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Anyone who follows this blog knows that for quite some time, I’ve been putting out a message through a variety of meeting, event, and association publications, that many asssociations really need to pick up the pace in ensuring that they stay relevant to their membership base.

NPR just ran an article, “Time for Associations to Trade in Their Past?“, which covers the issue and quoted some of my observations from a recent article on this issue.

Futurist Jim Carroll, author of Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast, says, “Many associations came together to represent a particular profession, area of interest or sport, or for some other reason. Yet that very reason is changing at a furious pace.”

In 2010 Carroll wrote that many of the trade groups “remain stuck in a rut of complacency. They deliver the same old program. They focus on the same old issues, generate the same old knowledge, plan the same old conference, and have their agenda managed by the same old membership has-beens.

“Meanwhile, they bemoan the fact that membership is declining; that the Millennials seem to have little time or inclination to join them; and that the world is just becoming, well, too complex to deal with.

“So they form a committee, hire a consultant, study the issue, and lull themselves into a false sense of future-security.

“By doing so, they are almost guaranteeing themselves a march into oblivion.” If an association “doesn’t evolve at the same pace,” Carroll says today, “or doesn’t keep up, or doesn’t define the future, it risks becoming obsolete.”

One solution: An association must be in the business of providing “just-in-time knowledge” to its members, Carroll says. He defines it as “the right knowledge at the right time for the right purpose for the right strategy, all revolving around the fact that the knowledge is instant, fast and transitory.”

I certainly spend time with a lot of associations; probably half of the keynotes I do are to open or close major association events. I certainly see many who are making great progress in ensuring that they evolve with the times; however, I also see many that aren’t, and I worry about their future.

It’s a theme I’ve covered liberally here, and you can go through my Association Trends page

I just came from giving a keynote for the annual conference of a major customer loyalty organization, with the talk focused on some of key trends impacting the world of retail today.

There’s certainly a lot going on and a lot to think about. Extremely rapid business model change, the emergence of new competitors, ongoing consumer confidence volatility, rapid product turnover and faster product life-cycles.

So what are they really, really worried about? Let’s put in context the people I had in the room — senior VP’s and managers in major retailers representing several billions in revenue in a wide variety of markets, including pharmaceutical, grocery, consumer goods and electronics. Not to mention quite a few bankers, responsible for credit card portfolio’s, loyalty programs and other customer oriented programs and infrastructure.

Given all that, the top of mind issue is — new methods of customer interaction.

Look at the poll results below. The issue stands out far and away as the most important concern of the day!

Hence, my keynote was bang-on. I didn’t touch too much on the social networking phenomena, as this type of crowd has been drowning in social-networking Powerpoints.

My focus was on interactivity, location, and intelligence,, and the extremely rapid emergence of new forms of in-store interaction and product sales uplift. Things like digital signage, in-store electronic promotional displays, iPod based coups. A flood of new stuff and new ideas that promote new ways of

Listen folks, I know I’ve said it here before, but I’ll say it again.

2010 is the year of location, combined with mobility, and it’s happening faster than you think.

I’m pumped about this topic and the reaction, so I’ve rolled this into a new keynote description:

Location is the New Intelligence: Customer Interaction in the Era of Pervasive Mobile

We’re at the leading edge of the merger of three perfect trends: the rapid and massive emergence of a massive mobile infrastructure with increasingly intelligent devices. Pervasive location awareness as a results of GPS and location intelligence/mapping trends in those very same tools. And a consumer mindset that is increasingly open to new forms of interaction. The result is massive business model disruption, absolutely transformative market change, and complete obliteration of old assumptions as to the nature of the customer relationship. Smart, innovative super-heroes know that this is an unprecedented time to jump on the emergence of location as the new intelligence, in order to provide for new ways of product uplift in the retail space, changing the very nature of customer loyalty through new forms of interaction, and enhancing existing one-to-0ne conversations through a more direct, distinct and fascinating new form of location based relationships. Futurist, Trends & Innovation Expert Jim Carroll is setting the retail, marketing and advertising world on fire with his fast paced insight into one of the most important trends to shape the customer-business relationship in the last few decades. Move over social networking — location is the new intelligence!

Read more: Location is the new intelligence

Here’s a summary of my observations from a keynote I did in New York City for retailers, agencies, marketing organizations, food and CPG companies, on some of the trends that are sweeping their industries today.

