Farnaz on Featured, New World Trends, New Realities

New World Trend with Gen Y: new parents, socially conscious & connected, practical, culturally liberal

The Millennial generation, aka Gen Y, is forging a distinctive path into adulthood and parenting, both culturally and economically.  While this multicultural generation is very slow in getting married—only 26% versus 36% of Gen X and 48% of boomers (Pew)—once Millennials start a family, their social and consumption behaviors change.

Let’s start with a backdrop on recent technological trends and consumptions… We know that Gen Y is highly connected and highly informed.  The number of video-playing devices almost doubled from 2010 to 2012 to nearly four devices per person, according to Magna Global.  According to a recent SDL study, millennials check their smartphones 45 times a day, and 5 out of 6 connect with companies on social media networks.  This is the generation that orchestrates their own brand experiences across multiple channels and devises—often as many as four devises per day.  E-mail is one of their last choices of preference but they share content with peers and other trusted brands through social media.  Social networks and customizable news feeds dominate content discovery, with top 3 channels being facebook, twitter and youtube.  Importantly, growing a customer relationship isn’t always about selling a product…60% of consumers like it when they receive a touchpoint that’s not related to selling a product.  Counter intuitive?  Not really.

Think of this generation as highly connected and highly informed.  Need for constant and instant communication…yet connection and relationship on an individual basis versus trying to fit into a “social norm.”  It is about personal growth, relationships and causes—values most important to them.

How they choose to interact with brands is making traditional marketing extinct.  Brands must break through millennial’s personal spam folder and provide content that finds them across many channels.  In order to win their trust, brands must be Authentic and transparent.  And their content must be consistent across all consumed channels and willing to trade campaigns for customer experience and advocacy.

There is an important cultural transformation taking place in the youth minds of the your current and future customers.  They are transforming business and branding norms. I always say….Embrace diversity, freedom, equality, adventure, inspiration and social consciousness in your branding messages, and this market will relate.  More importantly, it is all about staying color blind and gender neutral.  Diversity, multiculturalism and acceptance of all people goes way beyond race and gender.  A survey from the Public Religion Research Institute showed at least a 20-point gap between Millennials and older generations when it came to gay & lesbian rights.  Even Chick-Fil-A CEO apologises for gay marriage statements to stay relevant in The New World Marketplace.

Although unattached to organized religion, politics and marriage, Millennials are entering parenthood (10.8 million) with some distinctive cultural changes.  Last year, I wrote a blog Dad is the new Mom.  Since then, there have been numerous articles about higher level of involvement about Millennial dads being far more involved with raising their kids and playing an active role with all HH duties.  They view head of HH as a partnership.  What is also noteworthy is a recent study by Barkley showing that Millennials, now the new parents, prefer modesty and practicality over status.  While this may sound like a normal transition into a family life, Gen Y favors brands such as Walmert, Costco, Target, Kohl’s and K-mart far more than previous generations….they even prefer these brands over the web darling Amazon.  Makes sense, given that this is the generation that entered adulthood during dot-com bust, 9/11, and big financial and housing crises.  Many were just entering the work force when 2008 recession hit, facing high unemployment and college tuition debt.  Same study showed that 50% of Gen Y parents buy products that support causes and charities.  Branding implications?  All the tech trends should be positioned as practicality, not flashy status symbol.  Reconsider marketing strategies to reach this generation.

Although I’m sharing latest Gen Y trends, these trends also apply to Gen X and baby boomers for Gen Y has the greatest influence on previous generations and cultural evolution as a whole.  And even more so, older generations are redefining ageism.  This year, last of the boomers will turn 50.  And next year, in 2015, the first of Generation X starts turning 50 (with the youngest turning 35).  Like the younger Boomers who came before them, they will also bring a youthful attitude to the life after 50 with higher emphasis on self-importance and quality of life.  Yes, we refuse to define ourselves by age and cultural limitations our societies put on aging.  (For more on this, also ready my blog, 50 is the new 30)

Understanding Gen Y and knowing how to reach them will not only ensure your long term success, but also enable your brand to leverage on this cultural evolution impacting our societies cross-gnerationally.  Are you ready to shift?  Are you willing and ready to become your own future rival?

