Archive for Census

“When I was four years old
they tried to test my I.Q.
they showed me a picture
of 3 oranges and a pear
they said,
which one is different?
it does not belong
they taught me different is wrong…”

Ani DiFranco

As the 2010 Census is being compiled one thing that we can most certainly be assured of is that we’ll probably recognize America as considerably different then it was say 20 years ago. We will see far more examples of other races, religions and ethnicities. While the census is used for lots of very important things, in the past it has been the single greatest overall driver of marketing decisions.

This being the case we can also be assured that marketing to said demographics will become increasingly challenging as well as remarkably inefficient and hardly cost effective. This is in large part because of what I like to refer to as “cross-culturalization”. This is simply where people from multiple ethnicities, races and religions share like interests.

In the past, marketers have traditionally marketed to people by finding the most similarities possible to reach the largest swath of people generally via demographics and household income otherwise known as “buying power”. Just consider the term, “general consumer”.

Is there really still such a thing?

Furthermore how people define themselves will hardly be answered by the census.

Zuckerburg would have you believe that Facebook’s fate to continue to remain relevant rests largely with the growing of the “Groups” functionality. No doubt he’s read Seth Godin’s “Tribes”. Interestingly enough today there was an editorial in the New York Times by David Brooks about “Flock Comedies” and shows like Dick Van Dyke, The Waltons and The Cosby Show being replaced by shows such “Friends”, “Sex and the City”, “How I Met Your Mother” and “Glee”. The editorial makes the argument that these “…shows also serve one final purpose. They help people negotiate the transition between dyadic friendships and networked friendships.”

Arguably the Internet has exploited people’s ability to group themselves and congregate together well before Facebook. Following a blog might be the simplest means of identifying with an interest or a group.

One question Facebook may want to confront is whether a group’s identity or brand is diminished by it being on Facebook. By its sheer size, Facebook is the Wal-Mart of social media regardless of whether or not it cares to admit it. ASMALLWORLD would not be the brand that it is if it were on Facebook. Perhaps there could be opportunities for Facebook to private label groups able to utilize Facebook’s functionality. But, let’s be honest, one thing about associating with a certain group is the notion of exclusion and to be a part of a certain group requires a degree of legitimacy or street cred.

Then there is the very real fact that there are some groups that people don’t want to be openly associated with. Take being gay, in which Facebook was recently accused of likely “outing” gays.

One of the simplest descriptions of Facebook I ever heard was, “It’s a TV channel I can turn on to see what my friends are doing.”

So let’s run with that. One could make the assertion that Facebook is really akin to an original big three TV network before cable where at any given point a marketer can reach the largest number of people. Let’s call Google the largest of the big three. Google however will always have search relevance for its ad platform. With Facebook though it has to provide relevance by interest. And here Facebook is actually becoming cable before our very eyes with groups becoming channels such as the Disney channel or Spike or Lifetime. However the same way marketers struggle to get a relevant message across requires understanding your audience.

And this is where groups come in.

What Zuckerberg isn’t saying is that basically groups will become a giant ad serving platform. Take for example the group “Mom’s Who Need Wine” which has about 336K+ followers on Facebook. Not too shabby a number, right? And where better to offer up any number of specific offers, Groupon like capabilities and so on based on hosts of data and data mining and insights to prospective advertisers.

At its core, I think Facebook is right culturally about the concept of groups. But I think Facebook has some considerable uphill battles. One is trust. The other is why Facebook? Facebook Groups is where the wannabes will live. The legit groups will be places like ASMALLWORLD or ShredUnion. As an advertiser, do you want to be where trends begin or where trends go to die (e.g. Wal-Mart). For that I suggest you ask Grant McCracken, author of “Flock and Flow”. Furthermore, if you start a group like “Moms Who Need Wine” why should Facebook make all the revenue off a group they didn’t even start?

Zuckerburg and the team at Facebook will position groups as what Facebook users want. And truth be told, that’s a load of crap. Groups is a way to make money. In interviews with Facebook staffers, nobody talks about the needs or wants of consumers… they talk about not being “… surprised if only 5% or 10% create groups,” noting “that’s 25 to 50 million people — not a small number by any standard.” Those are Nielsen numbers. Another factor to consider is what are real groups such as “Mom’s Who Need Wine” versus fad groups such as “Sorry But I Can’t Hear You Over This SunChips Bag” which currently has more than 51,000 friends.

So the question is what consumers do. And that, as I think we’re readily aware by this point, is anyone’s guess.