The summary is courtesy of the event sponsor, the Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Group.

1. The New Consumer Is Shifting Their Attention Faster than Ever

Consumers suffer from “continuous partial attention” with more stimuli around them than ever before:

  • The number of text messages sent each day exceeds the population of the earth
  • There are 62.6 million videogame households (up 11.4%) and the average age of a video game consumer is 41
  • consumers spend about 10 hours per day and $1,000 per year with various media – primarily wireless devices, iPods, in store displays, in-auto media content and the Internet
  • 93% of American teens are online, proving that the Internet will become ubiquitous

Consumers across demographic segments are immersed in this new interactive world forcing brands to engage them across all mediums to stay connected.

This new shopper is not only more scattered and more connected, but also faster – scanning 12 feet of shelf space on average per second. In-store influencers will now evolve at the pace of the iPhone and the Blackberry, challenging marketers to keep up with the pace. Faster is the new innovation and innovation isn’t just about new product design – it’s about responding to fast-paced consumer change.

Marketing Implication: Marketers must work harder than ever to capture the attention of the consumer and make a connection. Brands must keep up with the pace of consumer change in order to stay relevant.

2. The New Consumer Is No Longer Nuclear

The nuclear family is no longer the norm as Americans find new definitions for ‘family’ in today’s world. The following headlines touch on the variety of different ways families are structured today:

  • “….only 1 in 4 of the population live in heterosexual, two-parent families… one in three people now live alone….” – ABC
  • “….urban Americans remain single for more than half of their adult lives, a radical shift…..” – NBC
  • “Between the ages of 18 and 59…. Chicagoans spend… 18 years married.. 4 years co-habitating….19 years alone or casually dating” – Associated Press
  • “LAT tourism …. living apart together ….two out of five marriages end in divorce” – Reuters

Brands must acknowledge these new trends as they develop products and create marketing messages to resonate with today’s consumer.

Marketing Implication: Hyper-nicheing is the new brand reality as the market becomes more specialized and fragmented. Marketers can no longer rely on preconceived segmentation strategies, but rather need to think differently about who they are trying to reach and how to reach them.

3. The New Consumer Is Influenced Differently

We’re in the era of the “Celebrity Baby Blog” where purchases are influenced heavily by what others are doing. And it is not just celebrities that consumers are watching – they are also looking to their peers for advice and brand recommendations. For example, in travel, 79% of travellers trust peer reviews more than ads.

The same thing is happening with consumer products – peer reviews are the new influencers, with 83% trusting the opinion of a friend or acquaintance who has used the product or service.

Marketing Implication: Social networks are the new brand influencers and marketers must find ways to connect with consumers who are highly influential in their peer groups.

4. The New Consumer Is Shifting Their Focus

Socio-economic shifts are affecting consumer behavior at an increasingly fast pace.

For example, the downturn in the economy has quickly had a significant impact on consumers’ eating habits. 71% of consumers are choosing to prepare meals at home instead of eating out and restaurant trips have decreased from 1.5 times a week in 2006, to 1.2 times today. (Food Marketing Institute US Grocery Shopper Trends)

Another prime example of trends reaching mainstream quickly is the health trend. Even the most active consumers shopping at delis are health-conscious. 80% of deli-buyers are making changes to their diets and 90% are now reading deli labels (International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association)

New markets are constantly emerging, whether it’s fresh-cut snack food, growing from a $6.8 billion industry to $10.5 billion (International Fresh-Cut Produce Association) or rapidly changing tastes – flavors are now moving from upscale kitchens to chain restaurants in 12 months, compared to 36 months 5 years ago.

Marketing Implication: Faster-paced preference change is the new reality and brands must be nimble to keep up with consumer demand.

5. The New Product Is Rapidly Redefined

New products are brought to market faster, redefining the industry quickly and forcing products to keep up.

As scientific knowledge is being shared in real time, ethical packaging innovations are emerging and driving product design.

For example, wax paper infused with cinnamon oil (antibacterial) inhibits 96% of mold for up to 10 days (Investor’s Business Daily). This new discovery allows CPG companies to produce new products with a naturally longer shelf life. Major manufacturers and retailers must respond to these new trends, especially as consumers jump onboard and demand these innovations. Most notably, Walmart has vowed to have zero private label packaging waste by 2010, and to eliminate all packaging waste by 2025 (Modern Plastics Worldwide)

Another example of a new product being redefined at a rapid pace is the “nutri-cosmetic” market – already at $1.5 billion worldwide (only 3% of that is in the U.S.) and predicted to grow at 4.7% a year in the U.S. to $10.6 billion by 2012 (Household & Personal Products Industry). Consumers are embracing new products that can offer positive effects on their appearance, while easily being integrated into their lifestyle.

