Farnaz on Cultures and Archetypes, Featured, New Face of America, New World Trends, New Realities

It’s time to redefine Race and Multiculturalism – future is already here

When you hear the word Multicultural, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Hispanic? Black? Ethnic? Non-white? Let’s go a step further…. how about Multiculturalism? A multicultural society or virtue?  The philosophy of Multicultural existence?

Here’s what’s interesting… Dictionary defines multiculturalism by the view that the various cultures in a society merit equal respect and scholarly interest….the existence, recognition, or preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society. Sounds noble, doesn’t it? Yet this simple word can evoke so much fear and anger in some people, polarizing our society economically, geographically, and politically.

In my book, I defined “multicultural” as a mosaic of different cultures in one platform, intended to refer to a society that is ethnically and racially diverse, including Whites. Since then, I’ve come to realize that how we define race and ethnicity are very dynamic and confusing. Last year, I wrote about the New Multiracial Face of America, and how demographic tipping shifts are happening much sooner than expected.  I explained that the US census bureau started collecting details on multiracial population since 2000 when it first allowed respondents to check off more than one box for race—and 6.8 million people did so (6.7%). Ten years later that number jumped to 8.4% or 9 million, making multiracials one of the fastest growing population in the US. Then, in 2013, we started seeing 1 in 10 babies living with two parents being multiracial. A big jump from only 1% in 1970, according to Pew. This is clearly fueled by mixed race marriages, which has almost quadrupled. William Frey in his New Republic article indicated that now more than one in seven newlywed couples are multiracial, not counting non-married multiracial couples who are adding to the growing multiracial babies. Interestingly, almost half of these mixed marriages include Whites. So, again, multicultural can not mean non-white.

Today, we’ve reached a point that we can no longer define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically. Racial identity is a highly nuanced concept, and a very personal one influenced by culture, politics, religion, history and geography. And census bureau knows that.  Earlier this summer, Census started considering a new approach to asking about race in their 2020 census, by not using the term at all…and instead ask to check categories that best describe them, or definitions they identify with.  Race, origin and ethnicity were confusing and interchangeable.  US government, for example, identifies Hispanic as an ethnicity not a race.  The confusion reflects a larger debate about how to define race, which used to be seen as a fixed physical characteristic and now more commonly is viewed as a complex mix of family and social environment, historical or socio-political constructs, lifestyle, etc. And multiracial marriages and births is a phenomenon that will redefine how race is actually lived in America.

This is certainly cause to redefine multicultural exclusive of race, don’t you think? I’m starting to think that the mosaic of different people and cultures coexisting in the same platform and georgraphical area will soon become the same mosaic in each individual being that is multiracial, multiethnic, or simply not of one race/ethnicity. Seemingly, most of us are multicultural, according to the research and marketing firm Ethnifacts by virtue of where we live and who we marry, among other things. So while the U.S. Census estimates America’s whites will become a minority in 2043 (this projection was 2050 a few years ago) a lot of us say that future is already here.

More importantly, let’s not forget that marriage of European immigrants led to today’s white population in the US. It would seem only natural to anticipate similar boom of multiracial population. So what should we call them? American?




Guest Blog: How Stereotypes Influence The Hiring of Muslim Women in The United States

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.37.21 AMDue to popularity of my post, Muslim women creating fastest cultural shift,  I’m following up with a guest blog written by Karima Hana-Meksem, PhDResearcher, Writer & Consultant in Human Development and Leadership


Sometimes I teach the class called “Media Ethics” and ask my students to complete the phrase “Muslims are….” And they always say “terrorists” and I say how many of you heard the phrase “catholic terrorists” and they say “well no” and then I tell them “What about the Irish Republican Army”.  The idea that they are Christian terrorists… they do not think that way… It does not carry the same connotation for Christians…and that is purely a function of media.  (A participant in education-2010)

The purpose of the study was to contribute to a better understanding of employment discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or country of origin. More specifically, the study attempted to describe how religious stereotypes and religious artifacts may affect the hiring process of Muslim women wearing a hijab in the United States and what are the reasons as to why these stereotypes have developed?

The research questions were (a) To what extent do American recruiters stereotype Muslim women in the United States who wear the hijab? (b) What are the sources of these stereotypes? And (c) How could these stereotypes affect recruiters’ hiring decision?

Qualitative interviews were conducted in the states of Illinois and Missouri during the Spring and Fall of 2010. These participants interviewed were in charge of hiring in the educational and healthcare sectors. The study was challenging since it involved a very sensitive and susceptible topic in the American context today: Muslims. In addition, the difficulty of this study on Muslim women wearing the hijab in the United States was also related to its perception. It was interesting to observe how potential participants may have understood the purpose of this study and how this might have influenced their participation to it. The context of the study played an important role, it may have influenced potential participants’ negative responses and maybe as well some negative attitudes during the interviews conducted.

