It comes to something when a religious leader criticizes Europe for its stagnant economy. True, the main focus of the speech Pope Francis made at the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week was the plight of immigrants. But he also called for the creation of jobs and better conditions for workers. He said there was a need to reinvigorate Europe, describing the continent as a “grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant” and adding it risked “slowly losing its own soul”.
It is also true that such views are hardly earth-shattering. But the Pope’s intervention is an indication that there is a growing feeling that the continent will – despite early ambitions – struggle to match the United States any time soon. The biggest issue, of course, remains the continuing effects of the financial crisis on the Eurozone, in particular, its smaller members. But there is a worrying lack of vibrancy throughout the European Union, with attention that should be focused on creating the conditions for economic expansion diverted by such issues as Ukraine and migration. Even the once-mighty Germany is seeing growth falter as a result of problems in its export markets. No wonder Britain looks like such a beacon that some are predicting that it could soon become the biggest economy in Europe.
Meanwhile, in the United States there are increasing signs of optimism. This is not to say that the country that has been the world’s powerhouse for so long is immune to the problems besetting Europe. Far from it. But – thanks in large part to the dramatically cheaper energy provided by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – American manufacturers are gaining a huge advantage over those in Europe…
..One business that claims to have seen the future, or at least a version of it, is Beyond, a design agency with offices in London, San Francisco and New York. Nick Rappolt, chief executive, explains that the “premise” is that traditional advertising will become less important in creating a market for products or services. Instead, it will be the quality of the consumer experience, meaning that organizations such as Beyond will have to help clients find new ways of communicating and engaging with their customers. One approach is for retailers to take all the data they hold on customers and make it more personal so that they can make the customers’ lives better or simpler. To some, this will have more than a trace of Big Brother, of course. But to others, it could be life-changing.
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