Marketing Implication: Time to market and corporate agility are the new capabilities to focus on.

6. The New Product Is Upside Down

The way companies are innovating is also changing. The process used to be to get the assortment right, figure out the merchandising, go to stores and create a marketing campaign around it all.

The new innovation model turns that upside down: as large companies are more connected to consumer demand, they can use that insight to come up with the marketing, then determine the merchandising and get the assortment right.

Partnership with retailers and packaging companies in the design of the product is the key trend because these partners are closer to consumer demands and can often guide development of new products through their unique insight. Smart manufacturers are turning to packaging designers to ask for help lowering expenses as oil and raw material prices rise. (Bangkok Post). 73% of packaging machine builders collaborate with customer-packaging engineers. (Control Engineering).

Marketing Implication: Partnership with retailers and packaging companies is the key method to speed up product innovation and efficiently introduce new products to the marketplace.

7. The New Marketing Is Shifting

Consumers are being increasingly influenced by their time spent online. Therefore, online advertising spending is increasing and is predicted to rise to $51 billion in 2012 – up from $21 billion in 2007.

Consumers are looking across all media and being influenced by different sources of inspiration. Different media serves different purposes for consumers and reaches them in different mindsets. For example, certain magazines are set aside for leisure comfort reading, while online media can quickly provide relevant information at the touch of a button.

Marketing Implication: A “healthy mix” is the new advertising recipe for success reaching consumers at different touch-points.

Here’s a short video clip of Jim’s keynote, in which he speaks about the increasing velocity of change in retail.

2010PRSM.jpgAt many of my keynotes, I focus on some of the most successful creativity and innovation attributes that I see within organizations. Here’s a list of guidance from a recent keynote for a group of executives in the consumer goods sector:

  • Adapt to more challenging customers: customers expectations and needs are changing rapidly, and yet they are more demanding than ever before. Loyalty disappears….at the same time they expect creative perfection from you, they are more fickle, and far less loyal …. I’m not even sure the concept of loyalty exists any more for many brands!
  • Costs increase: all this is happening in a world in which producers and retailers are faced with a rapid increase in uncontrollable costs…energy, plastics, you name it! Margins are being squeezed and pressured as a result. Operational excellence is no longer optional!
  • Focus on collaborative relationships: The key to innovation in retail today can be found in collaborative relationships and partnerships between packaging companies, consumer products and brands, and retailers. ! Noted Paul Moss, British Bakeries Divisional Marketing Director, “We have more to talk about than price.” No one wants to fight in a brand sector that is involved in a race to the bottom, but that’s what happens when everyone focuses on price. Shift the equation with your partners, and you’ll find a way out.
  • Remember — the package is the brand: Heinz, StarKist and other industry leaders have learned that packaging innovation, driven by new methodologies, ideas and technologies, has become the secret to brand image in many sectors, because it permits a shift of value and customer perception in ways that haven’t previously been seen. Think upside-down-Ketchup. If you aren’t innovating with packaging, you aren’t in the game
  • Hyper-innovation is key: Throughout the consumer products world, we are witnessing faster time to market in every single sector. The concept of a product lifecycle is disappearing as products come to market and thrive for but short micro-bursts of time. Make sure you’ve got the agility on your team you need to cope with this reality, and you might survive
  • Get used to rapid change. Consumer desires, needs and demands will continue change at an ever more furious pace, often in ways that won’t make sense, particularly with the impact of social networks. Don’t despair from it: learn from it. Take the recent race to value-oriented products as a result of the recession. Did you act fast enough? What organizations sclerosis blocked your ability for quick change? And what should you do to fix it?
  • Capture the insight of creatively new competitors – constantly: Admit this: there are likely going to be a lot of folks out there who are a lot more creative than you are. They’ll beat the pants off you all the time with quick short bursts of tactical success, while you are still busy marshalling your forces. Rather than losing sleep over their success, study them! Learn from them! And then capitalize by doing what they do – and do it better. Rapid creativity in a time of constant change is the name of the game, and you’d do best to work to obtain the same skills and insight that your best competitors have developed.
  • Ride the wave of continuous business model innovation: If someone is reinventing your business model, reinvent it faster! In retail, we are seeing constant experimentation with store formats, brand partnering, in-store displays, logistics and tracking studies, and countless other new ways of doing things. Get on board the tornado of change in retail and ride it for all it is worth. You should develop a team that has a finely-tuned radar for unique trends, experiments, success stories and innovations. They’re swirling around you continuously, they are constantly reinventing the world of retail on a minute by minute basis – and you’ve got to understand them and capitalize upon them.