This study identified five main themes from the interviews’ data which are the following (a) fear of Muslims, (b) hijab appearance vs. hijab functionality, (c) impact of cultural and religious differences, (d) stereotypes, and (e) discrimination in the United States.

The research participants were united when questioned about the appearance of the hijab and how divided they were when they spoke of its functionality. Indeed, the research participants, who all have hiring responsibilities included in their position, described almost unanimously that the hijab is viewed by them as an attractive and beautiful religious artifact.

However, when the participants elaborated a little bit more about the function of the hijab, their observations differed. During the interviews they explained their views based on various factors that might have influenced their perceptions. This pointed out I believe, how our society might strongly influence people’s views. In addition, it is important to understand how shared beliefs imposed by the dominant culture may take part in influencing people’s thinking. There are negative stereotypes against the Muslim community and, in particular, Muslim women wearing the hijab in the United States today associated with Islamophobia. Mainly, the hijab is perceived as a symbol of fundamentalism at the extreme and as a strange practice at the best.

In this study, one participant stated directly that he would have difficulties hiring a Muslim woman wearing the hijab, although he is informed that in the United States discrimination against an applicant because of religious beliefs is illegal. This suggests a cognitive conflict between the appearance of hijab and its function.

All the recruiters interviewed illustrated the fact that they all hold biases. For instance, one participant described his bias against obese people and acknowledged that it was a conscious bias. Mostly, the participants’ views expressed in this study demonstrated that all hold biases toward Muslims in general which influenced the way they identified the hijab in particular. I consider that everybody may hold biases against Muslim women who wear the hijab. Consequently, it is fundamental to educate people and make them aware of their own biases and how this might impact their perceptions.

The value and perception of the hijab was ultimately connected with the research participants’ cultural and religious backgrounds. Indeed, the participants’ perceptions of Muslims in the United States were intimately connected to the participants’ cultural and racial background. Some participants in this study shared a bit of their own struggle related to racial and religious discrimination and based on the findings these participants were the most considerate toward Muslim women wearing the hijab. These participants expressed their views of broadmindedness by using terms like, tolerance, melting pot, diversity, diversity training, and acceptance. The rest of the participants who seemed to have more disapproving perceptions qualified the hijab using terms like strange, thing, backwardness, anti-intellectualism, and fundamentalism. Consequently these judgmental insights have been described in this study coming from three expected sources (a) the media, (b) the politics, and (c) people’s social and cultural environments. Indeed, all the participants illustrated during the interviews that the principal sources of negative stereotypes toward Muslims are related to the way the media and politics portrayed Muslims and Islam in the United States.

Another important point was that all the participants shared that their own stereotypes and opinions toward Muslims in general, and that Muslim women wearing the hijab in particular are the essence of their personal journey. Some participants explicitly stated that the way they perceived other people is a combination of their ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. In other words, the participants argued that the value of tolerance and diversity is learned in some milieus, although some of them spoke at length about diversity training and education as a mean of opposing negative stereotypes and teaching tolerance.

Some participants did acknowledge too that nowadays these negative stereotypes toward Muslim women wearing the hijab may affect some hiring decisions that maybe recruiters, persons in charge of hiring or even themselves will be making. However, the findings demonstrated that all participants were aware of the anti- discrimination laws that were judged by them as more punitive than preventive.

Consequently, the findings in this study also illustrated the reality that negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims in the United States were more pronounced after the event of 9/11. I consider that both negative stereotypes toward Islam and Muslims and the current American context may affect hiring decision based on non-job-related factors.

Karima Hana-Meksem, PhD



Do you know who your existing and future customers are? The profitable ones?

Last year marked the first year in the US history where majority of children under 9 were non-white (50.8%).   And Nielsen reported that multicultural non-whites represented 92% of the population growth in the US between 2000 and 2014.  This is clearly transforming the US mainstream, and most telling about our nation’s future economically, socially, and politically. And it’s nothing to fear but lots to celebrate. If it weren’t for the multicultural growth, US economy will face the same challenges many European countries currently face, with declining population. This is not just population growth…it is consumer buying power for economic health….it is future talent, as well as political and social norm.  (Click here to see American diversity by generation.)

It is, or at least should be, transforming how marketers and advertiser use culture to connect to existing and future customers. Cultural relevance will be the new branding era in the years to come. Mark my word. Multicultural consumers are empowered and culture-driven, maintaining their cultural heritage while seeing themselves as part of the new mainstream. Nielsen calls this an ambicultural identity—the ability and willingness to function competently in two cultures—simultaneously maintaining cultural heritage while seeing themselves as equally American. (I can personal testify to this, since I am truly ambicultural myself.) More importantly, multicultural consumers over-index on a wide range of products and services. They tend to be younger, trendsetters and tastemakers, expressive and inclusive.

