Farnaz on Featured, Multicultural Branding and Marketing, Negating Stereotypes, Redefining Archetypes, New Face of America, New World Trends, New Realities
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….!!!
We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in the US, and most people and companies are not aware. Some of us who are, ignore it or simply not happy about it. Just the word “multicultural” draws in polarized reactions. This is one of the three macro trends that I define as imperatives for business and social success in the future. And it is shaping the emerging middle class in America.
I remember the marketing days when Latinos were primarily segmented into the lower income category. But that is no longer the case, is it? According to a new Nielsen report published last month, Latino’s income growth during the past decade has significantly surpassed the nation’s average. Although 43% of Latino’s still earn below $35k/year (versus 35% total), 36% earn $35-75k (at par with 34% total) and growing at a higher rate. What may be even more surprising to most is that 10% earn $75-100k, which is a 31% growth since 2000…. and 11% over $100k per year, which is a dramatic 71% increase.
Over 52 million strong, or 1 in 6, Latino buying power of $1 trillion in 2010 will change to $1.5 trillion by 2015. You can expect Latino population and buying power to continue growing even with the decline in the immigration numbers.
Let’s put this into context… There are more Latinos in the US than Canadians in Canada, Malaysians in Malaysia, or South Africans in South Africa. Latinos in the US represent second-largest Latino nation, right after Mexico, and before Spain, Columbia and Argentina. If a standalone country, the buying power would be one of the top 20 economies in the world.
In my November blog, how to reach the fastest growing Asian market, I explained how the Asian market is over-indexing the US national average in just about every meaningful consumer category—specially in income, education and family size. With this recent study showing Latino income on the rise, we can safely say that the landscape of American middle class is rapidly changing into a multicultural mosaic. We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in America, which will in turn redefine every aspect of the pop culture, consumerism, politics, economy and business. Just think of how branding strategies will have to shift for retail, residential buying, food, education, financial services, transportation, entertainment and media.
American marketers have never relied on a broad-stroke depiction of White consumers. They should keep the same mindset when it comes to Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups. Stereotyping the Latinos or Asians in the US will not be any different than stereotyping Caucasians.
According to Census, among US children, Hispanics are already 1 in 4 of all newborns. Hispanics, Asians and multi-racial children accounted for all the US youth growth in the last decade. Think of how this will define the next generation of our country. The multi-racial children are clearly the result of inter-racial marriages. Marriage across racial and ethnic lines has doubled since 1980, with 41% of all intermarriages in 2008 between Hispanics and whites, 15% between Asians and Whites, 11% between blacks and whites, and 16% in which both parties are non-white.
Contrary to the popular belief on language barrier, Neilsen particularly notes that Latino consumers’ usage rates of smartphones, TV, online video and social networking/entertainment makes this group one of the most engaged in the digital space. During February 2012, Latinos increased their visits to social networks/blogs by 14% from a year ago. This is also true for all multicultural population as Gen Y is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history. Unlike the ethnic groups in previous generations assimilating in the mainstream culture, the new and young multicultural populations take big pride in their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and are considered acculturated.
This article is not intended to be an advertising campaign for Hispanic media and agencies. For me, it is critical to add that older, white males are just as much part of the multicultural societies as any other ethnic groups. I define Multiculturalism by a mosaic of different cultures in one platform, and a society that is ethnically and culturally diverse. That does not mean excluding Caucasians or implying ethnic minorities only.
So, how are you defining or stereotyping your multicultural initiatives?
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.
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.
When you look for a new doctor these days, how many Asian doctors do you find? How many engineers, professors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and CEOs? Did you know South Asians generally over-index the US National Average in just about every meaningful consumer category? Are businesses ignoring the marketer’s dream come true? What are the prejudices and biases that are holding companies back from reaching this higher income, more educated, larger families and growing market?
Check out these Census facts:
- With 14.5 million Asians in the US, up 43% from the last census, Asians are the fastest growing minority group, very affluent and high educated, with household income 26% above Whites.
