Farnaz on Featured, Media Coverage, Multicultural Branding and Marketing, New World Trends, New Realities, Women, Emerging Power
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:
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.
I often talk about “negating stereotypes”…..even devoted a category on my web site to it. Recently, I realized there are just as much stereotyping with Gen Y as there are with women and multiculturalism. There are obvious dangers with stereotyping millions and billions of people in to a few headlines. The opportunity here is to take research directionally, instead of replacing our insights—meaningful insights that only happen through relating, understanding and experiencing “people.”
Gen Y is often referred to as the lost generation battered by economy. One of the great articles, America’s screwed generation, shared great, shocking stats …. but just as the title suggests, painted a dark picture. Yes, the wealth gap between younger and older Americans is now the widest on the record. According to US Census, median net worth of young people under 35 fell 35% from 2005-2010, versus 13% for adults over 65. The older generation not only benefited from good economic timing, but they also are not retiring as early. Entry level positions are filled with experienced talent pool, making unemployment rates among Gen Y 50% above national average. Then there is their debt—from student loans to credit cards. Many stay in school just so they are not forced to start paying their student loans without a good job—or any job—so they incur more debt. It’s a doom loop, you see?
Inevitably, Gen Y has delayed adulthood in many milestones. According to a Pew study, one third have put off marriage and kids and a quarter moved back with their parents. There are other personal and cultural factors at play with this delay in adulthood (see my blog do you really know 20-somethings), but regardless, this can have major demographic implications in the decades to come. Twentysomething Inc report that 85% of new grads move back with parents to save on living costs while they job hunt. And when they are finally ready to move out, the prospects of “owning” a home is out of reach for so many. But home ownership, starting a family and other traditional milestones for adulthood are not life’s starting points for Gen Y.
Sure, no generation has suffered more from the recession than Gen Y. This has led into assumptions that are now backed by research data. But the world economy has been tough for a while now. Many members of Gen Y haven’t personally experienced the economic boom most of us have, or bitter about pay cuts, downsizing or outsourcing. They are experiencing the new normal in The New World Marketplace.
I see more positive signs amid all these negative statistics. I wonder how much of our own economic fears we project on to this generation. This is the unafraid, optimistic, tech savvy, educated, resourceful, and diverse generation who will know what works and what doesn’t…. greatly decreasing the collective learning curve. Culturally liberal, one third were raised by a single mother … so gender roles are blurred and multiculturalism is the norm. Gen Y men prove to be hopeless romantics .… young women earn more than men in big US cities ….. young women now top young men in valuing a high-paying career….these are just a few research examples of negative stereotypes when it comes to Gen Y.
Financial success, beyond necessities, is just one part of happiness….probably a small part. They are committed to find “meaningful” work and pay out student loans versus getting rich. Unlike previous generations, there is no shame in getting help from parents, but a luxury worth bragging about. Parental support, technology and rise of entrepreneurism provide this generation the freedom to pursue their hearts’ desires. And they will.
Despite all the labels and stereotypes (including my own), majority of work force will be filled by Gen Y by 2025—so, the current sluggish job market and steep student loans will not hold them back. It’s just the timing. More importantly, it will be about when, where and how work gets done that will bring forth the big cultural change. And the new values and ideological power of Gen Y will shape our future work force.
Vistage International interviewed Farnaz Wallace on November 6, 2012, to help their CEO members embrace and succeed in The New World Marketplace. Click here to listen to this informative 13 minute podcast.
• A Definition of the New World Marketplace
• The 3 Cultural Macro Trends that businesses must embrace
• Implications of Cultural of Shifts for CEOs and their businesses
• The Importance of Redefining Your Target Customers
• The Key Things That Companies Need to do Do to Succeed in Today’s Economy
• How to Create a Cultural and Emotional Connection with Target Customers
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.
I was scheduled to be in Washington DC delivering a keynote speech at the annual Diversity Women Leadership conference in Washington DC today. But that conference, along with so many other important events, got postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. My flight was cancelled along with 11,000 other flights across the US. New York’s 3 airports make up the nation’s busiest air travel market, so you can just imagine the upheaval rippled effect throughout the US with all carriers halting services to NY, Washington and Philadelphia.
