There are literally hundreds of companies and forecasters who claim to have a handle on the future. One that has an excellent track record is Roper Starch, a research firm that has been looking at trends for over 50 years. The 2000 Roper Report identified four concepts that help marketers understand Americans in the new millennium:9
- "High Pace/High Peace: Americans' high-speed lifestyles create new goals and needs": Silicon Valley marketers often talk about a phenomenon called "high tech-high touch"; the more technology becomes part of people's lives (tech), the more the need for personal interaction (touch). We think a similar, possibly more powerful phenomenon, is unfolding in today's frenetic, high-speed world of drive for success, "Internet time", “24/7” business, and multitasked lifestyles. As the pace of life is picking up (high pace), there is growing desire and demand for peace. The shift to “High Pace/High Peace" is evident in the marketplace. Increasingly, brands seem to be "high-pace" (efficiency-oriented, intense brands like the Internet broker E-Trade; personalities like Micro chief and bestselling author Bill Gates) or "high-peace" (relaxing, spa-pace brands like Banana Republic, Canyon Ranch; personalities like spiritual leader and bestselling author the Dalai Lama. The shift is reflected in Roper data as well). Americans are working harder than ever to get ahead. Work is spilling into all corners of life: a record 39 per cent of Americans say they often spend leisure time on work, a three-fold increase from the beginning of the decade. New technologies are making it possible to be ever more productive. Americans generally recognize that hard work is the price for getting ahead. At the same time, there is a growing yearning for peace. Most agree that the best leisure time is the time alone. Declining numbers are getting such time to rest, relax, and renew. More, instead, are feeling stressed out. This tension between high pace and high peace shows no sign that it will go away. At the same time, data suggest that there are opportunities for marketers to become a bridge to get people to both high pace and high peace goals.
- "Kinnections: The movement to connection in technology, relationships, and brands": The increasing pace of life is not the only characteristic of America since the tum of the new century. Empowered by new technology, the strong economy, and a growing command of self-reliance and other skills, Americans have begun to reach out and take the next step to extend their sense of connection. In a whole host of areas—from communications and computing to attitudes towards family and community—connections are up. These connections are different from the past. They can be fast changing and dynamic (kinetic). They appear to be part of a desire for a greater sense of association (kinship). The movement to connections, thus, is actually a move toward "kinnections". The results are reflected in the data. Communications technologies are taking off. This is most evident in the explosive growth of cellular communications. It is also apparent in the computer industry, where increasing interest in using computers to connect (e-mail, the Web) is driving interest. Many Americans say that these technologies are improving the quality of their connections, making it easier to stay in touch with friends and family, and, overall, “making life better". The growth in connections is reflected in personal relationships as well: Americans are feeling better about the family and more connected to their communities. Indeed, satisfaction with many aspects of community is at record levels. Many are pursuing spiritual connections. This sense of connection is apparent in the marketplace as well in cause-related marketing and a greater desire for brands to go beyond the basics like quality and value (which are now expected) to connect in new ways with consumers.
- "Diversity/Destiny": Diversity is destiny for America, not just in some far off future. The US increasingly is "the world's nation": our foreign-born population has almost tripled in the past 30 years. African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities make up the majority of the nation's population growth in the past decade—and will account for an even larger proportion of the nation's growth in the decade to come. The result is creating new, distinctive demographic segments that must be understood. It is also changing society. America is becoming multicultural. Americans are much more appreciative of ethnic customs and traditions compared to two decades ago. Where past generations may have defined the American character in terms of pioneer heritage, Americans today see strength in our status as "a melting pot". Indeed, being a melting pot is now seen as a core source of America's greatness, almost equal to the work ethic, the free enterprise system, the Constitution and the system of government, and the nation's natural splendor. Multiculturalism defines the nation's tastes in areas from food to popular music. Roper analysis shows that Americans share many basic values and concerns across racial and ethnic groups. At the same time, the data suggest that there continue to be many distinctions as well. To succeed in this year of diversity/destiny, marketers need to know both sides.
- "Marketing by life stage": Marketers have traditionally relied on standard demographics to understand and predict consumer behavior. Our research shows, however, that life stage can be a more powerful predictor of consumer attitudes and behavior than traditional demographic analysis. For example, a 49-year-old woman starting a second marriage and second career may have more in common with a 29-year-old woman starting her first marriage and first career than she does with another 49-year-old woman whose last child just moved out of the house. Classifying Americans by the life events they have experienced, rather than by demographic traits, can yield insights and understanding into a market that might otherwise have been overlooked. In conjunction with Modern Maturity, Roper has identified seven life stage segments that demonstrate the appeal and rewards of marketing to consumers by life stage.
The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com)
Internal planning processes in marketing organizations focus on an organization's strengths and weaknesses, but organizations must also consider the impact of external environmental factors. By understanding how external elements of the marketplace affect an organization's planning process, marketers can develop strategies that capitalize on opportunities and minimize threats.
Legal and ethical issues pose complex challenges for marketers. From product liability to deregulation, the external environment varies by state and country. The Interactive Journal helps you keep up with legal and ethical issues that affect organizations. On the Front Section, select Marketplace. On the left menu in Marketplace, select Law. Here you will find articles about discrimination suits, recent legal rulings, and product liability claims. Articles are both national and international in scope.
Economic and political issues are as variable as legal issues, and are impacted by government/industry relationships, consumer spending habits, and political leadership. The Interactive helps you keep up with these issues as well. On the Front Section, select Politics & Policy under In this Section on the left menu. Here you will find articles about pending legislation, government mandates, tax proposals, and policy directives. These articles are also national and international in scope.
Technology is rapidly changing the external environment. The Interactive Journal provides you with in-depth information and analysis on technology in Tech Center. From the Front Section, select Tech Center. You can use this new menu to read the latest on tech stocks and personal technology. Select Tech Briefs to find out what is happening with leading companies. On the right side of your screen you will find headings with different topics. Page down to locate Tech Resources. Here you will find links to Company Profiles, Issue Briefings, and a Dot-Com Layoffs and Shutdowns list. Select one of these links now.
The Interactive Journal also features a weekly personal technology column. Under Free WSJ.com Sites on the Front Section, select Personal Tech.
Select Microsoft under the Company Profiles link in the Tech Resources Section of Tech Center. Also search the Interactive Journal by using the Search feature under Journal Atlas on the left menu for articles about Microsoft. Discuss the legal, ethical, and political issues in the antitrust suit filed against the company. Also discuss the implications of the suit on the company's technology.
- To what extent can marketers foresee opportunities and threats posed by the external environment? What factors can alter forecasts?
- What steps can organizations take to ensure external elements are factored into the strategic planning process?
- How can the information found in the Interactive Journal be utilized to help organizations take advantage of market opportunities? Divert threats?