Farnaz on Featured, New World People, New World Companies, New World Strategies, New World Trends, New Realities

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.

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Gen Y, Negating Stereotypes

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.

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Home Sweet Home – recent Gen Y trends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Happy Spring Equinox, Happy Norooz, Women Are Blooming

We celebrated the International Woman’s Day last week.  Lately, from revolutions in the Middle East, to polarizing political debates in the US, and online campaigns all over the globe, women are at the forefront of social and cultural change.  Yes, women are blooming, and this is a good time to share a bit about our emerging leaders–the Gen Y women.

The Gen Y (aka milllenial) women have a different life path than you can imagine.  Levi’s survey in 2010 reported:

  • 96% list “being independent” as their single most important life goal
  • 87% define success as being able to shape their own future
  • Only 68% say becoming a mom is on their priority list
  • 50% say getting married is a priority
  • Just 43% ascribe much importance to getting rich

Put differently, half of young women do not see marriage as a priority and one third say the same about becoming a mom.  And it is not so much about getting rich as it is about shaping own future.

We all know Gen Y is a wired, digitally connected generation.  But did you know women are becoming more active users of digital media than men?  According to Neilsen’s digital consumer report, women are:

  • 51% of TV viewers
  • 53% of online video users
  • 54% of social network/blog visitors
  • 50% of smartphone owners

These differences are not statistically significant, really.  Plus, I neither believe it should be a man’s world nor a woman’s nation.  But I am hoping that this type of data sharing will help negate stereotypes and dichotomies that are still out there in media and advertising–even politics.  Did you know women control/influence 85% of all major buying decisions?  We couldn’t tell by our media coverage and ad campaigns.  I’ve always believed the media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in this country.  And I believe the Gen Y women will change all that…!!!

I’m starting to feel like Farnaz Global is also blooming like this beautiful Spring.  Please take a moment to re-visit my web site and check out the new additions.  I’ve also updated my Twitter and Facebook Fan Page.  Please follow me….I’ll follow you back…!!!

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Spring Equinox, coming up next Tuesday, 3/20.  This is also the Persian New Year.  So if you see or talk to any Iranian next week, say “Eidet Mobarak” which means happy norooz (new day/year).  This is a new day, new year, and The New World Marketplace.

Thank you so much for all your support.  I truly appreciate all the warm notes from everyone last week when I introduced my book.  But there was a lot of confusion about the release date.  To clarify, the official release date is June 5th.  That’s how long it takes for the publisher, distribuor, wholesaler and internet sites to all get on the same page.  However, my book is available on my web site, as well as my publisher’s site.  And you can receive your copy 7-10 days after you place your oder.

 

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My Book Is Ready To Order Now

The New World Marketplace is here….!!!  I am so excited to give you the first opporunity to order your copy before the official release date.  Click here and you will be directed to my publisher’s link for my page.  We have made both paperback and ebook options available.

It will take another 60-90 days for my book to be released to all distribution channels, such as Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.  But you can order your copy today and you will receive yours in 7-10days.  I am planning pre-release parties and speaking engagements, so I may end up in your city soon.  And in the months ahead, after the official release, I will be traveling all over for book signings, so you can bring your copy in for a personal, heartfelt authograph from me.

It would mean a lot to me if you can forward this to all your friends, family and collegues, and post on your facebook and twitter pages.  In our new digital globe, success is defined by what friends say and “like”…..

Look forward to seeing you soon.

Warmest,

~Farnaz

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My 2012 Trend Predictions

In the process of final editing & proofing of my book, I realized a lot of my forecasts and predictions pertain to the future.  But how about 2012? There are so many exhuastive predictions on surveys, blogs and conversations.  Many believe that 2012 prophecies have already happened in 2011.  So I decided to devote a blog to my own 2012 trend predictions before we’re too far into it.

Any one of these can easily have its own blog.  But here’s a quick recap:

  • Economy will get better.  We’re already seeing this in financial market, regardless of the bitter political debate on media.  Not sure how long it will last, but we will see consumer confidence and business revenues go up this year.  With the mild winter that we’re having (rolling over a bad one from prior year), if your business is not up, something is wrong internally.
  • The buzz about women controlling 85% of all buying decision will get louder and finally get Corporate attention–with seminars, conferences & media coverage, including my own book.
  • Racism & Sexism will be far more intolerable than previous years.   Gender lines & roles will blur even more.  You will see manifestation of this in politics, marketing/advertising and all social conversations–online and off line.  Get ready to embrace an androgyneous mind.
  • You will start hearing “Asia” a lot more….just as strong as the Latin craze we’ve had these past few years.  (Read this blog)
  • And it’s no longer just China & India–you’ll hear more about Vietnam, Indonesia & other Asian countries.
  • Luxury brands will start targeting China & India.  Even Middle East.
  • Asian and African countries grow their middle class, while US share of global middle class keeps declining.
  • Muslims will go under marketer’s radar in the US, and globally.
  • Green & social responsibility will be included in all successful Corporate strategies.  It is no longer just about products & services–it’s also about making this world a better place to live.
  • Marketers & advertisers will focus more on authenticity, keeping it real, brand heritage, eco chic, and more is less.
  • Savvy marketers will target savvy customers who are social consumers–ie 20% high sharere on internet to reach the other 80%–aka early adopters.  A bigger shift in social media towards branding.
  • Last two years have been all about social media.  This will be the year of the Mobile platform.  The capabilities of phones & tablets will grow immensely.  Remote work is on the rise…!!!
  • Get ready for social TV.  All media & social devices will come together to offer us TV experiences wherever and whenever we want.
  • Multiculturalism will rise beyond a racial discussion and will extend into fashion, colors, food, music…all lifestyle pillars.
  • Focus on food health will shift from low fat or high protein to gluton-free, wheat-free, less processed, and going LOCAL.
  • With boomers staying younger & more fit, expect to see a higher % of ad dollars for them.
  • Multigenerational households will become common with boomers retiring and Gen Y moving back home.