 

Love to hear your thoughts…share your comments below….

 

Share

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?

If you like this blog, please click below and share…..and I love to read your thoughts and comments too…!!!

 

Share

Negating Stereotypes: When you think “Poor” do you think Black and/or Hispanic?

Who do you think of when you hear the word “poor”?  There are myriad of reports on economic doom and gloom and rise in poverty in the US, but none that hit the nail on the head with what I call, negating the stereotypes…..

A recent Huffington Post article noted that 4 out of 5 adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives–a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American Dream—driven by an increasingly globalized US economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Many people think this poverty is skewed toward racial minorities—primarily Blacks and Hispanics—but this is no longer true.  The race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially.  While Blacks and Hispanics are still three times more likely to live in poverty, census data reports that by sheer numbers, the predominant face of the poor is white…more than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, or 41% of the population, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

To further negate stereotypes, the same article shows numerous studies that reflect:

  • While marriage rates are in decline for all races, for the first time since 1975, the number of white-single-mother households living in the poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade—spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock birth among whites—1.5 million in 2011 comparable to blacks.  Hispanic-single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.
  • The share of white children living in high-poverty neighborhoods is increasing to 17%, up from 13% in 2000, even though the overall population of white children in the US has been declining.  The same share of black children dropped to 37% (from 43%) while Latino children went from 38 to 39%.

These shifts have clear indicators as it relates to values, causes and beliefs.  These studies show that nonwhite minorities have more optimism about the future while whites (particularly working-class/no-college) have never been so pessimistic.  Whether these feelings, beliefs and values are ignited by Obama’s election and re-election, and/or economic hardships, they are reflected in hard facts.  And no one can negate the social and cultural changes that are rapidly challenging the status quo.

This puts a different spin for marketers for price/value brands, doesn’t it?  And not just in advertising and marketing campaigns, but also in growth strategies with distribution.  A different spin for politicians, election campaigns and how we evaluate social policies.  A different spin in how we feel about the widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor.  A different spin in how we see “us” versus “them”.

Two years ago, I wrote about Middle Class shrinking and the vanishing American Dream.  And last year, I wrote a blog “The Emerging Middle Class Culture in America” challenging companies and marketers to avoid broad-stroke depictions of non-white consumers.  I defined multiculturalism by a mosaic of different cultures in one platform and a society that is ethnically and culturally diverse.  I always reiterate that does not mean excluding whites or implying ethnic minorities only.

As multicultural societies become the new mainstream and new normal, and non-whites approach a numerical majority in the US, expect to see wealth, income and class to become far greater indicators and predictors of behaviors, consumption and lifestyles than race and ethnicity ever were.  I think we are in that marketplace now.

That’s not to say that race and ethnicity don’t have any cultural impact on lifestyles.  But unless you are selling products and services that cater to a very specific cultural nuance, know that your customers’ needs are driven primarily by their socioeconomic status, not their skin color.  So, start marketing to the inside of your customers, not outside.  This is not easy to do since most analysis, measurements and ratings are still broken down by age, gender, race, etc.  And that’s OK, since the same type analysis is helping us negate our stereotypes.  But, as marketers, we must learn to understand and measure customers’ needs that transcend many demographic lines.  The first step is to start negating stereotypes and challenging orthodoxies, and finding commonalities.  This not only helps your strategic positioning and marketing campaigns, but also help us remember that we’re all in this together.

If you like this blog, please share…and I love to read your comments too….!!!

 

Share

Do women hold themselves back from corridors of power? My take on “Lean In”

It took several weeks of unusual summer rain in Atlanta and couple of days without phone, internet and cable, before I finished reading some of the books laying on my night stand for months.  One of them, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg.

