Thursday, June 6, 2019

The New Sanctity of the Nest

How many of you remember having a play-house, tree-house or fort growing up? 

I had both a play-house and a tree-house in which the tree-house was sometimes used also as a fort.  But… mine was the only such structure in the neighborhood with curtains and a desk. 

When Discovery Networks purchased HGTV and its sister networks DIY-TV and Great American Country, it inherited a lot of programming. 

EXPERIENCE has worked with Discovery Communications on a number of projects.  

Once when I was up at the headquarters in Silver Springs, I made mention that it had some cool programming through a combination of HGTV, Travel Channel and Food Network to do some interesting positioning strategy with Millennials as they matured.

Sure enough… Discovery Family was launched and has evolved into what it is today… a mainstay of the Millennial Home-Makers. 

I bet many have heard about the birthrate in the U.S. hitting a new low.

I believe that the news stories about the national birthrate broke just about the same time as I was posting the last blog… about three weeks ago.

God love the statistics folks.  They do serve a purpose. 

BUT… living only in the numbers and not following the connection of one set with another set with yet another set and looking at the relationship dynamics of a scenario can lead one quickly into a mis-read.

As the headlines quickly eclipsed... The birth-rate in the U.S. was declining because the Millennials are electing not to make babies. 

We’ve all hear the famed story of the Blind Indian Monks and their individual assessment of an elephant based on the body part each was touching. 

Not only are the news stories a mis-read, but what is taking place is 100% the opposite!

Millennials are focusing on house & home more now than ever in their past.  

They are coupling and… they are making babies. 

I’ve shared the stat before.  By the end of this calendar year, there will be 20 million new Americans age 0-4 … all thanks to the Millennials’ reproduction drivers.

There are some sources out there... and the mass media ignores them... that forecast the Alpha Generation created by the Millennials might even take the lead as the largest generational group ever in the U.S.

How can this be if the birth-rate is at a record-setting low?

It’s easy.  Just before a storm hits, it gets quiet.  The winds die down.  The temperature levels out. 

Just as the Millennials begin making babies, one of the smallest generations in U.S. history, the de-famed GenXers are passing into another life stage where they no longer make any new kids. 

The past eco-societal trend of single moms getting pregnant and bearing a lot of kids have radically faded.  Thanks in part to birth control, thanks in part to technology and thanks in part to economic progress. 

As these changes get intertwined, what the press sees on the surface is more of a mirage vs. reality.

What’s happening is even more pronounced that just an uptick in baby-making. 

What’s happening is a Mega-Trend that can be coined as “The New Sanctity of the Nest.”

If you follow the media and its coverage of housing trends in the U.S., you might have had to take a Dramamine to temper all the bouncing around. 

One report says housing sales are up; the next article reports down. 

Bottomline is simple. 

Millennials are investing in their nests – whether it’s a rental or first-time owned. 

Could be a hi-rise, a flat, a co-op, a loft, a cottage, a subdivision cookie cutter or mid-century-like rehab. 

Nights out at the local micro-brew as well as time in front of the mobile smartphone texting friends direct or in social forums are being replaced with cooking meals at home and hanging curtains. 

About a year ago, I wrote that Millennials had made a super discovery of how to get video streaming free with this wired devise picked up from Best Buy called an “antenna.”

Millennials are still shopping Target, but they are also jumping into their SUVs and heading over to the local Bed, Bath & Beyond, Cost Plus World Market, Crate & Barrel, IKEA, Pier 1, Home Goods and Pottery Barn. 

Yes… Yes… eBay, Amazon and Wayfair are still getting their hits and online orders, but the touch and feel is much more real and valued than the convenience of a click.

High Touch is beginning to take over the convenience of High Tech. 

The Sanctity of the Nest means more than just the structure and décor of the home.

Kitchens are hip and hot.  Food Network ratings are up.  And pre-packaged, pre-prepared dinner brands are struggling.

Great article in this morning’s WSJ that Campbell Soup is “beefed up for investment” with a post of 12% more in sales from a year earlier. 

God love the masters of Madison Avenue and Michigan Avenue.  God love the techies that are housed in the Silicon Valley of the West Coast.  They believe that digital, voice-command and aps are engraved in every future forecast until eternity. 

Unfortunately, as they dwell in their high-tech havens, they fail to see the rise in the farmers markets, cooking classes, made-from-scratch recipes and cookbooks – note I said cook-books not cooking aps. 

