This has been one of the most unusual years. From the onset of January to the post-Election hangover, there seems to be a low, under-the-surface roiling that has affected consumers – and ultimately us marketers. People point to a lot of high signs with the presidential race being the most visible and impactful. But, the reality is that a lot of the tumult has been afoot for a while. And, this being a marketing and communications piece (not political) let me focus on the implications.
- The divide between the “haves” and “have-nots” has never been starker. And, the “have-nots” should not be categorized as the “poor,” but those who feel disenfranchised. This group has been around since the 1980s and has gotten bigger over time. Laurel Cutler, a strategic planner at Foote, Cone & Belding, a major international advertising agency headquartered in Chicago, identified this consumer group. The most predominant trait was they felt outside of the system and were looking in. Her findings weren’t based on racial or religious underpinnings. These where “average Americans” who as time went on felt as if they were being left behind. And, as the Presidential Election proved, they have grown and make up a large swath of our population. So, the implication is simple – Is your brand and message taking this angst-driven group into consideration? Is your communication inclusive, or are you inadvertently alienating someone? Remember, this group flew under the radar, and even the most sophisticated pollers and political comm folks missed them.
- The generational differences are going to minimize. As Baby Boomers continue to age, they are slowly moving out of the mainstream consumer groups and falling into the segment that is looking at fixed incomes, longer life spans and less expendable income. Warning, if your brand and business is too heavily skewed to this group, you are going to be in trouble. See points 3 and 4.
- The GenXers and Millennials are here. They are the ones who now comprise the largest segment of consumers with growing disposable income. And note, just like their parents, they are going to be the beneficiaries of the roughly $41 trillion of wealth transferred from their elderly parents to them. If you haven’t thought about reaching this market, you need to start thinking about it.
- The concept of “generation” is also a state of mind and not physical age. There are many people who act as if they are baby boomers and others who act like Millennials. Granted, the majority of people fall within their age group. But things like the adoption of technology, social media, attitudes toward authorities, financial security and aspirations sometime fall outside of age.
- Lastly, a shift in technology communication is underway, again. What worked 3 to 5 years ago may not work now. And, for the 2nd year in a row laptop sales fell…and it is forecasted to slow even more in 2017. Fewer and fewer are finding traditional display ads as effective. The obvious reason, the mobile phone. It has disrupted so many facets of our lives – if not taken over – that it has changed the way people view consumer information. And, how they interact with brands and organizations.
So, where does that leave us? For one thing, it means you need to take a good hard look at your high-level strategic plans. If you have not done so over the past two years, you should pull it out and re-evaluate. New products and services – yes – are something you need to contemplate. Whether it is integrating more technology into what you make or how you serve, don’t discount the fact that 20 years of technology immersion has changed consumer expectations. But also get rid of features no cares about and add those that your audience now does. And, I’m sure as you review your plans and offerings, you will find more that needs to be adjusted and changed
And, don’t forget, we are here to help. Let us help you prepare for the new year ahead with a strategic plan that will yield results. Call for a consultation, and allow us to show you how we can shape your business marketing so that it resonates with your entire customer base in the most efficient and effective way.
The world seems divided between those who love social media and those who see it as the bane to their existence. Like everything else in marketing (and life) there are also many shades of grey.
To the naysayers, social media is a powerful tool as long as you do three things:
- Define your audience. When you use social media, are you talking to current customers? Prospects? Influencers in your industry? Too many organizations have a checklist mentality when it comes to social media. Without knowing who you are speaking to on your social media platforms, it’s difficult to communicate in a meaningful way. Social media is effective only when you can provide your audience with information that has some value to them.
- Remain true to your roots. All successful organization have a unique reason for being in business. They all deliver something to an audience that others can’t provide. So, think about what makes your organization unique, and be authentic in how you talk about it on social media. If it is people who make the difference, talk about people. If it is your innovation, then talk about how you innovate. If it is your efficiency… you get the picture.
- Take on only what you can realistically manage. You don’t have to tweet hourly or post something on your Facebook page every day. And you don’t have to cover every social media platform out there. Pick one or two platforms that best suit you needs, and be as active as makes sense. Just be sure that you post on a regular basis, and that you offer information that has value to others.
To the partisans, social media isn’t the answer to everything, and it needs to be kept in perspective.
- Don’t obsess about how many followers you have. For every new follower you gain, there will always be those that you lose because they are no longer interested in your organization or what you have to say. People are fickle, to which the thousands of editors and publishers who are trying on a full-time basis to garner audiences for their work can attest.
- Don’t expect your social media efforts to do more than can be delivered. Put in perspective the amount of resources dedicated to engaging customers and prospects and the relative rate of return. Concede when other forms of communications might be as effective and more efficient.
A note for all – whether you use social media or not – the more control you have of your communications to your audiences, the better your future. While the belief in the complete collapse and uselessness of mass media is premature (and grossly over-exaggerated), there are tools now available to all organizations, regardless of their size, that allow you to better understand who exactly your customers are and what their expectations are of you. This move to a relationship marketing strategy will end up being one of the dominant themes as we fast approach the third decade of the new millennium.
As always, if you’re interested in discussing your situation, feel free to call us at 301-654-5585 or email Donna Bigler.
Recently I had a catch up meeting with a friend. He shared with me how hard he finds it to keep momentum going while implementing long term strategic changes. He was very concerned that not only would he miss his more immediate milestones, but also could fall short of his long-term goals.
Regrettably, his dilemma is common- change is not easy, but it is constant. Also, people don’t like to be told what to do – even though it can be in their best interests. I’ve found that traditional command and control management rarely works today. Since most people have suffered through two major recessions since 2000, change can be perceived as a threat to their personal well-being.
Coincidentally I came across this article in the Harvard Business Review and it sums up what I’ve seen. Successful change requires simplification, intentionality, persistence and sympathy. After over 30 years studying consumer behavior, people don’t change unless compelled. Any change will require a bit of pain – re-learning tasks and changing habits. In some cases, there will even be those who “win” and those who “lose.” So, your colleagues need a pretty good explanation for why things are now going to be better (and not just different). They need to feel as if your explanation and rationale make sense and are logical. They also need to know that while you have expectations, you will provide the support through the appropriate resources to help them make the transition and to meet their new obligations. So, you need to communicate.
Communicate so your colleagues know where you are taking them. Communicate often to keep them on track. And lastly, communicate honestly, so they know if progress is being made, or if additional changes will be necessary.
Read the article – it’s pretty good. For more perspective, feel free to reach Michael Tinati at email@example.com or by calling 301-654-5585 x101.