The Nielsen report, The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumers, reports $3.4 trillion multicultural buying power in the US today. Hispanic buying power is projected to be 1.7 trillion in the next four years (by 2019), 1.4 trillion for African Americans and 1 trillion for Asian Americans. The report identifies multicultural Super Consumers, which refer to the top 10% of households who drive at least 30% of sales, 40% of growth and 50% of profits of any consumer product category. And suggests that by understanding the cultural essence that drives multicultural super consumer behavior today, marketers and advertisers can better understand future market trends.

Since they are younger, they comprise a disproportionate share of categories, such as dairy, baby food/diapers, laundry supplies/detergents, school supplies and other family goods. Multicultural consumers gravitate to brands, products and activities that reinforce their cultural roots. Interestingly, these behaviors are affecting the purchase behavior of non-multicultural consumers, too….making many multicultural categories very mainstream, such as hot sauce, tacos, pizza, sushi, soul food, and other once-ethnic foods that have become as ubiquitous as apple pie and hot dogs. (I think we’re headed that way with Korean tacos and Indian somosas.) We’ve been seeing the multicultural influence in music, fashion and sports for years now.

When I speak of multiculturalism, I never exclude Whites….they have and will always be a major part of multicultural consumers and societies. But for statistical purposes, please note that US Census Bureau defines multiculturalism as being composed of several different race categories – Black, American Indian, Pacific Islander, Other, and Two or More Races, including Hispanics (which is an ethnicity, not race). With that in mind, Multicultural consumers are the fastest growing segment of US population, over 120 million strong and increasing by 2.3 million per year.   Currently 38% of the population but expected to become the numeric majority by 2044. But interestingly, EthniFacts research showed, based on a series of more dynamic factors such as mixed-race marriages and families, that the tipping point was actually August 2014.

Gone are the days you can look at each ethnic group individually for your brand strategies. Diversity and multiculturalism is so much more blended and dynamic than cultural silos.

Net, net, understanding how purchase patterns and behavior preferences are driven by multicultural values, beliefs and lifestyles is and will be the key to the total market growth in the near future. While each ethnicity and race have their own unique cultural nuances, the key, I believe, is to leverage commonalities in beliefs and values and embrace the inclusion in the new mainstream….understand and embrace the ambicultural essence of this growing population. Google realized this growth opportunity when they reported 66% of digital Hispanics responding to online ads vs. 47% of general market consumers. And, surely, they conducted a study with Ipsos letting everyone know the considerable growth in Spanish language search queries across many industries (retail +210%, telecom +107%, health +80%, skincare +75%, food +70%, autom0tive +65%, beauty +65%). This wasn’t done just to show the role of culture and language online….it was means to celebrate growth for Google in the years to come.

Last month, I wrote a blog about the profit potential of multicultural leadership and company performance.  You would think that leaders will, or should, know that their senior team needs to represent The New World Marketplace…. but unfortunately, that isn’t so.  Click here to read about how diversity yield to higher financial returns.

Now ask yourself, do you really know who your existing and future customers are? Can you imagine what the future leaders of our nation will look like? Are you ready to forsake your past prejudices and orthodoxies for the sake of growth?

The time is NOW….!!!


Love to hear your thoughts on the comment section below….. and if you like this blog, please click share.



Big Generational Shift: Gen Y women possess new world leadership qualities and will break the glass ceiling

In The New World Marketplace, businesses are redefining the new leadership skills and capabilities required for building and sustaining successful and profitable businesses. And Gen Y women have a natural advantage in contributing to this new leadership construct.

All the research I’ve done over the years suggests that Gen Y women are far more career focused, confident of themselves, have clear views on equality of men and women at workplace as well as at home, and have demonstrated that with passion and commitment with their families, versus prior generations. They are able to grow successfully with the progressive organizations and make a significant impact.

But don’t take my word for it. A McKinsey report shows that companies with gender-balanced executive committees have a 56% higher operating profit compared to companies with male-only companies. Another study conducted by Catalyst shows a 26% difference in return on invested capital between companies with 19-44% women board directors as compared with those who had no women on their boards. Hence increasingly businesses are working towards hiring and retaining larger percentage of women in their workforce.

Why are women contributing to higher success? These studies indicate reasons through women’s unique characteristics that businesses can benefit from namely, multitasking, paying attention to detail, conflict resolution, ability to deal with fuzziness, flexibility and creativity required for problem solving. These are some of the key capabilities in demand today as businesses are redefining the new leadership capabilities required for building and sustaining successful businesses.

Those of you reading my blogs regularly know that I stand against stereotyping based on gender. So, I must add that men possessing these qualities are and will be just as successful of leaders as women—yet, it’s hard to dispute that women in general, and Gen Y women in specific, have a natural inherent advantage with these qualities and are not afraid to express them.

This article suggests that another significant factor that makes Gen Y women stand out is the fact that they have embraced digital technology with ease. They are savvy consumers of technology and are certainly more comfortable with gadgets and devices as compared to Gen X women and on par with Gen Y men. Technology has played an important role in liberating Gen Y women from lack of awareness and exposure to the world at large and making them more confident. IT/ITES industry in India has close to 30-35% Gen Y women as part of the workforce competing for prime career opportunities impacting the global corporations with their technology prowess.