I’ve got quite a few keynotes coming up with the consumer, food, packaged goods and retail sectors in the next several months, one of them being the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association in Orlando, Florida next month.

The topic for that keynote will be: Where Do We Go From Here? Why Innovators Will Rule in the Post-Recession Economy – And How You Can Join Them.

Here’s an extract from the keynote description:

Jim Carroll has carefully studied what it is that organizations are doing to position themselves for post-recession growth.

One thing they are certainly doing is positioning themselves for innovative solutions to complex problems. When it comes to retail store maintenance there is no doubt that we are in the era of fast-paced solutions, whether its related to intelligent building management solutions, the rapid evolution of in-store layout and design principles; innovative environmental and green technology solutions; or new in-store
customer engagement methodologies, all of which impact in-store maintenance professionals in new and dramatic ways.

In his keynote, Jim will share his insight into the key trends impacting the retail sector, and how maintenance professionals can take a seat at the “strategy table,” providing unique solutions and guidance to the management team by adapting to fast paced trends.

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Here’s an article that I wrote for Food Manufacturing on trends in the consumer, food and packaging sector.

I spend a huge amount of my time as a keynote speaker at countless conferences and events, many of them within and to the food, packaging, retail and restaurant sector. I also spend quite a bit of time with smaller, strategy-oriented leadership session designed around the theme of ‘how to innovate in a high velocity economy.’

And I do know that while volatility rocks the economy, some fundamental truths about that velocity remain: the food, packaging and retail industries continue to be subject to dramatic rates of change–and innovative organizations succeed by mastering the pace of this new high-velocity economy.

Think about what is going on out there: customer mindset has become increasingly difficult to capture as we become a society with massive attention deficits–the Twitter era is having a profound impact on brand image. Marketing and advertising dollars are fleeing traditional media and moving online at a pace that surprises even the more hard-core technology-evangelists. Faster innovation means faster in-store format change. New digital signage technologies and other innovations march forward at a furious pace, providing yet another new influencer in the retail space.

And in the midst of all this change, business models are subject to upheaval due to economic turmoil, commoditization of product and the rapid emergence of new competitors.

It’s a fast paced world–and that’s why cutting-edge organizations are focused on key leadership strategies that provide for a fast-paced future. So what should you do to confront the “big trends” that have so much velocity–and what you should be doing right now?

I approached this very question as the opening keynote speaker for an audience of 5,000 at a recent Las Vegas event. The client organization certainly finds itself in the midst of high-velocity change. There are fast paced trends in terms of new branding challenges and marketing methodologies (think Web 2.0), consumer behavior, and many other issues. Yet, there are tremendous opportunities for growth through innovation.

My keynote addressed a variety of trends that impact every aspect of the food, packaging and retail sector today. For example, to be a leading edge innovator, you must confront and have a strategy that deals with a variety of fast-paced trends:

  • Rapid emergence of new methods of customer interaction. For example, in the next few years, we will likely see the emergence of contact-less payment technology, as our credit card infrastructure migrates to Blackberry, iPhone, and smart phones. This presents new opportunities in terms of customer contact.
  • New methods of brand and product promotion. Organizations must be able to scale to meet the demands of new intelligent infrastructure, and that will require a tremendous amount of innovation. Consider text messaging: technologies that provide for the remote retrieval of mobile coupon offers will define the future of brand interaction. With 147 million people already interacting globally on social networks via their mobile phone–and up to 1 billion in but five years–there are tremendous opportunities for new methods of achieving brand and product awareness.
  • Rapid change in consumer choice. Take the issue of health concerns and balanced diet. Fresh-cut snack foods grew from $6.8 billion in to $10.5 billion in a short time, according to the International Fresh-Cut Produce Association. Innovation comes from changing product mix to keep up with fast-changing consumers.
  • Rapidly emerging new menus and taste trends. It’s estimated that new flavors now move from upscale kitchens to chain restaurants in 12 months, compared to 36 months 5 years ago. This means that faster innovation is not a luxury–it’s a necessity. Change faster, and you’ll yeild new growth-based products.
  • Fast emerging issues involving green strategies. The Grille Zone, a restaurant chain in Boston, generates about 15 pounds of waste per restaurant, compared to an industry average of 275 pounds. The Green Restaurant Association took 14 years to go to 90 restaurants; it’s now at close to 1,000, with thousands more going through the certification program. Growth can come from evolving a brand so that it matches the social desires of the customer base.

