Farnaz on Featured, New World People, New World Companies, New World Strategies, New World Trends, New Realities
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.
If I was born from 1982 to somewhere close to 2000, I’d be feeling pretty unique and awesome by now. Let’s look at some Gen Y characteristics that are stereotyped: idealistic and socially conscious, confident, ambitious, achievement-and-team-oriented, authenticity seekers, attention cravers, culturally liberal, virtual relationships, engage or loose me, ask and guide me, immersed in the digital world from an early age…. This is known to be a generation of self-confident optimists due to years of helicopter parenting and unconditional positive reinforcement from work-centric and goal-oriented Baby Boomer parents who over-compensated for how tough they had it.
While all that may be true, when was the last time we asked a Hispanic, African American, Asian or multiracial Gen Y if these so-called core traits apply to them? Did they have helicopter parents hover reassuringly above them? I’m not convinced that socio-economic groups other than white affluent teenagers display the same Gen Y attributes we read about. It’s not that multi-and-cross-cultural parents don’t want to treat their kids as special, but they often don’t have the social and cultural capital, the time and resources to do it.
Since the 2000 Census allowed people to select more than one racial group, Gen Ys have asserted their rights to have all their heritages respected, counted and acknowledged. 2010 Census showed 32% growth in multiracial category from 2000, and on track to grow another 25%.
I think we can look for cross-cultural commonalities and find these shared values and characteristics:
- Yes, first era of reality TV, rise of dot-com, virtual relationships
- Change is mandatory, make it meaningful
- Demand for authenticity and honesty
- Culturally liberal, color and gender neutral if it weren’t for parents influence & 9/11
- Family centric with much closer relationship with parents, unlike the “individualistic” Gen X’ers
- Delaying some rites of passage into adulthood (for more on this, click here)
- Love flexibility and work-life-balance even more than Gen X’ers
- So, yes, perceived as a bit lazy by workaholic Boomers
- Less employed than any other generation due to the economic situation starting up in
- More educated, purchasing power rivals that of the Boomers
- Leverage the digital world to connect, engage & motivate – but want it personal & real
- Freedom, equality, opportunity, inspiration & honesty are cross-cultural shared values
How do you think all this will re-define Corporate America as Baby Boomers start to retire? You’d have to be willing to make a difference to make a living. Think of Lady GaGa and her message of “be who you are”, and Black Eye Peas, a group as multi-culti as you can get. Cross-cultural messaging through commonalities works. Start now.
One more blackberry, one more orange juice, one more sandwich, another credit card…just slightly better. Incremental differences are not game changers. Sometimes more innovation can degrade a brand equity and position you in the manufacturing mindset– don’t speed up the line or it will never slow down.
Yes, freedom of choice is essential in pursue of happiness, but too much freedom can cause anxiety and confusion. Too many choices numb us, forcing us to opt out or make uninterested decisions.
Marketers often find another new & improved product, and create a campaign around it. Much more effective is to find a small and eager target, find a branding story, then make a product that resonates and makes the story work.
At the end of every business line, there is a human being. Think of these tips for future branding and relationships:
- Use and align values and beliefs as the blueprint for growth – earn trust and attention and you will have loyalty.
- Consumers will pay more for superior service, or give it up just for cheap. Don’t bite more than you can chew, know your benefits and trade-offs.
- Be transparent and authentic. Consumers know when you’re not being honest, so do your competitors.
- Satisfy higher human needs and connect through Purpose. Sell a story that people want to believe. Content that broaden their horizon, even when uncomfortable.
- Endorse brand humility. Once you believe you are exceptional, you stop innovating. Become your own future rival. Re-earn trust, attention and loyalty.
- More is Less…unless you want to be Netflix or itunes, and put everything out there letting the market sort it out. But where is the lever?
What type of 4-letter word is profit? It is and should be “good”. Over-branding can kill profit.
1. Value should really be defined as the ability to exceed the needs and expectations of your changing customers….penetrating the built-in resistance to commit.
2. When it comes to innovation, customer is not always right. Let’s face it…do they really know what they want next?
3. Use research to better understand your customers and how they interact with your products – not asking them what they want or what should come next. Do you really expect them to tell you that they want you to make lots of money from them?
4. Don’t use data to replace insight….data doesn’t tell you what to do, insight does.
5. Deliver a kick-ass product, and be honest. Authenticity is the branding era of the New World Marketplace.
6. Be clear on your product differentiation…. Zappos primary product is service, not shoes.