The NOW Gen

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About the blog

Discover which trends, tools, and strategies marketing leaders, and brand specialists are using to stay on top of their game.

Brands

Metaverse: The Future is NOW!

There’s a lot of buzz about the Metaverse. But, what really is this new cyberspace, and how far are we from fully joining it? The term “metaverse” was first mentioned in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash; it referred to a three-dimensional virtual world where people interacted with computer-generated avatars. Sounds familiar? 

According to an article from Wired, the word metaverse can be used interchangeably with “cyberspace.” Because just like Stephenson described it 30 years ago, the metaverse will be a different way to experience the cyberspace we currently surf. 

Today, the metaverse is somewhat accessible to us through videogames like Fortnite or Roblox, on which you can participate in group activities, like missions that are part of the game or even concerts in these virtual worlds. However, the future metaverse will house ways to work, shop, play, and any other activity you could think of.

First, we need to understand that the metaverse is not only one thing or place that will come, but rather a mixture of many different ways to experience the future of cyberspace. This so-called 3-D web seamlessly sets in with various prominent companies putting their brands and money on it. The fast pace of these investments means that great things are coming. 

We must also remember that these kinds of shifts, in the way we experience life, happen every few decades. And with change comes the opportunity to enhance these new experiences.

For example, in the previous decade, we could never imagine using the internet for more than just finding information or communicating with coworkers via e-mail. Now we have a constant flow of content beyond simple texts or e-mails. We have applications full of video content, graphics, video calls, and much more that we can experience on the internet.

Online spaces are a complement to our lives. We share our life experiences on social media, interact with others, and consume creative content online. Although we didn’t believe this would be possible, we can instantly connect with many other people through the internet, and it has become an integral part of life and communication.

Matthew Ball, the author of The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything, forecasts that the evolution of the virtual trend will move from being a depiction of our lives into a place where we’ll exist. This means that besides everything we can currently do online, we will be able to be present in this new cyberspace simultaneously. 

Although it will still take some time for the Metaverse to be fully adopted, leading brands are already taking steps toward marketing in this new space. As mentioned above, the metaverse will bring change to more than one aspect of life, including marketing and how marketers target their audiences. 

According to a McKinsey article on the metaverse, now is the time to open our minds to test and learn. The best way to adapt to new experiences is by learning, and when something is so brand new, there isn’t much more than trial and error to understand what works for your brand. 

The NOW Gen is looking at the metaverse as today’s top-notch innovation. Consumers are eager to find and experience brands’ innovation in the metaverse. As marketers, we must aim to deliver innovative consumer experiences for the metaverse, the direction is marked, and the limits are expanding more and more each day.

Brands need instant gratification and cutting-edge experiences for consumers. Our duty as professional marketers is to stay at the forefront of innovation, and the metaverse is just the beginning of a myriad of brand growth and innovative opportunities.

Blog

Globalization, New Challenges for Brands

Globalization is not a new trend, but it remains relevant because of its impact on the way businesses and consumers interact with each other. Globalization has been present around the globe for a long time, and many brands strive to use it to their advantage. 

Making your brand global is not an easy task. While many successful brands have been able to become globally recognized, the process is not easy, and it doesn’t come without challenges. 

Besides these challenges, the new globalization is here. The fourth industrial revolution, geopolitics, and the escalating effects of climate change are the three primary forces propelling a new chapter in the history of globalization. 

According to an expert panel held by The Drum, these three things have all happened in the past, just not at the same time. As a result, companies are now figuring out strategies, markets, and how they position themselves. 

With the new globalization comes the need for speed. This makes sense because the NOW generation is all for instant gratification, and when it comes to growing a brand in a global market, how fast can it approach new consumers on a local scale.

Digitalization is also taking a big part in this new era of globalization. With the numerous products available to your market, brand culture, lifestyle, and behavior habits are the most helpful in reaching your consumers.

From a consumer point of view, depending on where they live,  people worldwide consume the same products. However, through social and mass media, people find similarities between their consumption habits and those of people on the other side of the globe. This is called glocalization. 