If you are reading this and intrigued, call me… its 404.245.9378 and ask for Mark. 

There’s some cool stats, cool one-on-one interviews, cool target groups, cool ideas… and even some cool, fresh-made, Dominos-sugared lemonade to share with you.

Bottomline… The New Sanctity of the Nest is just now coming to life. 

So put away the smart phone.  Quiet down the digital agency. Take a break from brainstorming the next ap.  

Instead put on a nice pair of Keds walking shoes and come with us as we sit-down in Living Rooms, separate Dining Rooms and even around pic-nic tables on backyard decks and talk about the hip new social medium with the Millennials called Home.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Corporate Obsession To Avoid

What I read this morning is alarming.

Corporate America is skating on the edge of prosperity and digging some very deep graves… or at least the CEOs running the corporations are skating on ice right now.

And it has nothing to do with China or Trump.

I was ready last night to dedicate this blog writing to some key insights I gleaned from some campouts in malls across the U.S., but upon reading this morning’s newspapers, I cannot help but shift the focus to something overtaking corporate board rooms. 

Here is the headline of one of the articles…

“Much of Corporate America is obsessed with NPS… a score that has developed a cult-like following.”

A Millennial digital marketing geek that heads up marketing for one our media clients brought the topic up back in 4th quarter 2018. 

He called me and said he wanted to get the research up and running by the first of the year.

As soon as he used the acronym, I knew we were going to have some spirited discussion.

Not that I am a statistical Phd, but there is no way that EXPERIENCE will ever, ever, ever implement this type of “research.”

There are friends I have in Atlanta, that regularly protest around the Emory Yerkes Primate Institute that conducts medical experiments on apes and monkeys.  They believe that the research violates basic animal rights.

NPS research violates fundamental business missions, Wall Street investments and global economics. 

The CEO of Delta airlines, an Atlanta-based corporation, is quoted in the article saying this… “Our score has averaged 50, up seven points over last year.  This is the reason we’ve sustained the best revenue premium in the industry.”

Now I am not an economic forecaster or accounting expert, but I doubt that the Delta Score is why Delta’s financials are positive. 

At least the CEO is a positive thinker with the perspective that the glass is half full.  Not that I am a naysayer, but just as much as the glass is half full, it’s equally half empty and that might be an area of improvement focus.

So what is this “NPS” that I am talking about?

The cult-followers refer to its acronym – NPS – that stands for Net Promoter Score.  The followers like to refer to is as a “customer satisfaction rating.”

It’s a “like-ability rating” survey question – one question – where customers rate their recent experience on a 1-10 rating scale. 

No further questions are asked.  Just one question. 

In the last week, I have received two NPS survey phone calls.  I even knew that one was forthcoming. 

When I purchased a Jeep Cherokee last week, the salesperson told me I was going to get a single question survey call to rate my experience in purchasing the Jeep. 

He went on to tell me that his sales commission was dependent upon the rating I gave.  He even told me that if I rated the experience any lower than a “10” his commission would be cut to a lower percentage.

The second call I got came in from Target. 

It came in within an hour after I purchased some groceries at a Target just down the street from my Atlanta home.  The refrigerated items had been unpacked, but the non-refrigerated items were still in bags on my kitchen counter when the call came in.

The question was identical to the call that came in from Jeep… “using a scale of 1-to-10 with 10 being excellent and 1 being poor, how would you rate the likeability (I am not making that up) of your most recent Target shopping experience?”

John Mulligan, Target’s COO is quoted in the article saying, “Our most recent net promoter score for Drive-Up is 88.  A crazy high number, the highest of any service we provide.  We expect to have this service rolled out to nearly 1,000 stores by the holiday season.”

Wow. 

One question delivering “a crazy high number” that is going to drive a service roll out to nearly 1,000 stores.

And I guess the COO has the CFO on the same bandwagon. 

The WSJ article goes on to note that “so many of the NPS surveys are sent to customers through Emails, web pop-ups and phone calls, it has become harder to secure a representative response rate.”

The article goes further with “its hard for investors to interpret the scores because companies often administer the surveys internally, get very low response rates, do not publish margins of error and elect to internally adjust the ‘scores’ against cultural bias.”

Okay.

Corporate business leadership that is now making financial investment decisions driven by a single like-ability question are living in la-la-land.

The headline for the article is politically more correct than my commentary with “CEOs Embrace a Dubious Metric.”