And of course, you’ve heard me say for years that Gen Y women view success as being able to shape their own path and future. Sure, they like to get married and have kids, but not at the same rate as previous generations, and certainly not at the expense of their career and social/cultural equality with men.

So, here’s the big question: Will Gen Y women be first to break the glass ceiling? Research predicts YES….!!!

We keep hearing from feminist leaders that despite all the empowerment initiatives out there for women, at the current rate, we will never close the gender gap in business leadership. And I’ve been saying all along that is not true….not at the current rate of women in mid-management levels, rapid rate of retirement for baby boomers, and the business cultural shifts we are experiencing. Now, there is research from global talent solutions company, Hudson, supporting my prediction and proving that women in their twenties and early thirties will be the first generation to break the glass ceiling.

According to the results, which analysed 28,000 psychometirc tests across 20 different countries, Gen Y females scored 18% higher than Gen Y males on organization, 10% higher on people skills and 12% higher on social confidence.  When compared to Baby Boomer males, the difference in skill areas became more acute: Younger females ranked 16% higher on people skills, 22% higher on social confidence and 21% higher on ambition.

As it relates to traditional leadership skills, this research shows baby boomers were 28% more decisive than Gen Y….and Gen X 13% more strategic than Gen Y. I think this is certainly correlated to age and experience on the job.

The need for persuasive, confident and extravert leaders has been replaced by socially confident and organized bosses, who have the people skills to manage the shifting demographics of tomorrow’s workforce.

Simply look around, and you will see that today’s workforce is truly multi-generational. This is a global phenomenon. And with the rapid rate of retirement of baby boomers, the work force is being replaced by a generation with huge psychological differences and gender balance. And once again, the leadership attributes found in Gen Y women display attributes of tomorrow’s leaders.

It’s true that 80% of executive directors on the boards of the FTSE 100 may currently be male, but the findings of this research show that, as business practice continues to evolve and progress, Gen Y women are better placed than ever before to position themselves at the top of businesses over the next decade and possess all of the right skills to help them navigate a technologically data-driven future.

“With their chart-leading altruism and optimism, and their progressive people skills, these women will lead by laying out a vision and welcoming those who want to take part,” the report said.

The New World Marketplace leaders and bosses will look very different than the leaders and the bosses we have today.  They must understand these disruptive cultural and demographic shifts and support the generational evolution.

Are you ready to shift in 2015?


Do you know the underlying needs and values to address women effectively? 10 questions to ask your strategy team

Since the Wave 5 of the Ipsos MediaCT Audience Measurement Group came out earlier this month about Women, Power & Money, I read myriad of articles on the web.  There was one in particular by MediaPost which intrigued me, examining American women’s lives, lifestyles and marketplace choices across three generations—Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers.  I thought the findings identified cultural shifts in women’s priorities and how women are shaping the leadership and financial course of The New World Marketplace.  Of course, as an X-CMO, I thought they were all missing what companies and brands should do differently with their strategic positioning and branding messages with these new findings.  But that is why you are here, reading my blog.

There is no doubt that, despite gender lags in pay and salary negotiations, American women are feeling increasingly empowered, independent, knowledgeable and successful. According to Allianz women money and power research, women made up half of all stock-market investors and controlled 48% of estates worth more than $5 million in 2006-2007. By 2011 women controlled over 50% of the United States’ wealth, and 60% of women with business degrees out-earn their husbands and describe themselves as primary breadwinner.  And according to the latest U.S. Census, regardless of educational attainments, women out-earn their male partners in 22% of households….while this is not a big number worth bragging, it is a far cry from Cinderella archetype.

However, there are radically differing perceptions of financial responsibilities between women and men, says the report.  Women perceive controlling day-to-day spending, with ¾ or more feeling responsible for household purchases, while big-ticket purchases are considered joint responsibility.  Men perceive differently, seeing day-to-day decisions jointly, and big-ticket purchases as largely theirs.  Regardless of this differing perception, it makes sense, in any healthy relationship, to discuss and agree on big-ticket and joint-household purchases…while day-to-day spending may not warrant negotiations.  The same is true in any Corporate structure of financial responsibilities and sign-offs, isn’t it?  This speaks greatly to who should be targeted for what product/service purchases, singularly or jointly, varying by age/generation, culture, income and lifestyle.

Let’s face it.  Since the recession, messages of price value and affordability resonate across genders, cultures and generations.  But throughout the Ipsos study, women show greater tendencies toward price and value (despite income), more inclination to spend on “experiences”, and more openness to new brands….which make them less brand loyal (only 29% express brand loyalty).  Men are more likely to spend on products, less price focused (except for financial services) and show preference for familiar brands.  For women, the security and freedom money brings is 15-20 times more important than the status and respect it affords.