What I stress at events like this is that organizations need to realize that innovation isn’t just about “big innovation”–the launch of new products and services. There’s also the issue of “fast innovation”–in which success is defined by the ability of the organization to respond to rapidly changing products, markets, business models, economic trends, competitive moves, consumer trends and just about everything else.

Innovation today is moving from more than just “products” to process, structure, capability, and speed.

Here’s the thing: in my keynotes, I focus on growth opportunities. There are enough people out there who are so focused on the doom and gloom of the economy, that they lose sight of the fact that if they focus on fast innovation–and keeping up with rapid trends–they can discover all kinds of new ways to grow the business.

Faster is the new fast. Think growth. Think innovation.

Could you be so out of touch with your customers that you have no clue how they truly perceive you?

  • Blog post Is your brand from the olden days?

How is social networking impacting brands? Take a look!

“Do you we truly appreciate just how quickly things are going to evolve?”


What should brand leaders be thinking about in terms of the velocity of change with customers and branding.

This clip takes a look at the trends impacting brands….

Here’s another video clip from the New York keynote — actually, this is from the Readers Digest Food & Entertainment (publishers of Everyday with Rachel Ray) keynote.

At this event, I was speaking to an audience of advertising executives, food companies, packaging companies and others about how innovation models are shifting. Today, innovation is much more:

  • partnership oriented – think Disney!
  • flexible in terms of solutions – think tin-cans!
  • faster in terms of market response to rapidly changing consumer demand

The section closes with an overview comparing Honda’s capability for rapid change to those of traditional US automakers.

The key point : faster is the new fast — because consumer choice changes faster than ever before.

RDA-2008.jpgWhen the Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Division, based in New York, went looking for a keynote speaker on marketing and advertising trends within the consumer goods sector, they went with Jim Carroll.

In an event co-sponsored with Advertising Age, the publisher of such innovative titles as Everyday with Rachel Ray wanted to provide a concise, inspirational but challenging overview of the trends impacting innovation, marketing and advertising within the food sector … and decided that Jim’s message on how to innovate at high-velocity was the ideal fit for their symposium.

Ironically, the event fell smack-dab in the middle of one of the wildest economic corrections that we’ve ever seen, and much of the discussion through the day focused on how to innovate in a fast-paced, ever more challenging economic environment.

I outlined how innovation-oriented organizations will use the economic challenges as an opportunity — they’ll examine the emergence of fast-paced trends, and will adjust their actions, products, services, and brand message accordingly.

Consider a few of the trends we’re already seeing:

  • The food consumer is now shifting their focus — 71% of consumers are choosing to prepare meals at home instead of eating out as a result of the economic correction, Restaurant trips have decreased from 1.5 times a week in 2006, to 1.2 times today. (Food Marketing Institute US Grocery Shopper Trends 2008). There’s a big opportunity to rapidly shift to in-house meals, from a branding and comfort perspective.
  • Chef Katie-Lee Joel, who also spoke at the event (she’s the author of the book The Comfort Table and a Top Chef judge on TV), affirmed this point, speaking of the trend in which “comfort food” — feel-good food — will once again take priority as people adjust their spending.
  • other trends will pick up steam as people think more about their food consumption habits. For example, the trend to “local food” will pick up steam with the recession — people will want to feel responsible when it comes to food choice and the environmental footprint related to particular food. A study in Australia found that the typical shopping basket of 29 supermarket food items had travelled an astounding 70,803kms! An unbelievable number that certainly causes a pause for thought!

The key issue — organizations must have the capability to understand how their markets are changing quickly with the recession; how consumer choice is changing; and how their advertising, branding and marketing activities will need to change. It’s something I call corporate agility — it’s been covered extensively in this blog, and in my Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast book.

It’s a critical concept to think about during these times.

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