The CEOs of Best Buy, American Express, Target, Delta Airlines, UnitedHealth, Google, Intuit and Citigroup are all noted as cult-followers in the article.

Am I a loyal Apple Mac user? 

Yes. 

I have three MacBook Pros and two iPhones.  I have used an Apple computer for more than 25 years now.

Do I “like” Apple and would I give them a “10?”

Absolutely NOT.  Maybe a “5” at best. 

MacBooks cost 5 times more than the corresponding PC.  Microsoft Office still cannot coordinate programs with Apple mechanics.  The staffing at the Apple stores are arrogant.  Apple just got slammed by the Supreme Court for hording the apps. 

Does my “like-ability” of Apple align with my likelihood to purchase another Apple product?

No. 

It’s a love-hate relationship that marriage counselors attempt to correct.

Did I give the Jeep salesperson a “10.”

Yes. 

Am I in a brand love affair with the new Jeep. 

No.

It’s nice, but there are a lot of Jeep components built into the dash and the power limitations of the engine that I do not find very like-able.

LOL… Did the one question ask me to rate the product experience itself? 

No.

We work with a retail client that owns multiple store brands.  I did the mall campouts for this client that I will write about in the next blog post.

The head of consumer insights is a good guy.  But when I asked him how often he gets out in the field and visits the stores and has conversation with customers, he told me in his 11 months on board, he has yet to get out into the field.

CEOs that build their brand kingdoms around comfort and internal mission statements are not likely to be long standing.

If you are just now hitting the EXPERIENCE website and reading this… or you clicked on the Blog link in our Email signature and reading this… and you have concluded that EXPERIENCE is a crazy group of non-MBA, corporate culture, brand endorsers and believe we are not going to generate much return on your investment…

Email me and I will send you the names of some of the firms quoted in the Wall Street Journal article that actually are advocates of the NPS research.  I will also send you the names and contact information for some do-as-the-client-says ad agencies that you will find reinforce your defined brand promotional needs.

If you read this and observe quickly that the brands who are integrating this type of research that is generating “crazy high numbers” are struggling with market maturity and limited growth and you desire to avoid a similar brand situation, call us.

My goal is not to make this blog… nor our client relationships “like-able.” 

My goal is to drive brand growth and bottom line return… to craft brand experiences that customers emotionally desire to seek out beyond rational thought… even when they don’t necessarily fully like the brand!



 



Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Explosion of High Touch To Counter Balance High Tech


First there was a story in the British publication, House & Home that featured a Paris pied-a-terre. 

The designer talked about how it was fashioned to express the French love of style and culture.   How the owner was passionate about having “a mix of soothing colours” and “bold statements of personality.”

The owner was barely 30 years old.  He made his zillions in “technology integration.” 

The designer notes that owner was a bit of a geek, but valued the richness of French Culture even spending two years studying Parisian literature written during the French Revolution.

Right now I am sitting in a coffee house in Atlanta that is located right in the middle of a Millennial lifestyle group called “Young Digerati.”

The Claritas PRIZM cluster, "Young Digerati" is described as “affluent, highly-educated and digitally-connected.”  

Its description goes on the say Young Digerati folk are into yoga clubs, clothing boutiques, local antiques and flea markets, home décor, juice bars, coffee houses and microbrews.

No question that the tech-heads have their own unique set of social skills. 

They are drawn to the indie coffee houses.  They purchase the organic, politically correct and local coffee blends.  They have the cream foam crafted to look like flowers or birds.  They sip their coffee in groups. 

But once seated, instead of talking with one another, as a communal group they interact with one another plus their other friends on social media.

High Tech… High Touch… even when they leave home for the office…

A front-page story on this morning’s Wall Street Journal is titled, “Restrooms Get a Makeover.” 

The article is all about how office restrooms are transforming quickly into “centers of retreat” complete with areas to relax, listen to music, watch nature videos and converse. 

There is a picture that features a women’s restroom in a WeWorks co-working space.  A spokesperson from WeWorks describes how staff now takes possible co-workers into the restrooms after showing them the high-tech conference rooms.

And… the restrooms are now what sells the co-workers on making WeWorks there offie destination.

Airbnb is featured in the WSJ article with its installation of forest-themed restrooms with tree stumps and the sounds of crickets chirping at its San Francisco headquarters.

In Airbnb’s Portland office, the men’s room is retro-videogame themed with stations where guys can play Pac-Man and Mario Bros. arcade game.

The West Coast is high-tech haven and just a tad… a tad… out there. 