I was among many women who bought this book due to all the media hype, but didn’t read it immediately.  Mainly because there were so many articles, blogs, reviews, videos and TV interviews, that I felt I had already read the book.  But not true.  The promotional sound bites and all the controversy don’t do this book justice.  I must admit, reading her ‘acknowledgements’ section, which was as big as any chapter in the book, made me think that if I only had that much help with my book (or any help), I would end up with the same media coverage.  Envy aside, kudos to her and her team….I absolutely love her message and her courage to start this important dialogue, and believe her book is a must read for all women and men.  And here’s why…..

Sheryl Sandberg is the first woman who finally spoke up about internal barriers as much as external barriers that hold women back from reaching leadership positions.  It’s true.  Many women (not all) hold themselves back by lacking self-confidence through gender stereotype messages they hear and tend to believe throughout life….  by not raising their hands or sitting at the table…. and by pulling back when they should be leaning in (leaving before leaving).  Her TEDtalk speech with this main message reached over 550 million views.  In the book she goes further into complex challenges women face and adjustments/differences we can make ourselves: increasing self-confidence and closing the ambition gap, getting our partners to do more at home (Make Your Partner a Real Partner)… not holding ourselves to unattainable standards (The Myth of Doing It All)…. and of course my favorite–avoiding gender stereotypes (OK, she doesn’t have a chapter on this, but she references it allot and I’m personally all about this.)

All that sounds great, right?  I nodded my head in agreement most of the entire time and even laughed out loud quite a few times (it’s a witty, funny book).  So why all the controversy, and why are so many women so pissed off?  Sheryl may think it’s because success and likability are negatively correlated for women, by both women and men.  She has a chapter on this with great research no one can negate.  But I think there is more….I believe there are two main reasons at the core of the controversy and mixed responses by women about this important message:

First, many women don’t face these internal barriers, depending on cultural and family backgrounds, but face complex external barriers that hold them back.  It’s important to read this book without reaching any conclusions, because her argument does not negate external barriers, but pushes everyone to get rid of internal barriers critical to gaining power and success.  She poses this as the ultimate chicken-and-egg situation.  The chicken: women will tear down the external institutional barriers once we achieve leadership roles and make sure we level the playing field (one can shoot holes all over this with research too.)  The egg: we need to eliminate the external institutional barrier to get women into those roles in the first place.  Both valid, she encourages women that instead of debating over which comes first, to focus on the chicken and our own internal barriers.  It’s a brave move and rarely discussed.  Problem is, without reading the book, some think she is attacking the victim.  That is not true at all, but perhaps her marketing team have not done a good job balancing her promotional/media messages to include both, as she has done in her book, without alienating those women who truly know how to “lean in” but face institutional barriers.  Even those women can really benefit from her message of unconscious gender bias and stereotypes that women face ourselves, and against one another.

Second, and more importantly, I think people in general (men and women) have a harder time relating to those who have not been through similar experiences and hardships.  Overcoming severe adversities is a common thread among greatest leaders….one that entices people to listen, relate, learn and follow.  And Sheryl has not been through much other than difficult child labor and long work hours.  No one should ever hold that against her and the important message she is sending out to The New World Marketplace.  But this lack of common wo/man relatability goes far beyond a correlation analysis of success and likability.  We all love–regardless of gender, age and culture–hero/eins who rise from ashes like the Phoenix, overcoming adversities and helping others.

With all that said, I give “Lean In” a big thumbs up.  But I’d only re-write Time’s headline, “don’t hate her because she is successful,” and say, read this book regardless of how relatively easy success came to the writer, because the message is excellent, prevalent and important for all women and men cross-generationally.  Bravo Sheryl.

If you like this blog, please share…and I love to read your comments too….!!!

 

Share

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.

If you liked this blog, please click “share” … and I love to hear your comments too!

Share

Cultural Change Expert explains why women don’t need to man up to be successful leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (by Tate Publishing)

ATLANTA, GA. – It’s The New World Marketplace afterall, and women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future.  A rapid cultural shift has occurred over the last decade, but author and thought leader Farnaz Wallace believes it’s not being addressed by businesses and leaders.

“With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power,” she said.  ”Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies to eliminate obstacles that force talented women to choose between family and career, and others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up–but I believe there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.”