The airlines have been great about issuing vouchers. Most if not all conferences will be re-scheduled. Some businesses even experience short term benefits by an upteak in sales and/or interests in stocks. I remember my CMO days at Church’s Chicken after hurricane Katrina. While Louisiana markets were devastated, many other markets benefited by influx of people seeking shelter and temporary migrations and consumptions. I can only imagine what executives at Home Depot or Loews must be feeling—celebration of incremental sales amidst of this natural disaster. Yet, those businesses which loose a day or so, will never get those dollars back. For United Airlines, for example, 3,700 cancellation through Oct. 31 is 16% of total for the period. Think of all those areas with large inventories of foreclosed oceanfront homes that lenders have let fall into despair hoping to collect on insurance claims now.
Financial gain for some is typically a financial loss for others. That is a fact for any free market. But what makes Sandy unique is that she is expected to slam into the US East Coast tonight, and she hobbles New York, US stocks and options, Wall Street and world’s financial capital. Mass transit shut down, closed schools and businesses, and evacuation of 375,000 people in coastal areas affect many banks and financial institutions such as Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and others. I’m sure we will hear a lot more about the financial impact in the days to come.
Of course, some say that today’s financial system is to the real economy a little like what hurricane Sandy is to the East coast. That’s not to minimize the potential devastation of any big, powerful storm and its slow moving progress with food, water, emergency shelter, trees down, getting powers back on, etc. But I think what’s most unique about Sandy is that she is the mother of all surprises before an election week. We may see a reduction in the number of polls issued over the coming days. Some analysts are concerned that the storm could depress voter turnout along the Eastern Seaboard. No doubt, that Sandy will also affect the home stretch political campaigns and the news coverage about them. Although the effected states are Democratic-leaning, I appreciated hearing President Obama say today, “election will take care of itself, we need to be concerned for the safety and well-being of the affected families.”
Yes, the election will take care of itself. So will the conferences. So will the Financial capital of the world. Let’s all keep the families in harm’s way in our thoughts and prayers until this storm passes, too.
Can we blame the economy for company performance? 6 lessons brands should learn from political campaigns
I came back from my summer vacation a week ago hearing all the media noise about negative political ads, fluctuating stock markets, consumers cutting back on spending, businesses investing less, well, you know the rest. It is an election year, afterall.
As a strategic branding consultant, I couldn’t help but to research the effectiveness of the political attack ads that are designed to diminish positive effect for the opposing candidate’s target. I wondered if it is working. So many opposing views in articles and blogs.
I reviewed a meta-analytic assessment of the effects of negative political campaigns. This Research concludes that negative campaigning is no more effective than positive campaigning, but seems to be more memorable, generating greater campaign-relevant knowledge. It also suggests that negative campaigning has the potential to do damage to the political system itself, as it tends to reduce feelings of political efficacy, trust in government, and perhaps even satisfaction with government itself. However, contrary to the popular belief, it provides no support that it reduces or depresses voter turnarount. Interestingly, while the overall findings for intended turnout are negative, the overall findings for actual turnout is positive.
Net, net, I think the negative political attack ads are designed to energize the base and increase campaign interest–and contrary to current articles and blog posts, backlash effect is minimum. The country is already divided and strategic differentiations are clearly defined. There is not much any of our candidates can do or say to change the opposing views. With that said, I think the Democratic party has much more to gain by energizing and uniting their base, versus the Republican base who have been united and energized the entire time these past four years.
As for the undecided voters (are there any out there), this strategy may increase campaign interest, only if campaign-related knowledge is shared. More importantly, trust must be build on the information shared, which is hardly the case with intensely different fact sharing on each side. What is true is that you are neither wrong or right if the crowd disagrees with you—you are right only if your data and reasoning are right.
You would think that political parties can continue disagreeing on how to tax the top 2%, but at least agree on how to tax the 98% consumers to revive middle class, which will in turn improve the economy and business performances. What surprises me even more is the extend of discussion on taxes versus cultural values that are true behavioral motivators—in voting or consumption. If business leaders were more concerned about leveraging the cultural macro trends and driving sales and profit from the front end, versus cost cutting and bitter tax debates, they will actually end up making more money for all the shareholders.
What can we learn about from all this as it relates to branding and marketing strategies? Can we just sit back and blame the economy for the company performance? Here are 6 important lessons to learn and follow:
- People have a simple wish for a better life. Communicate how your brand can improve their current conditions.
- Energize your base through powerful, emotionally charged marketing campaigns.
- Great brands are built on beliefs and values. Decide which beliefs and values to include in your Value Propositions.
- In today’s economy, all consumers are seeking price value. Don’t lower your price at the expense of your quality and service. Lower it only to gain market share through a meaningful campaign.
- Gain trust by showing you truly care for your base target…share relevant trustworthy reasoning why the consumers should choose your brand…more importantly, deliver on your brand promise.