The article also notes a Raleigh North Carolina marketing firm using more than 20,000 pennies to create custom tile for the restroom floors.  All the coins have been installed heads-up except for one. 

Apparently, new employees are given a bonus if they can find the one coin that is not heads-up. My bet is that the new employees might not be that time-efficient in actually doing the work they were hired to do. 

There was an article earlier this week about how the grocery stores are dashing quickly into the digital order online and drive-up to get the orders.

Article after article… stat after stat… shows that few of the programs are actually netting dollars in the red and most of the retailers doing it are not just losing money, but are losing a lot of money. 

Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.  

Ace is also the place that draws in the techie Millennials because they can interact with a human being that cares vs. going to a Big Box home store with self-checkout lanes only.

Every day I hear more and more and more and more and… about digital, digital, digital, digital. 

Just as the press has it engrained in their headsets that Trump will not last through his first four years, the press has it equally engrained in their headsets that the Jetsons world of automatic cars and self-cooking kitchens is going to be reality in the next few years. 

Unfortunately seeing the world through Manhattan, DC and the West Coast does not provide the most accurate portrayal of not just American society, but the techies too!

There are brands that do get it.

Maybe first in line is Apple. Check out the TV ad running right now about Apple Security.

As much as Airbnb has gone a bit overload on the design of their restrooms, if you have not used Airbnb for travel bookings lately, take a look at the website.  It is way more High Touch than you might think. 

I used to own a MINI back 10 years ago.  Not like I am a High Tech genius, but I do interact a lot with digital literally… with stats and numbers.  

I purchased the MINI because it was hip and cool. I have yet to see a MINI ad that promotes its High Tech equipment... but whether I am in Atlanta or San Fran or Austin or LA, I see a lot of the techie geeks driving MINIs.

My fun car today is a 2003 VW Beetle convertible.  Other than power windows, there is no digital anything on that “fun car.” 

I write these blog-posts NOT to have answers… but more so to stimulate thinking and cause brand leadership to ponder as their models of assurance are disrupted. 

I will end this post with a line I have myself saying over and over and over again to our partners and clients. 

The Millennials are literally driving the marketplace right now as they couple, purchase their nests and begin birthing kids. 

Will we experience a repeat of the same market dynamics of the 70s and 80s and Boomers did the same thing?  Nope.

Will we witness a shift of everything to high tech and digital embodied in everything from app-only banking to self-driving cars to online purchases with drone delivery to face-time and texting replacing true face-to-face?  Absolutely not. 

I may not have all the answers of what will unfold, but I will place $100 bet that human in-person interaction, expressions of creativity and the arts, personalization of design and style, customization of products further made-by-hand and good home-cooked food made from scratch is going to explode!




Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The 2019 State of the Retail Union Address

Well the numbers for March have been released and the number of the day is 0.2%.  Yup, a dip of 0.2% in February from a gain of 0.7% in January. 

Wow.  Be still my heart.

The headline for the news release is “Improved Retail Sales Can’t Lift Malls.”  And the 0.2% is the number driving the Wall Street News story. 

Fascinating how statistical variance – however small it might be – drives perception among the masses, the non-statistical public at-large in which the press dwells among.

I have shared in Blog writings before just how much of the consumer and even business community is off in perceptions of the Internet, web-retail world. 

The question: How much did the Internet account for retail sales closures in the past quarter of the year?

The average answers i get among folks on-the-street to folks in top management and board rooms run in the 50%-80% range. 

The most recent numbers released from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau on March 13, 2019 at 10:00am EDT is 9.7%. 

And it is up... 2.0% from the previous quarter in volume which translates out to about 0.02 percentage points.  

Wow!

Journey with me for a moment into the generational groups and their respective numbers.

In 2019, the leading edge of Millennials turns 40 years old.  The trailing edge of Millennials turns 25 years old. 

The size of each age group from age 5-25 is smaller size than the Millennial Generation as it moved through the same age groups. 

In 2019, the leading edge of the Alpha Generation turns 4 years old.  And the Alpha Generation grows more and more and more in size – which in 2019 is expected to hit 20 million – each year for the next dozen or so years. 

The Boomers are now turning 73 years old this year with the trailing edge hitting the double-digit thrill of age 55. 

As Boomers evolve into empty-nesters, they begin the process of shedding everything from clothes in the closets to furniture no longer needed to even china and dishes that do nothing more than gather dust. 