Are you seeing or hearing any other major trends for 2012 that I should add to this list?  Love to hear your thoughts.

I’ll end this by telling you how excited I am that we finished all the final editing of my book–I even proofed a printed sample last week.  I realized how much information I packed in a very small book–you could finish it in 1-3 settings.  I’m sure the content will resonate with you.  We should be going to print in a week or so, and my next blog will give you the timing and ordering details.

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My Book Coming Soon….Value of Service


Happy New Year! Yes, I know….I am late for both my happy new year wishes and bimonthly blogs. Truth is, I’ve been busy finalizing production details with my publisher and gearing up for a busy season of consulting and speaking. But I wanted you to be the first to see the layout of my book cover: “The New World Marketplace – how women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future.”

I am super excited and will be rebranding my social media platform once the book is in the market in a month or so.  I will also provide updates on book signing events and speaking gigs, and hope to see you in my travels.

In keeping with my commitment to share a New World Marketplace update in each blog, I’d like to tell you a bit about how constant cost cutting during economic challenges can drive new product innovation and quality of service into the ground. While cost cutting is an important discipline in any business model, it should never be at the expense of quality and service—which are the revenue drivers. You can choose to drive profits from the front end, or the back end. Your call. But if you choose the latter, remember your competition is putting new products out in the market faster, and offering better quality and service. At the very best, you’ll end up as a mediocre company with mediocre products and services.
And how long do you think that will sustain you during a recession?

Earlier this month, I decided to end my 7 year love affair with my Audi TT and get a hybrid car. So you can just imagine the pushy sales tactics that I had to overcome online, and by phone just minutes after a click, before I even entered a car lot. I ended up with a Lexus hybrid CT 200h. Sure the product and price was the best fit for me, but it was the service that sealed the deal. Lexus products and prices are not that different than other high-end competitors, it is the service that is their strategic differentiation. Think about this: what type of price or cost do you allocate toward great service? OK, Audi didn’t have a hybrid, but I left because of their inferior service to begin with. Do you think I’m really that unique? And what if low-mid price brands offered luxury service? Wow…that will be one recession-proof brand….!!!

Gen Y’s strong affiniy for hybrid cars are leading us away from traditional vehicles. They also prefer cars that are an extension of their social media and digital lifestyle…and willing to pay for it. This is good to know regardless of what products you sell. It’s about keeping up with the pace of the New World Marketplace.

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A Different Look at Gen Y

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.

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Are you leading with the New World Marketplace mindset?

You have heard quite a bit about multiculturalism recently from me, and other media sources in light of the recent 2010 census data.  But are you leading your businesses and personal lives with the New World Marketplace mindset?

And I’m not just talking about how companies leverage the power of social network or provide latest tools and technologies.  This framework should use this emerging technology with new ways of working, relating and engaging with people across all generations and demographics.  Without a deep meaningful understanding of this New World Marketplace, the greatest technological tools can misfire your messages.

Work place of the future is being morphed and shaped today.  Family dynamics and gender roles are changing.  What is “personal” is also changing – but it still mirrors human dynamics and the multi-dimensions of each individual’s life.  So, yes, leverage the digital world to help connect and drive higher levels of engagement and motivation, but do it in a personal way.  You have to be and act personal.  Whether you are talking to your customer, your stakeholder, or your family and friends, responding to concerns, needs and aspirations drive engagement and emotional connection with each experience.  So, perhaps the good old saying of “think global, act local”, should really be “think global, act personal.”

Today’s leadership should have the ability to influence and lead through persuasion and attraction, by co-opting people through commonalities, rather than coercing them through power differentiation.   The New World Marketplace leaders breed trust, set the pace and shape the new path.  Today’s Gen Y is learning to become our future leaders by experiencing the world through travel and cultural understandings.  What a great way to start bridging the cultural gap.

In keeping with my commitment to share latest trends, here are a few facts that support “women” are the next global emerging market:

  • Women control 65% of global spending, more than 80% of US spending
  • By 2014, the World Bank predicts that the global income of women will grow by more then $5 trillion
  • Globally, women consumers control $20 trillion in consumer spending.  They make the final decision for buying 91% of home purchases, 65% of the new cars, 80% of health care choices, and 66% of computers

….and yet, women continue to represent such a small percent of C-executives and board seats, where all the decisions are being made.  I can’t figure this one out, can you? (also read Women Are EntrepreneursWorking Women, Working Force and Economic Impact of Women Owned Businesses)

As always, please forward to anyone on your list who may benefit from my content.  And, if you are seeing micro or macro trends in your business that you would like to discuss, I’d love to hear from you.

PS…. I had a Q&A interview with Rebecca Patt, VP of development at Wray Search, which may have a few useful tips for you, specially for those of you in the restaurant business.  Click here for more.
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