- Asian Americans have the highest educational attainment of any group, 49% have at least a bachelor’s degree (vs. 28% US avg). They also have the highest household income levels of any racial demographic at $65,637 (vs $38,885 US avg) with 28% exceeding $100K.
- South Asian population has doubled in the last decade. Indian population, specifically, has grown 70%. And 67% of all Indians have a bachelor’s or higher degree. Almost 40% have a master’s, doctorate or other professional degree, which is five times the national average. 1 in every 9 Indians in the US is a millionaire, comprising 10% of all US millionaires.
- South Asian households are 29% larger than the national average. And 93.6% speak English.
- Although Iran is not technically considered “Asia” by Census, I’ll include for my loyal Persian readers: 51% of Iranian-Americans have a bachelor’s or higher degree, and 1 in 4 hold Masters or PHD. An NPR report recently put the Iranian population of Beverly Hills as high as 20%. Almost 1 in 3 households have annual incomes of more than $100K (compared to 1 in 5 US Avg). According to a study carried out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Iranian scientists and engineers in the US own or control around $880 billion.
So when you think or speak of multicultural branding or strategy, are you ignoring this fastest growing group? What marketer wouldn’t want to reach a more educated consumer with higher income and larger families without a re-deployment of marketing dollars?
The 2010 census data reported, of the 27.3 million added to US population in the last decade, only 2.3 million were Whites. While Hispanics accounted for well over half our gains, Asians made the next biggest contribution. There is an absolute decline of white population under 18, as well as somewhat smaller decline of black youths. Hispanics, Asians, and multiracial children accounted for all of the net growth of nation’s youth. And I believe the Asian numbers are under-reported through Census, since there is a big debate about race versus ethnicity.
The world “Multicultural” was intended to represent a mosaic of different cultures in one platform. But somehow it became a buzzword limited to initiatives toward Hispanics, as “Diversity” did the same with African Americans. That’s why I coined the phrase “New World Marketplace” to represent a new type of customer-influencing mainstream culture. It’s important to recognize that various multicultural values have now become part of the fabric and reality of American society.
Here are 10 easy tips to get started that will apply to all multicultural branding and positioning:
- Learn how much of your current sales volume is being generated by multicultural customers. It may be more than you think.
- Then, learn exactly what demographic groups you could and should target for your products and services. How much sales potential in each market?
- Get to know your existing and new targets. You can only do so by spending days in the life of your customers.
- It all starts with the great product, which transcends all cultural differences. Make sure you have the right product and services and you are speaking to the needs and values of the customers who are actually buying them.
- Research and research more. Not just about product attributes, but also about how your new customers want to feel and be treated as a part of the totality and oneness of the market.
- Consult with experts. I am one of so many. Learn to use the right cultural symbols to avoid offending the very people you’re trying to attract.
- Sharpen your sensitivity to cultural standards and taboos. Dig deeper into the values and beliefs and leverage on “shared” values.
- Avoid all stereotypes and clichés. Design your marketing materials to depict multicultural customers in a wide variety of roles.
- Include a multicultural budget in your 2012 budget. Link compensation to multicultural performance for the sake of profit growth.
- Be authentic, honest, respectful and consistent. Once you open the doors to build the relationship, stay the course to maintain the relationship.
We are living in a country with increasing income inequality and politically dividing in a bitter debate. Is the growing wealth gap in America a race to the bottom with wages? Can we blame China or India for this ongoing shrinkage of middle class? Is it a multicultural or immigration issue – or is the American Dream dying? Everyone is frustrated, but what do American leaders need to do?
Let’s start with some sobering facts recently published:
- The top 1% of Americans control nearly a quarter of all the country’s income, the highest since 1928 (The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality.)
- The US ranks #3 among all the advanced economies in income inequality.
- In 2007, the top 10% of American earners pulled in 49.7% of total wages, the highest since 1917.
- The share of middle-income jobs in the United States has fallen from 52% in 1980 to 42% in 2010.
- Middle-income jobs have been replaced by low-income jobs, which now make up 41% of total employment.
- Wages and salaries have fallen from 60% of personal income in 1980 to 51% in 2010.
- On Tuesday, the Census Bureau reported the U.S. poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% in 2009 and its highest level since 1993.