So there are some major forces of change taking place right in front of us.  Changes way more statistically significant than a monthly change of 0.2%.  

According to the Wall Street Journal story, retail malls “are finding themselves in a very cloudy, confusing state.” 

The story talks about retailers closing stores in the malls.  

So far this year, they cite more than 5,000 stores closing down.  And they cite brands like Payless Shoes and Gymboree and Charlotte Russe. 

Not too sure that those brands are currently re-positioning strategically for 2020.  

And I would be willing to put a $100 bet on the table that regardless if their locations are in a mall, strip center or stand alone, the stores overall are performing below par.

BUT… according to the WSJ, those store closings represents yet another indicator that retail malls are doomed and digital will soon replace the retail world we have long known.

Thus far in the 2019 calendar year, about 40% of our time at EXPERIENCE has been focused around the retail marketplace with a number of retail brands involved in clothing to house & home. 

And here is what we have universally found to be happening right now. 

(1)  The retail marketplace is at a critical junction point of change and opportunity… and it is NOT the transition of physical shopping to digital shopping. 

(2)  Retailers closing down stores and/or filing Chapter 11 are driven more because either they target market groups that no longer exist or they are anchored by locations in neighborhoods that transitioned and changed.

(3)  Price discounting has chiseled down brand equity to the point where today many brands are throwing as much crap against the wall to see what sticks. 

(4)  Digital shopping is NOT replacing instore, onsite shopping, but instead is adding another storefront to the retail brand experience. 


The critical junction point of change is actually so simple and such a BGO – Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious – that many run from the bright glare in dis-belief. 

Here it is.

The Millennials are in lifestage transition and a transitional change that is in many ways a retail tsunami of opportunity, growth and expansion. 

The Millennials are now building their nests, purchasing homes and birthing kids.  It’s that simple. 

And unless business leadership has become so addicted to Excel in doing their math, future opportunity is busting down the door.

So is O.2% a number worth a WSJ headline story? 

No. But then again, journalism in America is going through a generational life change right now too.

If you are a retailer reading this, call us and we will tell you more.

If you are a politician, a financial firm, a healthcare firm, an entertainment brand, a CPG brand… call us too. 

And always remember, the Millennials fostered the whole trendscape of “helicopter parents” and while the parents have since transitioned to empty-nesters, the need-gap remains. 

When you call us, we will tell you more about how you and your brand can fill that “helicopter niche.”

My Email is mkooyman@experiencediscovery.com  and my phone number is 404-245-9378.  As a Baby Boomer, I prefer to actually speak in person than just in text. 





Monday, March 4, 2019

Beyond The Confines of Conventional Perception

Creativity gets itself cemented into a belief that the wackier, more tech-engineered and more animated the idea, the more authentic and opportune the venture that it generates.

As I have written in this blog already this year, television ad spots are a great case in point.

Millennials have now taken over the day-to-day workforce of the ad agencies.  Ad agencies have now become addicted to “off-the-wall” ad formats. These naive newbies perceive scripting the TV ads as scripting a mini-video series.  

I purposely did not post a blog right after the Super Bowl.  I avoided voicing then, as many others did via the mass media, the ads that ran were horrific. 

Since then, like a virus, the ad agencies have generated follow-ups that appear in a pre-packaged format that continues the next chapter of the initial ads. 

I am an advocate of brand consistency.  I abhor the continuation of idiocy. 

Several great cases in point.

I am sure that the production teams producing the insurance ads for brands like Geico, Progressive and Farmers tell their friends about how they are cooking up the next star character episodes.  I would a $100 down on the table that the same productions teams could not describe the insurance products sold by each client.

The revolving new venture capital Dot-Com start-ups are running ads where there is limited conveyance of what the heck the website or app even does.  The site hit rate might increase the 10-15 minutes after the ads run, but I would hate to see those digital financial returns.

And the Chevy ads featuring the past focus group moderator that now freely and directly biases and sways the opinion voiced of the ignorant representatives of middle America is not that much more of a media-investment redline as the Toyota ads that at least paint a slightly better IQ level of its ad participants.

Okay, enough about the ad agencies.

There’s a great story buried in today’s Wall Street Journal about Amazon… and the article never mentions New York!

Instead, it talks about how Amazon is exploring the dis-assembly of health insurance and how to re-engineer health insurance to more efficiently operate.

Taking conventional products like health insurance and reconfiguring the models might… just might… lead to a totally new product model.  Is the process an easy one?  No.  It causes a lot of discomfort and sleepless nights.  And that is GOOD.

