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Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution Is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell, and Live

ISBN: 978-0-470-87443-1
288 pages
October 2010, Jossey-Bass
Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution Is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell, and Live (0470874430) cover image


Gold Medal Winner, General Business, 2012 Axiom Business Book Awards

Understanding the post-crisis consumer

In Spend Shift, John Gerzema, world-renowned expert on consumer values, and Pulitzer prizewinning author Michael D'Antonio document the rise of a vibrant, values-driven post-recession economy. To tell the story of this movement, the authors travel to large cities and small towns across eight bellwether states, to examine the value shifts sweeping the nation. Through in-depth observation, proprietary data from Young & Rubicam, and interviews with experts, the authors analyze the changing consumer psyche, document the five shifting values and consumer behaviors that are remaking America and the world, and explain what it means to businesses and leaders.

  • Explores a movement in society where the majority of American consumers are embracing both value and values
  • Shows how post-crisis consumer expectations and behaviors will drive business decisions
  • Draws on interviews with CEOs and entrepreneurs to reveal how companies like Ford and Etsy are reconnecting with the post-crisis consumer

Compelling and insightful, Spend Shift is essential reading for anyone interested in how values are changing and how businesses can connect with consumers after the recession.

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Table of Contents

Foreword, by Philip Kotler.

Introduction: Numbers and Their Meaning: Kansas City, Missouri.

The Enduring Impact of the Great Recession on Our Values and on Consumerism.

1 The New American Frontier: Detroit, Michigan.

"Indestructible Spirit"—The Values of Optimism, Resiliency, and Opportunity.

2 Don't Fence Me In: Dallas, Texas.

"Retooling"—The Values of Self-Reliance, Faith, and Betterment.

3 The Badge of Awesomeness: Boston, Massachusetts.

"Liquid Life"—The Values of Nimbleness, Adaptability, and Thrift

4 An Army of Davids: Tampa, Florida.

"Cooperative Consumerism"—The Values of Community, Collaboration, and Respect.

5 Block Party Capitalism: Brooklyn, New York.

"From Materialism to What's Material"—The Values of Character, Authenticity, and Performance.

6 The Quality of the Lion: Las Vegas, Nevada.

Reinventing Business Models and Corporate Culture to Rebuild Trust.

7 The Citizen Corporation: Dearborn, Michigan.

How Large Institutions Are Becoming Truly Public Companies.

8 Innovation Nation: San Francisco, California.

America as an Emerging Market for Values-Led Ideas.

Coda: The Takeaway: Los Angeles, California.

Ten Ways the Modern Enterprise (and Individual) Can Thrive in the Post-Crisis Age.

Suggested Reading.



About the Authors.


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Author Information

John Gerzema

Gerzema, chief insights officer of Young & Rubicam, is an internationally known social theorist on consumerism. As a consultant to corporate leaders, he is a pioneer in the use of data to identify social change that helps companies both anticipate and adapt to new consumer interests and demands. His book, The Brand Bubble (Jossey-Bass, 2008), is a BusinessWeek bestseller and was voted #3 in Amazon's best business books of 2008 and best marketing books of 2009 by strategy+business. Gerzema is anin-demand public speaker, and his TED speech, "The Post-Crisis Consumer," has been viewed by tens of thousands of people.

Michael D'Antonio

D'Antonio is the author of more thana dozen books. Hisbiography, Hershey, was named one of BusinessWeek's best books of the year, and The State Boys Rebellion received similar honors from the Chicago Tribune and Christian Science Monitor. While at Newsday, D'Antonio won the Alicia Patterson Fellowship for journalists and was a member of a team of reporters that won the Pulitzer Prize. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Discover, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and other publications.

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A much-needed optimistic yet realistic look at how the recession might be prompting behaviors that will change our society for the better. America, argue the authors, is undergoing a radical but positive shift in consumer values, away from the buying frenzy of the last few decades. Tracking purchasing and social attitudes in the U.S., Gerzema (The Brand Bubble) and D'Antonio (Hershey) observe that the recession has encouraged a resurgence of old-fashioned values--self-reliance, hard work, thrift, and community service. They present studies of such salutary developments as neighborhood revitalization in Detroit, job training in suburban Dallas, and increasing entrepreneurship in Brooklyn. According to the authors, as people adapt to the crisis by seeking greater balance and more fulfilling daily lives, they're more likely to shift to supporting local businesses (ensuring tax dollars stay in their own communities), learning traditional DIY skills, and paying attention to the ethical and environmental practices of the companies to whom they give money. (Oct.) (Publishers Weekly, August 23, 2010)

‘Through indepth observation, expert interviews and unique market data… describes the new “value-driven economy” and what it means for business.’  (Ethical Corporation, September 2010).