Wallace breaks these down into four essentials for women to succeed in The New World Marketplace Leadership: Inner-authenticity, Being the woman leader other women want to work for, Re-defining Power, and Avoiding all gender stereotypes.

“I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love always follows,” she said.  ”But how can women gain trust and respect if they’re trying to be someone they are not?”  Wallace believes it’s far more important to find the richest, fullest expression of one’s authentic self, and spend majority of time in strength and passion and generate results, versus trying to fit into a perceived cultural norm.

“Research shows that women have a tougher time working for women,” she said.  ”To be a successful leader, people of all ages, cultures, race and gender must want to follow and work for you, specially other women.  Men and women largely agree on life goals. It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.”

“That’s even more of an important toptic than gender inequality because the old business culture of command and control doesn’t work for men or women,” she said.  Wallace believes it is time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others, and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership–a blend of hard and soft powers, she calls it “smart” powers.  ”Women don’t need to man up to be successful, they need to possess smart powers,” she said.

“Women are different than other women, just as men are different than other men, why the continuous focus on gender stereotyping?” she asks.  ”I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.”

Wallace is a thought leader, speaker, and strategic consultant focused on helping companies capitalize on cultural macro trends in today’s fast-changing marketplace. She is the published author of the book, The New World Marketplace, and presently resides in Atlanta.

Share

4 Tips on How to Become A New World Woman Leader (Video/Blog)

With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power.  Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies as it relates to the flexible work schedule and eliminating obstacles that force brilliant women to choose between family and career.  Others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up.  While I think there is truth in both, I think there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.

In my keynote speech at Possible Woman conference two weeks ago, I addressed what it takes to be a successful woman leader in The New World Marketplace.  Here’s a 5-min video highlight of this keynote address followed by my written summary of the 4 tips I shared:

 

 

1.  Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect

I wasn’t just a woman working hard to advance my career in Corporate America, I was an Iranian-American woman….so you can just imagine the brutal stereotypes I had to face and overcome.  I wasn’t just an Iranian-American woman, but I had multi-colored hair and tattoos.   A far cry from a traditional image of a successful businessman.  But at the end of the day, results speak for themselves.  Under my CMO leadership, we drove 5 years of consecutive same-store-sales growth.   So, I built trust and respect instead of focusing on changing myself to fit into a cultural norm…and I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love follows.  Trust and respect are two most important shared values in relationships in The New World Marketplace.  But how can you possibly gain trust and respect of your collegues, employees, bosses, even your customers, when you’re trying to be someone you’re not?

It’s far more important to always find the richest, fullest expression of your authentic self, and spend majority of your time in your strengths and passion, versus trying to fit into an exclusive image of the professional businessman, which is no longer the success archetype in The New World Marketplace. Because being good at what you do has nothing to do with how others see you…but it has everything to do with how you see and feel about yourself.

I not only believe the inner authenticity translates in to your own power and success, but I believe authenticity in branding strategies also translates in to your company success.   Strategy is not about being the best, it’s about being different and unique.  Your own branding strategy has to be the same….about your own uniqueness and differentiation.  Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect and let the results speak for themselves.

2.  Be the woman leader other women want to work for

Beyond my non-traditional image and my business and financial performance, it was my style of leadership that differentiated me.  I was determined to become the woman leader other women wanted to work for.  As an emerging leader, I was always promoted every 2-3 years by working hard and driving results.  And I’ve had just as many female bosses as I’ve had male bosses….yet the women bosses weren’t the ones promoting me.  I always questioned whether it was a scarcity mentality that there is just not enough abundance to go around for all of us…or a flaw in leadership training for women.  I decided then that I wanted to be a woman leader other women wanted to work for and that I’d provide an environment for women to thrive and succeed.

As I was doing research for my book, I came across this data from Time Magazine:   More than 2/3 of women still think men resent powerful women…yet 45% of women say female bosses are harder to work for, versus only 29% of men.  This is a major issue not often addressed.