Amazon also announced that they are launching a new grocery store chain with the first stores opening up in evolving neighborhoods in LA, Austin, Washington and Seattle. 

Are they opening up in the urban, historic-Millennial past-trendy neighborhoods?  

No.  They are opening up where the Millennial families are moving to and purchasing their first homes. 

I was in both Kroger and Publix stores over this past weekend and felt that I had landed in a brand environment that was scraping to survive.  

While a majority of the new, online order prime parking spots were empty, staff inside the stores where pushing large warehouse carts up and down the aisles to grab items to fill bags for those who ordered their weekly grocery supply online.

Can’t wait to see the new Amazon grocery stores.  My bet is that there will be a very clear, defined point of difference from the retail store-warehouse hodge-podge into which the soon post-mortem brands evolve.

Apple announced an internal team shake-down.  AT&T is re-engineering Warner Bros. and Turner Entertainment and past top leadership has been replaced.

And it’s not just the Millennials driving the re-thinking.  Boomers are the historic drivers and believe it or not, they are still around!

It was never my intent to go after the funeral homes, but EXPERIENCE has worked with a set of them from the east coast to the Pacific west.  

In this morning’s WSJ, there’s a story titled, “The Freeform Funeral” that features an immediate family on a beach that just honored a passing member of the family.  The Boomers just might re-define funerals as technology did in redefining travel agencies. 

We have become re-entrenched in healthcare with a great project work in tandem with a very hip global architectural firm.  Last week I spent three hours with the healthcare leadership team in getting-to-know the changing neighborhoods around a new hospital acquisition. 

Many were surprised to learn that the neighborhoods that they assumed to be comprised of a certain type of end-consumer had changed… and future change is churning fast. 

Were the ideas generated concentrated all around the digital world of the Internet?

Absolutely not.  In fact, the ideas included pets, coaches, yoga studios and even a nutritional work-from-home café.

Whether its modular housing or new ways to manage health or designing a grocery store for 2030, the catalyst in innovation is driven by the consumer / end-user need.  

Not by what’s cute or funny or high tech or social or engineered. 

And it all begins with letting go of comfort and getting out from behind the walls of the cocoon. 




Thursday, December 27, 2018

Its Time To Wake Up!

Even though it’s the end of the year, I have a lot of active projects.  And in many ways, its why I am taking the time to post this Blog entry as we move quickly into 2019.

Over the course of the last few weeks, the NY Stock Exchange dropped a lot.  

That was until yesterday.  

The Dow posted a 1,000+ point gain – the biggest percentage gain ever in the history of the Dow. Stocks in every category from high tech to retail to financial all posted nearly record-setting gains.

I am the first in line to share that I am not a financial wizard.  Nor am I the most advanced high-tech engineer. 

Many of the readers know I coined a termed called a “BGO” – a Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious. 

The 1,000+ gain yesterday was a classic BGO that the artificial intelligence, high-tech, financial experts along with many C-level managers overlooked. 

In the EXPERIENCE 2019 Trendcast Report, the driver of the next year is identified and that it’s not that complex.  The Millennial families are grabbing hold of the next 10-15 years of global economics, politics and brand cultures. 

The news media salivates to see economic collapse.  The news media outright despises the current leadership in the White House.  

And the news media as it continues to rant and rave, is missing the cues of one of the most revolutionary, historic marketplace change agents.

Over the last two weeks, I purposely went out shopping.  Not necessarily to buy Christmas gifts, but rather talk with and observe shoppers. 

And folks, the shoppers were out in droves! 

Was I hanging out at the Bloomingdale, Restoration Hardware and Barneys New York stores?  

No.  

Instead I hung out at places like Macy’s, JC Penny, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Steinmart and Pier 1 stores. 

I went to a half a dozen malls.  I hung out at Starbucks and Trader Joe’s.  I spent more time at Kroger and Publix talking to folks than picking up my groceries. 

I grabbed a drink and dinner at chain and quick service restaurants. 

And it was time well spent.

The ad agencies and digital shops are staffed with folks who seldom leave their gentrified intown bubble-hoods.  The editors and news producers – and God love them – are wired to their laptops writing their 24/7 news.  And the academics – well, they too live in a bubble that becomes more and more and more out-of-touch with reality.  

The Millennials are transitioning quickly.  The economy is transitioning quickly. 

AND FEW UNDERSTAND THIS!