- 22-million, or 19% of, people have wages below poverty line. That’s $20k/yr for a family of four.
We can’t blame China or India for this. The low wage jobs are in service sectors not going overseas: healthcare, hospitality, restaurants, entertainment…not just agriculture. Is multiculturalism and immigration growth a part of this? Yes. That’s the labor force who is willing to do the jobs no one else wants to do for less pay and degrading quality. American businesses are heavily dependant on consumption dollars of the less affluent consumers. So cut spending, cut more labor, raise prices….you are only declining your own revenues and market share by increasing hollowness in the middle.
It’s true that the rich got richer, the poor got poorer. Professor G. William Domhoff at University of California reports that although overall income had grown by 27% since 1979, 33% of the gain went to the top 1%. Meanwhile, the bottom 60% were making less: about 95 cents for each dollar. 20% made $1.02 for each dollar, but top 5% made $1.53 for each 1979 dollar. Norton & Ariely reported in 2010 that about 85% of all wealth is concentrated among 20% of the population, and over 95% of all wealth among 40% of the population. The lowest two quintils (bottom 20% & second-lowest 20%) hold just 0.3% of the wealth.
The reality is that this type of income polarization is leading to retail changes. Proctor & Gamble is adopting an “Hour Glass” marketing strategy, designing and selling products aimed at high-and-low consumers, with not much in the middle. Of course, that is easy to do for a brand that owns at least one product in 98% of US households. Heinz is following P&G, but high end brands like Saks and Mercedes continue with their focus on high end ‘aspirational’ shoppers, they never targeted the middle class to being with. More affluent customers are likely to continue at their consumption levels, but they will not make up any slack caused by declines among less affluent. Marketers must seek new ways to increase product sales among the more affluent, or find successful new offerings for their existing patronage.
There is something to be said about engineering low price products for the low-end consumers, but that’s at the risk of trading down the middle class even more and compromising quality. As long as all operating cost increases are passed on to consumers for the benefit of the top 1% with short term margin focus, there will be no shifts to the disaster we are facing.
We are living in a debt-valued country, and the poor owe more. This is partially reflected in the movie Too Big To Fail on HBO, but we didn’t hear that the bottom 80% of Americans account for 73% of all debt with only 15% of net worth and 7% of all financial wealth (source: Edward N. Wolff, Economist, 2010). The burden of debt will limit the purchase decisions of goods and services….or foregoing purchases altogether.
I think we all can agree that we are still looking at a homogeneous business leadership in majority of the big US companies that can not possibly relate emotionally on how their decisions are impacting customer’s lives, and ultimately their profits long term. They loathe quotas for gender and racial equality because that means they have to forsake their own biases and prejudices. And I am not suggesting to put the money in the hands of the unqualified. But maybe it is time to redefine the qualifications of business leaders.
I always believed that American Dream is far beyond owning a new car or very first home. It is about grabbing life by the bootstraps and lifting up, out, and beyond whatever class, cast, gender, race, role, economic and lifestyle existence that we have or were born into. It is all about the spirit’s deep desire for freedom, self-determination, and self-expressed achievements. Then why can’t we start by having a better representation in Corporate leadership of the society we live in, for better checks and balances. Putting more emphasis on Character than just IQ. Truly understanding the multicultural shared values. Lead by examples, and be the leaders people want to follow. Exchange our short-term EBITDA obsession for the long-term success of our companies…or at least have a better balance. Think profit sharing, and maybe then, and only then, we will gain talents and customers that will help our companies and economy succeed, and keep the American Dream alive!
It doesn’t take a visionary to know that the world is different from the way it was only a decade ago. And it will be even more different a decade from now. It’s the pace and complexity of the cultural shifts that has brought on the degree of change that is shaking up society as we see it today. Walk through any retail store or business office today, and you will see how “we” is getting trickier to define in terms of image, race, ethnicity, lifestyle and culture.
Image by definition means a representation of the external form of a person or thing – the opinion or concept of something that is held by the public. When you think of an Asian, Muslim, Hispanic or African American person or customer, what images come to mind? What type of stereotypes, biases and prejudices are holding you and your organizations back from relating and engaging cross-culturally?
