nick McCormick, Author, Acting Up Brings Everyone Down and Lead Well and Prosper
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on November 8, 2010
Despite John's analysis is focused on USA market It's really impressive that the same kind of evidence is definitely true in different (and distant) markets. I live, work and write from Italy but I think that the "spend shift" can be really seen as a common trait that sets new and challenging chances for brands throughout the world . Quite paradoxical (but probably that's why I like it!) that brands, whose loyalty index has been eroded on average over the past few years, could turn one of the the worst worldwide crisis of ever into a new exciting opportunity. And this wonderful book explains how it could happen. The fact is that the 2009 crisis was a double one: both economical and financial. As a consequence people didn't lose only purchasing power but also trust in institutions...and since we know that brands enjoy today the full status of institutions they have been stroke at their heart. That why John's formula is not about price cuts or good value for money but is about deep and positive values like trust, tradition, cooperation, community. A precious guide to business people, marketing and advertising students but also to common people to help them choose the brands that probably won't disappoint their expectations.
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on October 21, 2010
While it is clear to many that the recent economic crisis has changed many things about why and how people buy, most pundits to date have relied on opinions, gut-feelings and reactions laced with hyperbole and alarm-ism. As he did with "Brand Bubble," John Gerzema (and his co-author Michael D'Antonio) leverage the massive Brand Asset Valuator database to bring data and fact to the equation. And then they added depth to their knowledge through extensive observation and expert interviews. But they don't stop there. Recognizing that it is not enough to just know the 'what,' "Spend Shift" breaks down the 'why's' the 'so what's' and the 'what now's' to give us a blueprint for how the new consumer thinks and how we can adapt our businesses to the new consumer spending reality. At the end of the day, while most have focused their stories on the bleak picture the economic crisis has created, "Spend Shift" is truly a story of hope and optimism combined with real-world, actionable insights designed to help us move forward.
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