Many still cling to a stereotype of Millennials that sits at coffee houses with their smart phone texting to friends and sending selfies via social media. 

Sometimes I truly do think that it would be best that I did not shine the lights on marketplace reality. 

The less I shine the lights in a Blog like this and presentations I make to business leadership, the more CEOs and business leadership still walking in the darkness of reality… which translates to more business for EXPERIENCE!

Will the stock market drop again… Hell yes.  It will bounce around a lot.  Thanks in part to the Artificial Intelligence … BTW, that’s an oxymoron. 

Amazon is coming to the reality of distribution costs.  Apple is coming to the reality of product market maturity.  Google is coming to the reality of flashing ads on websites does not drive brand purchase behaviors and screening out free speech does not build the best bonds.  And Facebook… well no question, it’s got both the DNC and GOP congressional leadership in its Face. 

BUT… as Millennials buy real estate and next the furniture, lawn and garden equipment, electronic gadgets… and next have kids and then buy the kids clothes, toys and games… and when the moms stay-at-home but continue to work….

We are going to see Wall Street … and Main Street wake up. 

And while I now sip on British Tea, I still brew up some great pots of insights that will wake up your brand!

Come give me a call and let’s get a new start on the day ahead!




Friday, November 16, 2018

2019 Trendcast... Grab Hold Of The Change!

Significant Changes Ahead...

Each year I issue the EXPERIENCE Trendcast in advance of January 1st

The trends get posted on our blog and I expand upon each trend in a PowerPoint presentation.  And each year I have the pleasure of showcasing the trends in front of business leadership. 

Right now the media and news editors are going crazy with futuristic forecasts post-election.  And the media flurry has been further sparked by a fixation on Amazon and its announcements.

Just as corporate and entrepreneurial America often dwells in its own market bubbles, the media does the same.

Here is a snapshot of the 2019 trends ... actually the first seven of them!

Kids R Us

About three weeks ago, the U.S. Census Bureau released its new 2019 statistics. While the socio-economics stats were interesting, I was shocked by the size of “kids age 0-4” – a direct age match with what is being termed “Generation Alpha.”

The size of Generation Alpha is estimated to hit 20 million in 2019.  This is the first wave of what the Millennials are birthing. 

The top of the Millennial “bell-curve” in 2019 will be turning 31 years of age and about half are married and about half are still single. The Millennials span a 15 year spread and so what we are seeing with kids is really only the start of Generation Alpha’s “bell-curve.”

When Millennials solely occupied the group of “kids age 0-4” back in 1983, they topped out at just over 17 million in size.

This trend is going to rattle many, many models of certainty. 

If you have money invested in social media, you might want to join the wave of others thinking there might just be better opportunity elsewhere.  

And if you think that Toys R Us is an indicator that retail toy stores are part of history, you might want to grab a Red Bull and wake up.    

The Family Forum has evolved into the Family Force and Kids R Us is the new Millennial bumper sticker.

And as much as the current Washington administration believes it is the sole stimulus of economic prosperity, Millennial families forming those homesteads are a major force too!


The First Wave of Millennials Turn 40

Back in the 1980s NBC had a hit drama show called “30-Something.”

 Last night I watched a new commercial for a hotel brand that featured a bunch of Millennials gathering around a corporate conference table that was a mimic of “30-Something.”

Many of the groups I work with continue to perceive Millennials as college kids.  Sad to say, but these groups include corporate leadership, community change-makers, entrepreneurs and politicians. 

If you believe that intown luxury apartments, social media, digital apps, retail websites and view anytime-anywhere-alternative to cable are the ventures to invest in… you better have some back-up financial sources. 

Just as much of an impact kids will make in 2019, so too will the aging of Millennials and their passage into their next lifestage.

Owning homes, having kids, sporting professions and engaging in long-term investment planning is creating a new market paradigm. 


Brands Reaching Market Maturity

Sears, Nine West, Teavana and Toys R Us… may they rest in peace. 

Kroger, Subway, Target, Ann Taylor, Gap, Banana Republic, Sam’s Club…  those respirators can only provide support just so long.

Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon… join the Baby Boomers as they face lifecycle maturity in 2019 and beyond. 

There’s nothing wrong with brands that embrace a generational group.  But brands that do so, must realize that the group they embrace will age and change.

Economics and accounting were both courses required in my MBA graduate study.  I found both to be far less engaging than broadcast creative and even American history.  BUT… what I learned in both courses still remain engraved in my headset.