Believe it or not, men and women of all races and ages largely agree on life goals.  It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.  That’s even more of an important topic than gender inequality, because one of my biggest fear is reaching gender equality but maintaining the same business culture of domination, command and control.  Because that model is not working, and simply switching gender without redefining power and success will not address the core issue.

3.  Redefine Power as a blend of hard and soft powers – SMART powers

I believe it’s time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership.  In fact, the need to control and dominate, in reality, is a feeling of powerlessness.  That means leaving behind the hard, conquest and domination-oriented values.  I don’t believe you need to man up to be a successful woman leader.

Feminine values or soft powers are loaded with polarizing reactions, but they are meant to refer to values associated with creation, life-generating, nurturing powers, caring, relating…human and relationship values that have become a business imperative and taught in almost all leadership materials…versus taking, conquest and domination.

It’s time to use feminine and masculine powers as qualities and values in all women and men, instead of gender stereotyping.  Let’s face it…there are many women who lead with masculine hard powers, and there are many men who lead with relating, nurturing, caring & soft powers.  It has nothing to do with gender.

I believe we all need both…. and it’s a matter of knowing when to use which… Blend of hard powers and soft powers….let’s just call it “SMART POWERS.”  It’s time for women leaders to re-evaluate how they view power to succeed and use SMART powers.

4.  Stop gender stereotyping, avoid focus on gender differences

Men are from Mars.  Women are from Venus.  Ask yourself why do we persist to focus on gender differences.  Men are logical.  Women are emotional.  If that’s true, and marketing is designed to get an “emotional” response and attachment from customers, why do we bother market to men at all?  Men are different from other men.  Women are different than other women.  Why the continuous focus on how men and women are different?  Haven’t we confused our next generations of leaders enough?

I, for one, have defied all gender stereotypes, but that doesn’t mean I forgot how to be a caring, nurturing woman as a leader.  I used my masculine powers to gain competitive market share and drive financial results, but I led my team with feminine powers of caring, relating and partnership.

The focus on gender inequality must be different than our continuous focus on gender differences.  In fact, I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.

 

In The New World Marketplace, it’s neither the man’s world nor a woman’s nation.  It’s a dynamic, cooperative shared reality that is under constant evaluation.  And the template of success and happiness is very unique and personal to each individual, and is gender neutral and color blind.  If you lead with authenticity, purpose and passion, power and success will follow.

 

If you liked this blog, please “share”…. and I love to read your comments, too.

 

 

Share

Developing The Next Generation Of Leaders – 3 missing components

Spring is almost here, my favorite season.  Nature starts to rejuvenate and we all start thinking Spring cleaning inside the house, and planting new colors outside.  I wonder why we don’t take this mindset to our workplace.

Recently I was asked to moderate a panel in Atlanta titled “Developing the Next Generation of Leaders” which is a great fit with my expertise and vision.  As I started to think how I would frame this important dialogue, I realized that it starts with a Spring Cleaning mindset of our workplace and business policies.

There are overwhelming amount of materials available on this topic, essentially focusing on the same issues….do we have a vision, do we have a winning strategy, do we have the right team for the right positions, are we getting the best results from our team, are we maximizing their output and leveraging team strengths, are we achieving business & financial objectives, do we have the right training/development initiatives, etc.  But I believe there are 3 missing components—or even if they exist, they are lost in the tactical piles instead of being starting points.

1.  Create a modern day workplace – think work/life balance and flexibility in business policies

How long has it been since any of you worked a traditional eight-hour workday from 9-5?  This notion is rapidly fading from the traditional business world.  It is not just a gender issue, Gen Y issue, or a small HR initiative—it is now a business imperative.

I wrote a blog last year, An Honest Discussion About Gender Gap in Leadership, which outlined inflexible schedules, unrelenting travel, insistence that work be done in the office, lack of descent maternity leave and better affordable child-care as key issues to resolve in our business/social policies to achieve healthier gender parity and ultimately better financial results.   I remember my own struggles with my conventional C-suite years ago, fighting to keep the jobs for women who needed flex hours to conduct great work.  Protecting traditional orthodoxies, command and control, lack of trust, fear of reduced productivity without structure.  This is ironic, given that the modern day workplace allowing flexibility and work-life balance breeds trust, productivity, motivation and engagement.  Besides technology keeps people connected to their jobs way after they punch out of offices.