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Oct
02

Cross-Culturalization Today

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“In 1930,Gottfried de Purucker, an author and theosophist, warned against intermarriage saying that ‘the race of the future will be a composite, composed of the many different races on earth today. Let us also remember that all men are ultimately of one blood.’” Time Magazine – 1993

I recently saw a trailer for BLAKROC.  For those of you that don’t know, this is a collaboration of the rock band, The Black Keys (white guys) and Damon Dash founder of Rocafella Records (black guys). Back in the day Aerosmith and RUN-DMCs “Walk this Way” was considered to be cataclysmic. Mind blowing. Call that perhaps the beginning of a tipping point of Cross-Culturalization also known as Trans-Culturalization as coined by the founder and former CEO of the True Agency, Richard Wayner. A man well ahead of his time.

BLAKROC may not receive as much hype but in my mind it’s that much more telling. Because it’s a true collaboration whereas my belief was that the Aerosmith/RUN-DMC collaboration was a business opportunity. Don’t worry, I fell for it too. We all know that of course this is a business opportunity for Dash. The guy’s a pretty savvy businessman. However, when you watch the trailer you can see that these are artists collaborating and trying to create something. Mark my words, it will be dope. But what is so cool about this collaboration is the cultures, meeting, melding and creating something palpable.

BLAKROC from Jonah Schwartz on Vimeo.

Funny thing is that I wasn’t surprised at hearing about this collaboration. A couple of years ago I recall an article in which the author was shadowing Damon Dash for a day. They’re in Dash’s car and the author was taken aback by what Dash was listening to. John Mayer.

I’ve posted before about my belief that to market to people based on their race or ethnicity is inherently flawed and I still hold firm to my beliefs. It’s 2009 and agencies like Project 2050 should be agencies of record. Fact: by 2042, the racial make-up of this country will be more than 50% NON-WHITE. However we continue to have these ludicrous discussions about how non-representative of society agencies in fact are.

I’m married to a white woman and we have two beautiful mocha babies. I was dating white women, long before it became fashionable. I am a product of my environment, born to Black aristocracy and afforded the luxuries of prep schools and private college. White enclaves. Figures I would choose advertising for a career. Nine years ago my wife and I were defending our union to my wife’s parents. Now I can’t even to begin to comprehend what the spectrum of my daughters’ cultural influences will look like. Especially given how early they’re exposed to the presence of multiculturalism via childrens programming such as Blues Clues with Salt, Pepper and baby Paprika. Heck, Bratz forced Barbie to find some new friends. And Alas, finally Disney has decided to get with the program and have a “black” princess. Foxy Brown, look out.

A couple of years ago I was asked to speak at a conference on the “multiracial” category. Statistically this is a group that is technically growing exponentially. Feel free to e-mail me for a copy of the presentation.

Here are some quick facts:
The incidence of births of mixed race babies has multiplied 26 times as fast as that of any other group.
• In April 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau added 126 different possible racial combinations.
• 2.4 percent of the U.S. population or 6.8 million people responded to the Census by checking more than one race box those numbers are believed to be severely underrepresented.
• Over the past 30 years, America has produced the greatest number of hybrid households in the history of the world.
• The number of black-white mixed marriages increased by 504% in the last 25 years. Mixed marriages were illegal in as many as 14 states up until 1967.
• In a 1993 Time Magazine poll, 72% stated they knew married couples of different races.
• Among Jews, the number marrying out of their faith has shot up from 10% to 52% since 1960.
• Among Japanese Americans 65% marry people who have no Japanese heritage.

Do you think that there’s a little more than the plot line as to why Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes could be so popular among so many different people?

The Cross-Culturalization of music, fashion and style is astounding. The Roots are doing covers of Bob Dylan. Reggaeton while waning in popularity doesn’t negate the fact Daddy Yankee once had a Direct Effect top 10 video. Mexican kids wearing dime store sandals brought us the Converse One-star slides. Japan has brought us urban vinyl, Anime and the next generation of hot rodding in tuner cars. And while Americans are still eating up the Japanese tuner scene, the Japanese have gone Euro. Hip Hop styles are well entrenched in the action sports culture. I’m sure 20 years ago New Era never thought they’d be making the 59FIFTY with a Red Bull logo. Five years ago, I’m sure NASCAR never predicted the Japanese influence of drifting or the European influence of rally racing now an X-Games staple.

Not too long ago, the writer Carolina Miranda did a DNA test to discover literally where she came from. She learned that she was not what she thought she was and I think she sums up a way of thinking about better ways to approach consumers other than by race or ethnicity. The reality is that racial purity is largely a myth and as she stated in a Time Magazine article, “True identity, it seems, resides not in our genes but in our mind”.

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