We will see more of what many consider to be brand icons, mature and decline in 2019.  

Certainly brands that still believe that Millennial youth is infinite and the Jetsons and technology is futuristic truth.


The Rise of Alternative Brands

This past week the Wall Street Journal reported that venture capital investments is at an all-time high.  And more money is being channeled to niche-targeted, regional and specialized ventures vs. large, mass-market concepts. 

Out are generational brands… in are personally-engaging and emotionally-driven brands where audience groups transcend beyond lifestage and embrace a sense of shared-common ground with others who may not match what they see in the mirror.

“Hands on,” “regionally rooted,” “personally crafted,” “micro & local,” “authentic and real,” “socially responsible” “cause-anchored” … these are brand platforms that drive not only consumer brands, but also B2B and tech brands.

“High Tech – High Touch” is a proven market state, so too is the balance of “Macro – Micro.” 


Digital Integration

Radio stations will go away with the advent of satellite radio.  Television networks will die with the launch of YouTube… and then next with Netflix… and then next with Sling TV.  Newspapers are history. 

In 2018, EXPERIENCE has been brought in as a business partner with the Chicago Sun-Times.  It’s been a blast of fun … and also a rich learning experience. 

I hope that we continue working with the Sun-Times in the next few years ahead.

The biggest insight to-date, as least for me, is that vast majority of individuals interact with the newspaper across a multiple mix of platforms versus the sole use of one form or another. 

The myth long held by many is that the audience groups access the newspaper in its digital format are a completely different mix than those accessing the newspaper in its print format. 

Just as a newspaper sports a multi-platform audience, so too are those who access the retail digital spectrum. 

A story on Digital Commerce 360 reports that Walmart saw a 40% increase in its digital sales that in turn, drove Walmart’s overall sales to post a 4.5% increase in overall sales.

However, further buried in the story is that the customers shopping online are, for the most part, the same customers shopping instore.

In some ways it’s like the prodigal son parable… In 2019, more and more digital strategy will be integrated back into overall brand strategy. 


Okay… back to the Trendcast of the people!


GenXer Career Changes

While the economy will be challenged some in 2019, the pace of Millennial family-driven progress is not likely to stop any soon!  

Unemployment will remain low and the those employed will garner a sense of job security. 

At the same time, the Millennials who drew attention of marketers and new ventures away from GenXers, will exercise the power of presence and size among their GenXer co-employees. 

Trust me.  GenXers have a lot of built up frustration in being left behind by divorced parents and pushed aside by Millennial co-workers.

In 2018, we have had the pleasure to work with a multiple number of business-centric network and community groups. 

When we have profiled out entrepreneurs in particular, GenXers dominate the pack. GenXers, for the most part, fostered the Zoomers and the leading-edge of the Zoomers are now taking hold of the college campuses.    

In 2018, get ready to witness more and more GenXers now in their mid-40s to 50s leave the conventional workplace and start up new ventures.  Franchise brands should pay attention.  Banks and financial institutions too. 


Boomers on a Budget

A share of Baby Boomers is blessed with a corporate pension or retirement plan.  Another share of Baby Boomers was smart to field money to an IRA or Keogh Fund. 

But, more than half of Baby Boomers saved little for retirement and are now coming face-to-face with a hard fact reality.  The nice lifestyle of their early empty-nest years is non-sustainable.

As published by the Wall Street Journal, Only 55% of Baby Boomers have some retirement savings and, of those, 42% have less than $100,000. Thus, approximately half of retirees are, or will be, living off of their Social Security benefits.”

In 2019, it is projected that more than 40% of Baby Boomers will be fully retired… or at least claim to be retired from their careers.

Already places like Starbucks and McDonald’s plus flexible workforce employers like Uber and Amazon are farming Baby Boomers to fill open jobs.  From academics to healthcare to financial services, HR departments are beginning to see Boomers as an employment resource.

The impact of Boomers on a Budget will come to life in 2019. Projections that as empty-nesters they will move into the urban gentrified condos will be challenged.  Expectations that they will be able to meet healthcare costs will affect revenue flows.


There’s actually three more 2019 trends that will rattle the market, but one thing that has not changed is that time keeps ticking and schedules keep us moving. 

If you want to hear more and see the numbers of the seven trends featured in this blog plus “The Podcasts of Diversity,” “The Union Troops Are Coming Back” and “Further Suburban Expansion,” call me at 404.245.9378.