Spend Shift offers 10 “take-aways spelling out the traits of the new America... It's a handy list for marketers and business managers” – The Wall Street Journal

“A timely look at how the economic malaise has affected how and what consumers buy” – The Washington Post

“Nothing and Everything — What Consumers Expect from The New Normal” – The Huffington Post

“Is this the future of commerce?” -- Fast Company

“The post-crisis consumer is a much different person. Consumers are making amends for their sins of credit and have become disciples of debit. They’re simplifying and spending money that truly empowers and adds value to them while shedding the glitter and the bling.” -- Forbes

“If you recognize that you might have made a Spend Shift, want to explore what values other than frugality are being embraced by your kindred spirits coast to coast, or want to know how various companies and brands are making a very intentional effort to prioritize values over profits, Spend Shift breaks these national trends down to a very relatable, human scale while still providing a heavy dose of education about this major change in our collective consciousness around consumption.”  – The Boston Globe

“How We Shop – A New Revolution”--CNBC

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Press Release

October 01, 2010
Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution Is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell, and Live

As we recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, what will the consumer of tomorrow look like? How will we spend differently? Will brands still matter? What do changing consumer values say about the state of American values?

In SPEND SHIFT: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell, and Live (October 19, 2010; Jossey-Bass; $25.95) consumer expert John Gerzema and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Michael D’Antonio point to a revolution in consumer values that will  remake the consumer marketplace and revitalize the economy.

The authors draw their findings from Young & Rubicam’s database of consumer attitudes (the world’s largest), which has surveyed 17,000 consumers quarterly for the past seventeen years. What they discovered is that since 2007—even before the crisis—all data pointed to a revolution in the making. Americans were becoming uneasy with debt and excess spending, distrustful of leaders and skeptical of materialist values.

These new “Spend Shifters”—55% of Americans—are not defeated by the downturn but instead are proudly returning to bedrock American virtues—thrift, faith, creativity, community, hard work and more—in order to build new lives of purpose and connection.  They still buy, but they’ve shifted from mindless to mindful consumption, from acquisitive to inquisitive, and from dependent customers to self-reliant DIYers (Do It Yourself). Their every purchase is less about materialism and more about voting for their values with their dollars.

Armed with these findings, Gerzema and D’Antonio set off across America to document the “Spend Shift” and its effects from coast to coast. They traveled through dozens of communities in nine states (both red and blue). They talked with people across kitchen counters, in restaurants, on street corners, in factories and in boardrooms. They shopped with people in supermarkets, walked the floors of startups and investigated changing business models with Fortune 500 CEOs.

The result is the first on-the-ground report from the quiet revolution of values that is remaking the American economy and reshaping the global marketplace.

In disparate places like inner city Detroit, suburban Dallas, rural New England, and Bohemian Brooklyn, the authors found risk-taking entrepreneurs and nimble giant corporations opening themselves up to this new breed of consumers in order to connect with them on shared goals and values. Consumerism isn’t on the wane and brands aren’t dead, but the companies that will succeed in this new marketplace will be those like Blu Homes, Ford, Alice.com, SunRun, Zappos, and many others who are innovating new ways to connect to changing consumer values.

Among the visionary business leaders of the values revolution that the authors interviewed in person are:

  • Rob Kalin and his partners in Brooklyn, who founded Etsy, an online marketplace now valued at around $300 million, where any artisan in the world can display and sell crafts to any of the millions of people who shop there every month.
  • Jon Goren, founder of Boston area based Recyclebank, which rewards people with shopping discounts based on their monthly recycling efforts.
  • Andrew Mason, founder of Chicago based Groupon, which mobilizes the community of the masses with daily deals on products, services and even meals. The discounts grow as the number of people agree to pay for the coupon or “groupon.”

Even as people find themselves less rich in today’s economy, they are deploying their dollars in a more calculated and strategic way to influence institutions like corporations and government. They realize that how they spend their money is a form of power and they are using it to communicate their values and reward those companies that truly reflect them whether they are pro-environment or anti-bail-out. In this way, each dollar resembles a vote and every day is Election Day for companies that provide goods and services.

Grounded in data and on-the-ground interviews, SPEND SHIFT tells an optimistic story of how a new emphasis on values is helping consumers and business alike adapt to the new realities of the economy with resilience and innovation. “Those with the right vision,” the authors write, “will look back at the Great Recession as one of the best things that happened to America.”

Five New Values of Today’s Consumer

 Indestructible Spirit – Optimistic, and resilient people are still open to opportunity

Re-Tooling – Fiercely self-reliant, we retain our faith in our core traditions and actively seek to better our communities and ourselves

Liquid Life – We are adopting a more nimble, adaptable, and thrifty approach to life

Cooperative Consumerism – Crisis has prompted people to collaborate to solve problems and create new options

From Materialism to the Material – Old status symbols no longer appeal as purpose, character, authenticity and creativity become pathways to the good life

New Values

Companies Responding


Zipcar, Blu Homes, RecycleBank, San Francisco Giants

Self Reliance

Berkshares, Etsy, Make Magazine


Groupon, Chartbeat, Ford


Adafruit, North Haven Gardens


Brooklyn Industries, Crisis Camp




Le Petite Zinc, Earthworks, Nextek, LePetite Zinc

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