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Strange Bedfellows

The Mood of the World Report will be especially important this year

One of the strange things about traveling abroad now is how unstrange it can be. Gone are the days of hitchhiking across Ireland on vehicles you’d never see in the States (e.g. donkey cart; true story). Since the boom years, everything from transportation (new highways, new fast-trains, even the rickety old buses and bikes are gone), to hipster fashion (skinny jeans, retro T-shirts, eccentric hats), technology (tablets and smartphones), and architecture (fashionably curvy) has blended into one global style.

Problems, too. Among the local landmarks a taxi driver pointed out to me a few weeks ago while shuttling me across one small, Irish town were the local manifestations of the global real-estate bubble: two condo complexes that are set for the wrecking ball. Built in the hyper-optimism of the Celtic Tiger economy, they were never occupied and now sit derelict, un-scenic modern counterpoints to the old stone cottages that dot the Irish landscape.

A story in the Irish Independent reports it will take 43 years to work off the excess supply of empty houses constructed in Ireland during the bubble (57 if you include the vacation homes). Some 200,000 houses would need to be demolished to bring supply back into line with population growth.

And Ireland (14% unemployment) is less of a Euro-zone trouble spot these days than, say, Spain (24% unemployment) or Greece (22% unemployment).

All of which suggests that the 2012 Roper Reports Worldwide “Mood of the World Report” – due out imminently from our RRW analytical team – will be an important one. We’re at a crucial juncture in globalization. And not just for what the politicians are scrambling to do to contain the European debt crisis.

Is global consumer confidence – which has flatlined since plummeting in the wake of the 2008 financial crash – showing signs of inching back? Is concern over the future – in particular, governments’ ability to fund retiree pensions – still rising?

Are consumers loosening the reins on spending? You can’t keep driving the old jalopy forever, right? Or, not persuaded the world’s governments can pull together, are people still pinching pennies?

Continuing retrenchment would portend more challenges for most brands. But not all. Market leaders like Apple or Samsung could find a new wind at their back. Consumers on the fence could turn to iPads, Galaxies, et al, as the safe choice. (Wouldn’t Steve Jobs have been pleased to hear that it’s now Apple that “no one ever gets fired for buying”?)

Meanwhile, the yearning for something, anything, to take pride in amid this economically unforgiving time could be good for “local heroes,” from upscale restaurants rediscovering their national cuisines, like Britain’s Canteen, with its new takes on pub staples like steak and kidney pie (moniker: “Great British Food”) to local brews, to the UK’s recent series of postage stamps honoring iconic British fashion designers like Alexander McQueen.

Keep an eye out for quirkiness. “Actually, the Germans don’t work harder than us,” proclaimed one Irish Independent story, a bit archly. The piece marshaled statistics to show the supposedly pint-polishing, holiday-loving Irish actually clock more hours, take less vacation time, and don’t drink any more than their more prosperous Euro peers – then self-deprecatingly conceded that the stereotype that the Irish are “always late,” well, yes, does have merit.

Like the tongue-in-check nickname affixed to the Euro 2012 soccer championship group featuring Spain, Italy, and Ireland – “the Group of Debt” – it shows the market for humor remains bullish.

For more information on how to buy on the GfK Roper Reports Worldwide 2012 Mood of the World Report, click here.

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