Now a recent Vodafone U.K. survey indicates that 90% of employers offer flex hours.  Perhaps because this is no longer a gender issue, it is also a generational issue.  According to a Time Magazine article, more than one third of Gen Y workers would take a pay cut if it meant more flexibility on the job, and more than half prioritize social media freedom over a higher salary.  And guess what?  By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be Gen Y.  As early as next year, Gen Y will comprise 60% of the employees at many companies like Ernst & Young, Aflac and MITRE.

Businesses must re-evaluate the false notion of how, where and when the work gets done and re-define their policies in order to succeed and able to recruit and retain great diverse talent that can drive higher, profitable, sustainable growth.

2.  Add Purpose and Values to strategic frameworks and business models – think emotional

Customers don’t buy what and how you sell products, but why you do it.   A purpose-driven company outperforms rivals by establishing a difference it can sustain.  Similarly, people want to join companies with a purpose and shared values aligned with theirs.  Who is not passionate about making the world a better place?  Certainly not our next generations of leaders.

An MTV survey revealed that 80% of Gen Y think it’s important to do “something meaningful with my life,” and 66% said it was important to help “those who are less fortunate in your community.”  For them, there’s no question of whether to recycle or mind one’s carbon footprint…they don’t think about it, they just do it…it’s ingrained.

What is the “purpose” of your company beyond increasing shareholder value?  What are the “shared values” you adhere to, believe in, and execute at every level of your organization?  Trust, respect, honesty and integrity are shared values in The New World Marketplace.  There are many more.  Are you aligned with and breathing daily any of these values in your business practices?  I’m not referring to the words you put on your web site, packaging or promotional videos…or, simply selecting a narrow ‘cause marketing’ initiative that you may allocate a small budget for.  This is a brand promise to your customers and employees and must be a big part of your strategic frameworks and business models.

Success in The New World Marketplace demands that all businesses not only learn to channel the rapid cultural and social shifts, but also align themselves with the shifting values of our next generation of leaders.

3.  Place more emphasis on people than numbers – think engagement, caring, relating and profit sharing

Numbers are manifested through people’s action.  A simple phenomenon often forgotten by businesses.  All great leaders want to make a difference.  Why not offer that early on to emerging leaders by engaging them in decision makings and empowering them to make a difference versus assigning generic, repetitive tasks a machine can do.  I often refer to Gen Y as Harry Potter Generation….standing up for your beliefs and rights, distrust of those in power, fighting injustice, equality for all races and genders, and feeling responsible to make a difference in the world.  These are the values of our next generation of leaders.

This goes beyond fancy charts on development/training materials.  It means being and acting personal, responding to needs, concerns and aspirations, which drive engagement and performance.  The business leaders who care the most have the greatest impact on their people, who will, in turn, feel valued and become successful leaders in the future.

This does not, and should not, minimize financial responsibilities.  Winning in The New World Marketplace is ultimately about performance and financial results.  But if you’re spending more time on products, processes and IT than caring, relating, partnership and profit sharing, you’re not investing in the long-term success of your people, companies and financial outcomes.  Think profit sharing to drive loyalty, engagement, and performance.  Relate emotionally on how your business decisions will impact people’s lives–your employees as well as your customers–and ultimately your profits long term.  Do the work that inspires your people.  And remember, only way to do great work is to love what you do.

If you liked this blog, please “share”…. and I love to read your comments, too.