This report also highlights key generational differences:

  • Boomer women perceive more differences between men and women.  However, in my opinion, this is the generation that taught Gen Y about gender equality and “girls can do anything boys can do.”  The study shows that they are more swayed by messages related to “values” and corporate social responsibility, but I believe they are also leading the way with embracing the major cultural shifts for the younger generation…for their sons and daughters.
  • Gen X women are solidly in the lifestage of family formation and its associated trade-offs.  They seem more financially constrained and price-conscious—so price/value messages resonate best with this generation of women, and considered necessity.
  • Gen Y women, aka millenials, feel empowered and equal to men, and are more likely to describe themselves as smart (70% vs. 54% men).  But they also feel more stressed and exhausted in an uphill climb in achieving equal results with men.  Gen Y is also a global generation of women with perspectives and marketplace preferences that transcend gender and cultural borders, and are inspired by shared experiences of technology, innovation, social media, and new creative brands.

I believe it is the Gen Y women that will finally close the gender inequality in corridors of power in the future.  This new generation of women not only feel more ambitious, independent, smart and educated, but they are also less likely than men to be living with their parents—32% versus 40% of men–continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults living at home, according to Pew research.

In my book, I cited the Levi Strauss Millennial study that showed  values such as independence (96%) and being able to shape their own future (87%) trump everything… including becoming a mom (68%) and marriage (only 50%).  This generation of women who grew up with executive mothers see the hard-working, hard-charging work life as “extreme” and costs too great.  This is the most educated cohort of all times with a zest for entrepreneurship, if for nothing else, so they can shape their own future.  So clearly they have the greatest influence on cultural evolution for women.  (Also read, Evolving Archetypes & Rise of Women)

If you think about it, these underlying “values” and “needs” have major implications in building emotional connections through your branding and communication strategies and messages.  More importantly, they help define need-based targeting for brand products and services.  For example, price/value is increasingly becoming a greater and greater “need” for women in providing quality life for families, and brands have greater and greater “need” to differentiate amidst the clutter with lower brand loyalties among women consumers.  Generational life phase clearly bring forth different set of needs, but the aspirational values for women cross over generationally and demographically.

Targeting women, in general, is an economic imperative and strategic necessity for profitable growth.  Targeting women effectively can also serve as a key strategic differentiation for companies.  Women not only control majority of buying decisions, but they also demand change and expect it to be meaningful.

If I was consulting for your company, I’d start with asking your strategy and marketing teams these 10 key questions.  Here they are…go ahead and ask your team….this is good starting point for your strategic discussions around your Value Propositions and branding/communication strategies:

  • Have we re-evaluated our core target to primarily include women ?
  • Have we defined which women, which needs and at what relative price?
  • Does our Value Proposition(s) identify and align with evolving needs and values?
  • How do we differentiate from competition?  Is this clearly being communicated?
  • Do we know which one of our products/services is “her decision” alone, and which ones are joint with her partner?  Are we communicating accordingly?
  • Are we enhancing “her experience”?  If so, how are we communicating this?
  • Does she consider us “affordable” relative to competition?  (Note:  affordable is not the same as cheap)
  • Are we avoiding gender biases and stereotypes in our communication strategies?
  • Have we identified the sweet spot of commonalities cross-generationally?
  • Are we recognizing and acknowledging The New World Modern Woman?

Can you and your team answer these questions effectively?  Are you ready to shift?

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New World Trend & Cultural Shift: Is Dad the New Mom?

We are used to generations of women doing the lioness’ share of child care and housework, even if they have jobs outside the home.  Now we are seeing rise of co-parenting and cultural shifts phasing out “husband and wife” and “father and mother” and replacing them with functional roles of “spouse and parent.”  Work-family balance is no longer a women’s issue—it is now truly a “family” issue as the word intended.

According to the most recent Census report, the number of stay-at-home fathers in the United States has more than doubled in the past 10 years to 176,000.  And according to a report released by the Family and Work Institute last year, men are also experiencing work-family conflict, with 60% saying it was an issue in 2008 (up from 35% in 1977.)  That figure remained relatively flat for women (47% in 2008, 41% in 1977.)  Today’s Gen Y dads, aka millennials, spend 4+ hours per day with kids under 13, versus only 2 hours in 1977.

A similar WSJ article reported from Census that 32% of fathers with working wives routinely care for their children under age 15, up from 26% in 2002. Pew studies report that dads have tripled the amount of time they spend with their children since 1965.  Myriad of research showing increased share of household chores by men…not surprising given the increased presence of women in the workplace, right?  But the world outside of homes and inside marketing/branding meeting rooms haven’t caught up yet.