- Leverage the 3 major cultural macro trends, and step in to The New World Marketplace which is a far cry from the one taught in business textbooks.
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.
I saw the movie Snow White & the Huntsman last week and was intrigued by the twist to this fairy tale. This Snow White didn’t just lie down waiting to be kissed and saved. She got trained in the art of war by the Huntsman and led an army of her fellow men in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen. These archetypal changes for the roles of women is nothing new in movies and our pop culture. Remember Princess Leia standing up to Darth Vader in Star Wars, or Trinity fighting alongside Neo in The Matrix? And who can argue whether Angelina Jolie is the new James Bond or not?
The hero/ine is an archetype that is universal, but we are now recognizing that it is also gender neutral. Practically all new epic movies from Avatar to Harry Potter have female heroines as well as males heroes who physically go to war, fight injustice, and bring peace, harmony and happiness to the world. I find it interesting that different female archetypes throughout history were far more diverse and complicated than where we ended up in our current social model and branding messages. Even in the classical music world, we’ve seen classical trumpeters as stereotypically male. But women like Alison Balsom, who won the female artist of the year in Classic Brit Awards 2011, have trumped that stereotype as well.
I read an interesting article on New York Times, Boys Have Fallen Behind, about how American girls have achieved parity with boys in math but are well ahead in verbal skills and reading. The National Honor Society says that 64% of its outstanding members are girls. Some colleges even give special help to male applicants to avoid skewed sex ratios. How is that for a change? Among whites, women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees and 62% of master’s degrees. Among blacks, the figures are 66% and 72%. One of my own continuous sound bites: for every two men graduating from college, three women graduate, and with better GPAs. This is real, and contrary to the popular belief that it may due to multicultural demographic growth in the US, it is a global concept.
The National Bureau of Economic Research outlines this beautifully in the article, Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College. In 2003, there were 1.35 females for every male who graduated from a four-year college. That contrasts with 1960, when there were 1.6 males for every female. This article suggests that the shift started in the 70s when women aimed to have careers rather than to follow in their mothers’ footsteps, and as a result the age of first marriage increased by 2.5 years. Factors include the availability of the contraceptive “pill”, the feminist movement, social acceptance of co-habitating without marriage and higher divorce rates. By 2009, the median age for the first marriage was delayed by 5 years (Do You Really Know 20-somethings). I believe it is a byproduct of cultural, social and economic forces.
And to top it all off….Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech, either. It turns out that women are new lead adopters of the whole bundle of technology. The technology industry’s focus on men is just a reflection of women’s current underrepresentation at major venture capital firms and electronic/internet companies. And it is built on a plain wrong stereotype and a far cry from the reality of the new marketplace. To negate this stereotype further, this research shows that the majority of technology users are women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, not the 18-24 year olds. So who do you think you should ask about what the future looks like?
At a time when men are still hugely overrepresented in Congress, on executive boards, and in the corridors of power, do we think this will shift the future of our Corporate and Leadership culture? The Dark Side of Girls’ Success in School article in Huffington Post argues that it won’t unless girls shift the “good student” toolkit for greater risk taking and challenging the authority. This article attributes girls’ success in school to respect for an obedience of authority, careful rule-following, people-pleasing and succeeding in an externally imposed framework…qualities that will translate into their success at lower-mid-levels, but not as leaders and game changers. While there may be some truth in this perspective, I can shoot holes in it by women’s zest for entrepreneurship, which is all about risk taking…and decades of women’s movement which is all about challenging the authority and shrugging off criticism.
So when I’m asked on interviews whether we will ever achieve gender equality in leadership in my life time, I always say, yes, we will, and just by default of this cultural evolution currently in progress. Even the child care culture is evolving as men get more involved with this responsibility. And young families will end up with the spouse most qualified to earn higher pay taking on greater financial responsibility, regardless of gender. Again, a byproduct of cultural, social and economic forces.
Should we care whether boys are struggling in schools and underrepresented in colleges? Of course we should. The feminist movement, rise of women and the evolving cultures and archetypes were always about equality and partnership–to make the best use of human capital for economic success and to enhance our social models–but never about the shift in power, making one inferior to the other. Wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone focused on their own personal and unique strengths and passions, regardless of gender? I would argue that this will be the only way to increase productivity and prosperity , both at work and in personal lives.
Angela Harrington Rice speaks with Farnaz Wallace, author of The New World Marketplace, about how shifting role of women is shaping and influencing the marketplace. Click here to watch this video.