When I was a CMO, I was an Iranian woman at an American company. I had tattoos and multi-colored hair. Sure, I wore my Prada suits, and dressed differently at work than at the beach or a visit to an ashram. But I projected an image that traditional business wasn’t comfortable with. And guess what? I drove five consecutive years of sales growth, something that more conventional CMOs in that role had never done. People ask me how I did it. Simple. I brought forth my passion, built a great team of multi-and-cross-cultural talent, and looked inside the multicultural target customers. I avoided all stereotypes.
The new millennium has marked a change from traditional business practices and stereotypical views of gender and ethnic roles in a society. More and more everyday, companies and agencies are aiming cross-cultural marketing towards general market. The automotive industry, as an example, has done a great job in multicultural branding. But despite dollars and efforts spent, a study showed that a multicultural customer going to a car dealer is kept waiting 27% longer. How many times does a sales person judge what the customers can spend just by looking at them? Isn’t everyone looking for value these days?
Yes, I am an evangelist for 3 major macro trends: Women, Youth and Multi-and-Cross-Cultural. But by no means do I intend to imply that it should be a woman’s world where White or older men should not be valued. I believe in an androgynous mind and a color blind society – a world where performance and ethical values meet. As Seth Godin puts it, companies we think of as ethical got that way because ethical people made it so.
Next time you are re-evaluating your Value Proposition, and conducting marketing research, don’t get lost in the pile of facts and data. Consider tapping into internal motivators and values, and communicate your marketing messages accordingly. More importantly, make sure your customer experience delivers on your brand promise. You must be willing to forsake all your past biases and prejudices to succeed in the New World Marketplace. And it is time to market and engage customers from their inside, not their outside image.
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.
I was thinking about the spirit of 4th of July celebration this past weekend. An American holiday to commemorate declaration of independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain that was made on July 4, 1776. To me, it represents spirit’s deep desire for freedom and self-expression. I love Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
I took some time to reflect on what all this means in the multicultural society that we live in, where “we” is getting trickier to define in terms of race, ethnicity and collective identity. Is it “freedom of,” “freedom from,” or “freedom to”? It’s certainly not about every man, woman, and child for himself or herself. But it is the right to think, believe, value, speak, worship, and behave….freedom to choose….so long as it does not infringe on another person’s freedom. It is a shared value, securing to everyone an equal opportunity for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
In a multicultural society, this typically means both celebrating the uniqueness of each culture and navigating relationships with cultural differences. I think multiculturalism should neither be a demand for special rights for minorities, nor a threat to protecting one’s own cultural identity and safety. It is a phenomenon of resolving differences and building on commonalities based on values of freedom, trust, respect, equality, dignity, open mindedness and mutual happiness.
Shared values are much more important in any relationship than skin color or demographics. Good, happy relationships – personal and professional – have a lot in common across all cultures, and challenges are all the same as well. To read the full article on how to make multi-and-cross-cultural relationships work, click here.
Atlanta (June 29, 2011) – Walk through the mall, a school or a business office today, and in nearly any city in the country, it will be obvious that “we” is getting trickier to define in terms of race, ethnicity and collective identity. Within relationships, cross-cultural is becoming the norm rather than the exception. This shift from a similar-looking status quo to one that incorporates a plethora of faces, has been referred to as “multiculturalism,” and this typically means both celebrating the uniqueness of each culture and navigating relationships with cultural differences. That might sound nice in an employee handbook, but what does it mean at the bank, at a PTA meeting, on a date or even at a wedding?
Farnaz Wallace, Founder of Farnaz Global and expert in multiculturalism and social and cultural change, has developed strategies and frameworks to help people and organizations find success in forming relationships across all kinds of cultural boundaries. “Multiculturalism should neither be a demand for special rights for minorities, nor a threat to protecting one’s own cultural identity and safety,” she says. “It is a phenomenon of resolving differences and building on commonalities based on values of trust, freedom, respect, equality, justice, dignity, open mindedness and mutual happiness.” (more…)