New World fathers are no longer seen as just financial providers or occasional babysitters.  They are actively engaged in their children’s daily lives and routine care and view fatherhood as a big part of their personal identities and a pride attribute of who they are as individuals.   Factors vary from job market and increasing cost of child care, to rise of women at work, blurring gender roles in the youth culture, and to a degree,  today’s men raised amid the women’s movement and perhaps absent fathers… But, no one can argue that the new world of more involved dads as full time partners in parenting has arrived and it’s here to stay.

What’s even more interesting is what Pew Research calls “breadwinner moms.”   A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.  The share was just 11% in 1960.  One of my continuous sound bites about The New World Marketplace is that 1/3 of Gen Y were into unwed mothers.

These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups:

1) 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and are slightly older, disproportionally white and college educated…grown from 4% in 1960 to 15% in 2011.

2) 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers, who are younger, more likely to be black or Hispanic, less likely to have a college degree, grown from 7% to 25% during the same period.  And they are more likely to be never married than divorced/separated.

No surprises here, education has always had direct correlation to income, and unfortunately to date, correlation to race/ethnicity (but this is changing.)  Interestingly, both groups of breadwinner moms have grown in size in the past as seen by increasing work population of women.  What may be surprising to most is that the total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the primary breadwinner.  And married mothers are increasingly better educated than their husbands.  This is a trend most likely to escalate as we see for every 2 men graduating from college, 3 women are and with better GPAs.

What do all these cultural shifts mean to you and your businesses?

It’s simple.  Think about it.  Should diaper bags and child care materials all have pink bows and flowers on them?  Diaper Dude now sells dozens of styles of bags designed to appeal to men…grey, black, camouflage prints, even bags with baseball team logos.  Are you in the restaurant business?  Have you thought about changing tables in your men’s restrooms?  Are you in technology business?  Think of the AT&T ad showing a dad changing diapers while talking sports on his smartphone with his friend.

The new generations of parents use technology to feel connected and involved with their children.  It’s no longer just about reading the popular books on parenting, but also weekly customized e-mails from BabyCenter, apps like Contraction Timer, iPads at daycares logging activity throughout the day, watching your kids on your smartphones from your office.  Even doggie day cares allow that.  But why aren’t we seeing enough of these new world life scenarios in advertising campaigns for technology brands, specially using dads?  Working moms, hands-on dads and more involved young fathers are the new normal.  Think about that next time you are developing an ad campaign for a household product.

This type of cultural trend has significant impact on traditional paradigms and how marketers should view targeting families for products and services.

Yes… Women control 85% of consumer buying decisions.  Moms will remain a key target market for many business categories.  But what do you think appeals to women and moms?  Certainly not the old gender stereotypes.

Here are 3 simple tips to get you started:

1.  Don’t speak to mom at the exclusion of dad, unless you are targeting single mothers only …he is a trusted parenting partner.

2.  Avoid all gender stereotypes in your branding messages and strategies.  Market to shared values and needs, not gender.  Market to the inside of your customers, not outside.

2.  Don’t project your own traditional cultural paradigm in your branding strategies.  You are not your customers.  And it is The New World Marketplace, afterall.

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Election Results Mirror The New World Marketplace–lessons companies must learn from GOP mistakes

Last night was one of the most important nights in American history.  Not just because it was another Presidential election night, but because an African American President with the most global multicultural background in one of the toughest economic climate won the second term.  Because now we have record number of women Senators elected.  Because among them were the first disabled woman, first openly gay woman and first Asian woman.

I was tweeting during election coverage last night about how women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future.  Not just because this is the subhead title of my book, but because literally, these 3 major macro trends brought President Obama the re-election victory.  Folks, it is The New World Marketplace and there are rapid cultural shifts redefining our mainstream culture.  Let’s peek at a few key demographics:

  • Romney found strong support among seniors, whites and men–no surprises
  • Obama built an 11 ppt advantage among women with 55% support (down from 56 four years ago)
  • Obama won 93% of African Americans (down from 95)
  • Obama won 73% of Hispanics (up from 69)– with 44 ppt advantage over Romney (who secured 27%, down from 31%)
  • Obama won only 39% of whites, down from 43% (this is the lowest white support for Democrats since 1992)

Surprises anyone?  Not for me.  The GOP’s gain of The New World Marketplace is shamefully low.  Although national polling suggests that Romney is trailing Obama by mid-to-high single digits among women—a margin that would rank among the smallest gender gaps in modern presidential history—the GOP has failed to recognize where this nation is going, demographically and culturally.

We all know that the #1 issue in this election was economy, so you might be scratching your head wondering what happened.  The pundits vary in opinions, ranging from effective negative campaigning, 47% video, even  hurricane Sandy.  A few may be mentioning the need to redefine conservatism and reinvention of the Republican party.  But I don’t think anyone is clearly defining that these social and cultural issues are economic issues as well.

Let’s face it—the global economy is changing at a lightening speed.  The revolutions we have been seeing around the world are not just about economic issues, but also cultural shifts specially in leadership.  President Obama’s re-election was clearly not about economic issues, but about social and cultural issues.  But it is time to face that these social and cultural shifts drive consumer motivation and behavior, and therefore, business performance.  It is time to realize that embracing cultural shifts and TNWMP is an economic imperative.