Glocalization is the ability to penetrate various global markets while meeting the needs of each local geography. Even though it is not a new concept, not all businesses with global aspirations have mastered the art of glocalization. Therefore, companies must excel at integrating local resources, modifying procedures, and implementing global technologies to create effective glocalization strategies.

Entrepreneur India shared in an article the importance of acclimating brands to global growth. According to their article, success at glocalization comes from being sensitive to local culture, social norms, and consumer habits. Basically adapting to the area where your brand is arriving.

Even major brands have struggled to bring their business to a new location. “One size fits all” doesn’t apply in globalization. Brands need to consider that the need for their product in different places may not be the same. 

This may be accomplished; many companies have successfully arrived in new markets and tropicalized their brand to the local market. For example, big food chain brands have noticed that just bringing products they already sell and not incorporating anything local to their menus is not as successful as adding an item with a local taste for the consumer. This is how you can glocalize your business.

Another way businesses can adapt to a new culture is by hiring local professionals. Local associations within your company will help your brand access specific insight on a microeconomic scale while remaining globally relevant. This is a big step because once you know the culture, you can find better ways to approach the consumer and provide them with what they need.

Globalization is not about completely changing your brand but about being flexible and willing to adapt to your consumer’s culture. The need to grow is a constant in the current global business environment. However, growth in a globalized world would not be possible without learning from the NOW generation.

Business

The Digital Gig Economy is on the Rise

As the world continues to change, so does the way we work. Noncontractual, short-term, and task-based work is not new, but it has increased in the past few years. For example, many workplaces transformed their operations into a virtual collaboration space during the pandemic. This was a completely new practice and not an easy transition for many. But, at the same time, others with experience in digital gigs found it easy and a great way to keep the economy moving.

The digital gig economy is a clear example of globalization, and its main perk is how it connects companies with qualified talent worldwide. It is growing bigger by the day, and many Americans are turning to it as an alternative to full-time work. In addition, after the COVID-19 pandemic, many job seekers will likely turn to it to get by.

In no way is the gig economy a new practice; its first growth spurt was after the Great Recession. So while many believe it will soon fade away, it has proved to be here to stay and has even evolved into a more digital pathway.

The emergence of the digital gig or platform economy is one of the essential new transformations in the world of work. According to the International Labor Organization, there are two main types of platforms for the digital gig economy: web-based platforms and location-based applications. “An important component of the platform economy is digital labor platforms which include both web-based platforms … and location-based applications (apps).”

The main difference between these two is the kinds of jobs they require. For outsourcing or web-based platforms, the desired results are most likely to be digital products, for example, briefs, creative goods, audiovisual resources, etc., making it easy for people from all over the world to be connected and work together on these digital platforms. 

On the other hand, for location-based gigs, digital platforms are the channel of communication between consumer and provider, for example, deliveries, running errands, etc. In this case, the digital platform allows uncontracted service providers to earn a living while making their own schedule and only working as much as they need. 

A more digital gig economy is an asset that benefits employees and employers equally. For example, job satisfaction, flexibility, remote work, and professional work are a few positive results of this form of work. However, if we look at these benefits, we can find many reasons for the digital gig not going anywhere. 

According to a case study by Brodmin, most gig economy workers are satisfied with their work. “Based on numerous research and publications, there is a general consensus that people who decide to freelance full-time are quite satisfied with the change as well as with their new careers and lifestyle.”

In the last few years, we have seen growth in the freelance worker population, and the flexibility of working remotely is one of the leading causes of this increase. In addition, being able to provide work to someone in a different part of the world, and on the other side, being able to work for a company in a separate geographical area is enticing.

Flexibility has been mentioned multiple times already in this article, and it seems to be with great reason. For example, in their book “Work in the Age of Data,” BBVA’s OpenMind, mentions that flexibility is one of the primary desires of workers because they can obtain professional work from talented collaborators from all over the world while offering a flexible work schedules, pay, or even a flexible workflow. For the Now generation, this is an opportunity to connect with companies and collaborators from around the globe, which encompasses globalization. 

