DYG Commentary

December 22, 2011 – #2

2011:  One Year, 45 Images, Two Words (and Two Dogs)

Another year draws to a close and we are inundated with “ten best,” “50 most …” and you-name-it lists meant to represent the year that was. One roundup that caught our eye was the “45 most powerful images of 2011” – maybe because it captures the disorienting unpredictability of life now and our hunger for control and connection.

A look at just a handful of the images:
(See all 45 here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-most-powerful-photos-of-2011)


U.S. Army soldier with an Afghan boy during patrol in eastern Afghanistan. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

Slain Navy Seal Jon Tumlinson's dog Hawkeye lies next to his casket throughout funeral services in Iowa.

A girl in radiation isolation looks at her dog through a window in Japan after the nuclear disaster. (Reuters/Yuriko Nakao)

A son comforted by his mother after losing his house in the Alabama tornado. (AP/Jeff Roberts)

Arab Spring -- aided by Facebook. (theatlanticwire.com)

Occupy UC Davis students pepper-sprayed in California. (Jasna Hodzic)

It’s impossible to look at the visual history of 2011 without being struck by how crises beyond our control have become a regular part of our daily lives. The natural disasters alone seemed to multiply exponentially this year: from tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Joplin to the hurricane in Vermont, to dust storms in Phoenix and the frightening earthquake/tsunami/nuclear devastation in Japan.

Of course, Mother Nature’s dreadful surprises were just the final straws for Americans reeling from the economic meltdown that brought a complete re-write of the American Dream for everyone from just-launched children to Boomers hoping to retire.
Whew! Americans are exhausted, with the gnawing feeling they can’t get traction anywhere.

Everything we know from SCAN tells us that the intensified hunger for control (of something, anything!) has created a new consumer: highly risk-averse, distrustful and editing out everything but “the sure thing.”

The silver lining for marketers? The rise of connection… even to the point of what we’re calling “Conspicuous Connection.” Consumers are finding joy and inspiration in their connectedness – with family, friends, and their much-loved pets. Just take a look at the 45 images. So many of them, even in the most horrific circumstances, show the shift from “me” to “we”… arms wrapped around each other in disaster or linked in protest… plus, of course, the accelerator of social media. And in our pet-happy culture, it’s only fitting that two of the most powerful images include dogs – one in Iowa, one in Japan, both symbols of the simplicity of an unconditional bond.

And so 2011 ends and 2012 begins. Jon Huntsman recently commented on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Americans “need to be able to predict their tomorrow.” This isn’t a political endorsement but from a SCAN point of view, it does show that Huntsman “gets it”. Isn’t being able to predict one’s future the heart of American optimism – and consumer confidence? At DYG, we feel confident in predicting that control and connection will become even more valued as consumers redesign their tomorrow.

2012 is upon us – a presidential election year and, hopefully, a year of economic recovery.  We wish you happy holidays and a healthy, prosperous 2012!