Facing the fiscal cliff, business leaders must learn about the GOP mistakes and embrace the 3 major macro trends in TNWMP.  Businesses must re-invent themselves.  Focus on raising revenue and topline instead of tactical cost cutting with short term benefits and long terms risks.  The more you cut expenses, the more you jeopardize your top line.  Being frustrated doesn’t do it.  Study your macro economics, your industry landscape and your own business models.  With only 34 more working days left this year, you must start re-evaluating your core target and your strategic plans and priorities for 2013.

You can rise above the fiscal cliff, succeed and prosper in the coming years–or stay frustrated and behind.  Your choice.  Change is mandatory.  Make it meaningful.


An Honest Discussion About Gender Gap – in Leadership and Politics

The gender gap continues as the hottest topic as both business leaders and women’s movement continue their focus on underrepresentation of women in high government positions, C-suites and corridors of power.  You don’t have to like politics or follow partisan conventions to know that the gender gap is at the forefront of political campaigns as well. The empowerment initiatives are overtly celebrated, but little to no honest discussions are taking place in regards to the real social, cultural and business barriers women face.

This is the Republican National Convention week.  Judging by the line-up of speakers, it is easy to see how the GOP is going out of their way to show that this is not just the party for the older white men.  Last night, Condoleezza Rice and Susana Martinez gave brilliant speeches.  Paul Ryan referred to his mom as his role model.  Ann Romney saluted moms, specially working moms who have to work a little harder.  All clearly designed to bridge the gender gap for the Romney campaign.  Again, empowering but no mentions of the real issues and barriers, nor any solutions on how to overcome them.

Ann-Marie Slaughter wrote an amazing, honest article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.  I personally wouldn’t use that title, because asking whether women can have it all is a rhetorical question.  We never seem to ask if men can have it all, and the question itself is airbrushing reality for both men and women.  It’s the same ironic label as “working women” when women represent over 50% of the work force.  We don’t seem to ever say “working men.”

Slaughter stepped down from her high power government position so she can spend more time with her sons.  She notes reasons such as, inflexible schedules, unrelenting travel and constant pressure to be in the office, conflicts between school schedules and work schedules, and the insistence that work be done in the office.  This is not unique to Slaughter.  These are the barrier most women face with our current social and business policies, particularly in positions of power.  What is more unique is her financial independence and the ability to choose family over career.  A choice most working mothers, with the same maternal instincts, do not have….they struggle to simply keep what they already have.  This may explain why we have over 50% women representation in low-to-mid-management positions but a very small token in top positions.

Do we want social/business policies and political platforms that keep women at home or a better gender balance in leadership that has proven over and over again to grow the businesses and economy?  This brings us up to the honest dialogue about the gender gap.

When given a choice, women seem to make compromises that men are less likely to make.  Of course, fathers do not love their children any less than mothers do, but men seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their career.   Whether this “choice” is culturally driven or maternal instincts (I think it is both), the reality remains that positions of power provide that choice, while lower positions are occupied by those without one.

Work-life balance is not a women’s issue—it is a social and business issue for all of us. Slaughter offers good solutions for flexible working hours, investment intervals and family-comes-first management culture….shifting the false notion of when, where and how work will be done.  I agree and implemented all these suggestions in my previous C-suite position, while generating great financial results.  I’d add longer maternity leave, better affordable child-care, and women’s health issues to this list—particularly pertinent for those working mothers, without a choice, who are our future leaders.

Many men, just like women, would like this cultural change too, but we need to redefine what success looks like.  Her article sites research proving that organizations with extensive work-family policies have better performance.  So, what do you think is stopping politicians, specially female politicians who fight so hard for women’s votes, from addressing these issues?  We keep hearing that children are our future, but are they paying any respect to our future when it comes to working mothers?

I don’t have any kids, so this is not personal for me.  But I care and believe in policies that support women not to choose between family and career.  I can afford my own insurance, so taking away women’s right to have health insurance pay for birth control is not personal for me.  But I care and believe in women’s reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, and the freedom to “choose.”  Professional success with real commitment to family life–with or without kids–is important to everyone.  Don’t you think it’s more about country’s social and business policies than women’s lack of ambition, as often repeated by the status quo?

Political campaigns are rightfully centered on job creation and keeping women and men employed.  But they are missing a greater point on how to support families when they are employed.  A big opportunity in closing the gender gap in leadership, as well as political votes.  You see, it’s time to have an honest dialogue about the gender gap.


