Farnaz on Cultures and Archetypes, Featured, Multicultural Branding and Marketing, New World Trends, New Realities
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….!!!
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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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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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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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you heard this, or seen this on t-shirts and bumper stickers? It’s true. I’m turning 50 this summer, so I’m inspired to write a blog about what this really means. People flatter me all the time by saying I don’t look my age. But I’m not the only one. Turning 50, for many, have made it possible to live an active, healthy, productive lifestyle. This is a game changer for many businesses that have been stuck with their 18-49 target planning. And here’s why….
In my 2012 trend predictions blog, I noted that with baby boomers staying younger and more fit, expect to see a higher % of ad dollars for them. There is more. Boomers 50+ have unique life stage milestones that provide them with the means to splurge more on bigger-ticket items—changing jobs, starting a new business (yes, thank you very much), children going off to college or getting married, adopting a healthier lifestyle, changing homes, developing new hobbies, discovering new habits, taking more trips, joining the digital/mobile way of living, enrolling in weight loss programs, becoming care givers to parents or even a spouse. This is more than just going through a mid-life crisis of ditching the spouse and buying a motorcycle/sports car, or jumping out of an airplane.
Maybe it’s just about forgetting to get and feel older. For women, in particular, it’s about saying good bye to invisibility and getting traded in for the younger. I think 35 to 60 is where it all comes together for women with elegant maturity, spiritual wisdom and a balanced outlook on inner and outer beauty.
This mid-life transition, once a very exhausting and confusing life stage, is now a midpoint to another adult life that can easily last 30 to 40 years more, thanks to medical science coupled with holistic herbal approach, greener/healthier forms and diet, active lifestyle, and living a more meaningful life in pursue of happiness beyond a paycheck and financial planning. These are rapid cultural shifts with a completely different set of needs and values. Our pop culture, from actresses and TV personalities to business leaders and writers, is already redefining 50.
Companies who understand the dynamics of this new milestone and negate existing stereotypes will be able to intelligently develop products and services that allow this new 50+ target maximize the upside of their lives, and will win in the New World Marketplace.
So to all friends: let’s celebrate the new 50 and start redefining our culture.
PS—My pre-release party and book signing event is scheduled for Wednesday, April 18th. Click here for the details.
We celebrated the International Woman’s Day last week. Lately, from revolutions in the Middle East, to polarizing political debates in the US, and online campaigns all over the globe, women are at the forefront of social and cultural change. Yes, women are blooming, and this is a good time to share a bit about our emerging leaders–the Gen Y women.
The Gen Y (aka milllenial) women have a different life path than you can imagine. Levi’s survey in 2010 reported:
- 96% list “being independent” as their single most important life goal
- 87% define success as being able to shape their own future
- Only 68% say becoming a mom is on their priority list
- 50% say getting married is a priority
- Just 43% ascribe much importance to getting rich
Put differently, half of young women do not see marriage as a priority and one third say the same about becoming a mom. And it is not so much about getting rich as it is about shaping own future.
We all know Gen Y is a wired, digitally connected generation. But did you know women are becoming more active users of digital media than men? According to Neilsen’s digital consumer report, women are:
- 51% of TV viewers
- 53% of online video users
- 54% of social network/blog visitors
- 50% of smartphone owners
These differences are not statistically significant, really. Plus, I neither believe it should be a man’s world nor a woman’s nation. But I am hoping that this type of data sharing will help negate stereotypes and dichotomies that are still out there in media and advertising–even politics. Did you know women control/influence 85% of all major buying decisions? We couldn’t tell by our media coverage and ad campaigns. I’ve always believed the media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in this country. And I believe the Gen Y women will change all that…!!!
I’m starting to feel like Farnaz Global is also blooming like this beautiful Spring. Please take a moment to re-visit my web site and check out the new additions. I’ve also updated my Twitter and Facebook Fan Page. Please follow me….I’ll follow you back…!!!
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Spring Equinox, coming up next Tuesday, 3/20. This is also the Persian New Year. So if you see or talk to any Iranian next week, say “Eidet Mobarak” which means happy norooz (new day/year). This is a new day, new year, and The New World Marketplace.
Thank you so much for all your support. I truly appreciate all the warm notes from everyone last week when I introduced my book. But there was a lot of confusion about the release date. To clarify, the official release date is June 5th. That’s how long it takes for the publisher, distribuor, wholesaler and internet sites to all get on the same page. However, my book is available on my web site, as well as my publisher’s site. And you can receive your copy 7-10 days after you place your oder.