 

Share

Farnaz Wallace Keynote Address at Diversity Woman Leadership Conference

Farnaz Wallace delivers a thought-provoking, motivational keynote about The New World Marketplace at 2012 Diversity Woman Business Leadership Conference in Washington DC on December 17, 2012.  Here’s a short 3-minute clip of this speech:

Share

3 key issues to address in 2013 (yea, just 3)

Happy new year.  I really don’t know of anyone who is sad 2012 is over—are you?  We’ve had another tough economic year filled with so many predictions and prophecies that didn’t come true–and some did.  As we start 2013, pundits with crystal balls start forecasting trends everywhere…top 10, bottom10 …hey, I did my own last year.  But this year, I realized that I’ve been among many reading and analyzing trends all year.  What am I expecting or forecasting to happen as the clock turned at midnight on January 1st?  Are we confusing trends and forecasts with new year’s resolutions, or simply creating a marketing need?

Unlike new year’s resolutions, most meaningful trends are long lasting, creating long term evolutionary changes.  So this year, instead of adding to your long list of bookmarks of what’s hot and new, I’d like to give you 3 simple key issues that have been of critical importance these last few years that were ignored by most….and still remain critically important in 2013 and beyond.  That isn’t to say that you should ignore trends and forecasts, but instead of staying glued to your rear-view mirror, you need to start using your peripheral vision and address these 3 key issues for your company in a meaningful way in 2013. What better way to predict the future than to create it yourself.  Ignore and blow off at your own peril, but at least take a quick look:

Economy trumps other emotional needs:  The world has been in an epic economic crisis since 2008.  Economic forecasts may vary slightly from year to year, but a full recovery is still far away.  More importantly, economy continues to be top of mind issue for people in general—not just business people concerned about taxes and fiscal cliff, but also consumers who want to know what your company can do to pitch in and make their lives a little easier.  Unless you represent a luxury brand, you should get moving.  You don’t have to be the giant Starbucks focusing on driving job creation through small business loans and housing financing…I don’t know how that program is working for them, but it’s highly visible and talked about.  But at the very least, your marketing campaign should tie-in and relate to your consumers’ needs and expectations during tough economic times.  Economy and price are no longer rational decisions, they are very much an emotional need and decision that needs to be addressed in a meaningful way in your marketing campaign.  Simply dropping your price is as just as dangerous as passing all your operational cost increases to your customers.  Price relative to your competition is a strategic decision that should not only accompany a re-evaluation of your delivery systems, but also a marketing communication strategy that tells the story of your brand relationship to your customers.

Step into The New World Marketplace:  If you’ve ignored my top 3 major macro trends so far, you no longer can afford to do so in 2013.  Women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future.  If you were following our recent Presidential election closely, you’d know that despite our tough economy, these 3 macro trends led to President Obama’s re-election.  Women are 50% of work force, 51% of population and control 85% of consumer buying decisions…Gen Y is 3x the size of Gen X, soon to be the majority of work force and your consumers, and the most diverse generation in human history….for every 2 men graduating from college, 3 women are and with better GPAs….1 out of 4 kids being born in the US has a parent who is an immigrant…multicultural population accounted for ALL of the US under-18 population growth in the last decade and in just 12 years (2025) more than half of US families will be multicultural (excerpts from The New World Marketplace).  If you haven’t re-evaluated your target yet, do so now. Are you still treating women, youth and multiculturalism as a marketing niche or segmentation add-on?

Differentiate authentically: Growth of digital communications and technologies have changed the marketing game for some time now.  We are continuing along that path, and there will always be something new every hour–and that’s not a new trend in 2013.  Your consumers have so many choices, so many alternatives, and so much control, and they see the world so noisy that they can’t hear or see you.  They are in hot pursuit of truth and authenticity and willing to engage with you if you are.  Differentiation is always a strategic gate keeper for success, but it is no longer enough just to differentiate—because people and companies spin, exaggerate and lie.  So the consumers may not believe you when you say you are better or different.  Proof is only useful if it leads to belief.  You have to gain their trust, attention and engagement by holding true to core values and principles through authenticity and transparency.  Only then, you can change your customers’ beliefs and consumption behaviors…and are ready to chew gum and do social media at the same time.

I know…I know…. I gave you a list too, because I’m a marketer at heart and I want you to open and read my blogs (see I’m being authentic and transparent).  But it’s only 3 things that you should remember….3 key issues that should’ve been addressed by now, and are critical for your success in 2013.

Share

Next Page »