Who Is The Dark Knight? Marketers’ Responsibilities for Social Movement

Last weekend, I saw the new batman movie, The Rise of the Dark Knight.   I always liked the super-hero movies, not just to see the latest production magic, but also because the good guys always win and save the world.  The recent Aurora massacre and tragedy at this movie made me think through a bifocal lens.  Somehow, The Dark Knight Rises survives the darkest night in US movie history.  I can’t say that I believe in limiting the filmmaker’s artistic vision of a super-hero story, because one psychopath picked this movie to commit a mass murder.  I can’t completely fault good marketers who achieved the second highest midnight opening in history and are trying to change upcoming plans in response to current events.  The videogame industry is larger than the movie box office, and movies in general are not as violent as videogames.  This speaks to a greater culture of violence, which is a reflection of our society’s mind in general.

But I asked myself why would Warner Brothers, among others, promote “midnight opening” of a PG-13 movie and allow ignorant parents to bring their very small children to a midnight showing of such an adult movie?  I questioned why we have more restrictions, screening and licenses for owning a car than owning a gun?  I question why companies, such as Apple, can choose whether to sell products to Iranian-American citizens due to economic sanction, but gun control interferes with American freedom.

2012 truly marks the year where marketers can expect which programs will help establish new branding norms, while others protect the status quo, and at the very best, serve as lessons learned.

In a revolutionary world where consumers are increasingly inspired to stand up against Corporations with brand backlashes, aligning with popular entertainment or simply getting behind a charity sponsorship is not enough.  The New World Marketplace demands an honest, authentic blend of social movement with social responsibility to lead the social and cultural change.

Consumers are hungry for stories and issues that have real meaning and substance.  Brand building is like story telling, and marketers have resources and clout to explore and tell the stories that consumers hold dear and close to their hearts, and bring new ideas to life.   Consumers are well aware of companies’ fiduciary responsibilities, but they will purchase from those who connect with higher purpose and shared values–they know the difference between an honest cause and just another way to make profit.

Can we look at unfortunate events and learn something different?  Yes.  But first, brands must evaluate their Value Proposition for their cause and movement.  If it doesn’t create something better and more meaningful for the target market, there won’t be any motivation and engagement.  Maybe movie marketers can go beyond editing trailers and re-evaluate their ratings, or at least minimum age for PG-13 attendance—demonstrate that they truly care about what’s right.  Maybe Apple, among other companies, can stop racial profiling regardless of government initiatives.

Any good value proposition will have trade-offs as well as benefits.  We are living in a bitterly divided political nation these days, and as easy as it is to judge the political candidates on their strategic trade-offs, it is nearly impossible to create a social movement and brand differentiation without them.  The Dark Knight is not just a fantasy.  We will always have dark and light forces all around us in life.  Decide which side of this movement you want to walk on.


Home Sweet Home – recent Gen Y trends

Generation Y has come of age with the Harry Potter franchise.  While on the surface, it would appear to be just an epic fantasy, to the generation, it means so much more.  The themes of standing up for your beliefs, distrust of those in power, equality for all races and genders, as well as overcoming all obstacles through the actions of a few people, are indicative of Gen Y’s mindset.  Harry Potter himself is a symbol of this generation, embodying all the characteristics they aspire to.

In my book, The New World Marketplace, I get in to details of the new values and ideological power of the youth culture.  With a population estimated at 72 million, making up roughly 26% of the population, Gen Y is the most educated, diverse, tech savvy, optimistic yet disappointed, and soon to be the largest American generation–more than 3 times the size of Gen X.  They have greater influence on cultural evolution than previous generation, with unique needs to connect and relate on an individual basis versus trying to fit into a “social norm.”

I explained the concept of “delaying adulthood” in both my book, and also my blog, Do You Really Know 20-somethings?  Different studies have shown a range of 5-7 years of delay in reaching the five milestones to adulthood–completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child.  I just read the most recent data by Pew Research survey that showed 24% of adults 18-34 moved back in with their parents in recent years because of economic conditions.  I wondered why my previous research showed 40%–then, I realized that the vast majority of them never moved out in the first place. So here’s the latest numbers of young adults living with parents, according to the March 2012 survey by Pew Research:

  • 39% of all young adults
  • 53% of 18-24
  • 41% of 25-29
  • 17% of 30-34

This poses a big marketing twist for companies trying to reach this generation.  How should branding messages to these multi-generational households look and feel like?  The challenge is that these young adults who moved back in with parents because of economic necessities don’t all have a favorable outlook, although most do.  But majority of them contribute to household expenses in one form or another.  This changes the picture of parental financial support altogether.

What’s even more interesting is that this generation was raised in an era where the divorce rate was high, brief marriages were the norm and numerous partners was acceptable.  While this has been raised as a major issue for many social experts as it relates to commitment, it has also resulted in this generation being very culturally liberal.

Ask yourself if your company is making certain assumptions and stereotypes when it comes to branding messages toward Gen Y.  Do those messages contain personal growth, relationships, causes, beliefs, values and a sense of purpose?  Gen Y is transforming business and branding norms.  Connections, contacts, friends or fans, word of mouth, yelp reviews, and Facebook likes may end up mattering more than just a great Super Bowl Ad.



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