Editorial: Gauging the Mood

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It's no surprise that attitudes are in a state of flux these days. People are much more anxious, which is evident to anyone who walks down the street either here in New York or in Boulder, CO. This means that companies must completely revamp their marketing messages, whether they are business-to-consumer, business-to-business or online.

If the message isn't appropriate, especially now, the mail piece or catalog will surely be tossed or the mouse will be clicked. Even before Sept. 11, researchers had noticed consumers were spending more money on home products. Since then, this "nesting" mood has grown more intense as they buy home entertainment centers, kitchen items and the like.

Several industry watchers say the holiday season may not be as bad as many were predicting. Parents will want to give more gifts to their children to make them happy. We may be nicer to our friends and co-workers. However, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that retailers will have to slash prices even earlier than usual to entice customers into their stores, and this markdown attitude will surely stray into the mail-order realm.

Certainly, companies that come up with the right advertising will reap the benefits. The current wave of patriotism is expected to continue for some time, as long as companies don't force it. General Motors got the mix right with its "Keep America Rolling" campaign offering zero percent financing. "The American dream. We refuse to let anyone take it away," an announcer says during the television commercial.

Yet, commercials for a commemorative coin from the American Historical Society and peel-and-place flag decals and waterproof flags from TeleBrand's American Freedom Collection don't make the cut. Do I really want to peel off a flag and stick it on my dinner place mat?

Many companies are including that they support charities and the relief effort, though columnist Andrew B. Lustigman adds some words of caution. Cause-related marketing is highly regulated and "poses traps for the unwary," he writes. Regulators have challenged marketers that failed to adequately disclose a contribution cap before the sale of the product.

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