The digital gig economy is on the rise. We believe it will continue to grow and benefit many different markets because of the needs of The NOW Generation. Digital gigs are the perfect way to allow younger generations to work using their talent and skills from anywhere they might be, plus giving them the freedom to grow and explore different ways of experiencing life while working.

Blog

The New Brick-and-Mortar: Social Commerce

As a society, we constantly look for more convenient ways to cover our need for speed. During the COVID pandemic, formulated marketing strategies to supply consumers’ need for instant gratification were established, like e-commerce and its successor, social commerce. 

Social Commerce started appearing in the U.S. a couple of years ago on popular social media platforms. Although social commerce can be new and confusing for many marketers and brands out there, social commerce has come into existence quite seamlessly in the past years. 

Social commerce, stemming from eCommerce, refers to the shopping experience that occurs directly on a social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok. This trend relates directly to the time consumers spend on social media platforms. 

According to Forbes’ article “The Future Of Selling Is Social: Social Commerce Vs. E-Commerce,” consumers spend more time on mobile apps than web browsers. Making social media platforms a most powerful advertising tool than any search engine. “Given that consumers spend more time on mobile apps than on their mobile web browsers, wishful thinking may imply an indirect paradigm shift away from Google, as the world’s most powerful advertising platform, to Facebook.”  

The NOW Gen is all about using social media for entertainment, communication, staying in the loop of news and trends, learning, and even commerce. This instant-gratification-looking generation has made the swift move from traditional e-commerce to social commerce because it feels natural to instantly shop what you are discovering in your social media timelines. The seamless addition of social commerce to the consumer’s routine of social media usage will allow its growth and fulfillment.

In the past couple of years, various social media platforms, from Facebook to Twitter, have invested in features to facilitate selling products. These people-connecting platforms are now integrating live stream events, digital stores, and more to become a selling point to its users. 

Social commerce for the U.S. is still in its early stages, but it is expected to be just as big as in the Asian markets. On the other side of the globe, specifically in China, social commerce is a popular trend amongst social media users. “About 51.5% … of social media users have or continue to purchase via a social media channel.” It is no surprise, since China is also the global eCommerce market’s leader, that they are also leading this social commerce trend globally. “China continues to lead the global e-commerce market, accounting for 52.1% of all retail e-commerce sales worldwide, with total online sales just over the $2 trillion mark in 2021. It also has the world’s most digital buyers, 824.5 million, representing 38.5% of the global total.”

Many brands are getting on social commerce because the consumer is asking for it. As mentioned above, the NOW generation is known for its need for instant gratification. Therefore, the paramount convenience of social commerce is immediacy. 

Consumers are also looking for “mouth-to-mouth” product recommendations, and social commerce allows them to hear directly from brand ambassadors. The social shopping experience is richer than a regular shopping experience. With added social factors, consumers can seamlessly complement their social interactions with the brands they know, trust, and hear from new products or brands.  

As Ad Age has mentioned in their article, “Shopping Trends Every Marketer Should Embrace In 2022”, getting on board with the social commerce experience will give consumers the convenience and engagement they are looking for. “Expanding virtual shopping experiences appearing on social platforms will entice consumers who want a more engaging and convenient way to shop online. The in-store experience will never look the same as everything from easing curbside pickup to concierge services to enhanced AR/VR visualizations will become normal features. Moving forward, brands that engage directly with consumers via content and creator-influenced experiences that come enabled with commerce functionality will capture significant market share.”

Brands are learning from China to implement social commerce strategies. Some trends you can look out for include: video, live stream shopping, live chat, and social influencers. The consumer is looking for these things to be convinced that your product, and brand, is the best option. If you are looking to join the social commerce movement, consider the following ideas:

Choose the right platform and format to showcase your business. It is critical to understand what social platform is used more by your consumer segment. Also, evaluate how you will present your products on social media, now your newest storefront.

Prioritize quality visuals. The social media consumer is constantly flooded with thousands of videos on social media. Your business needs to stand out from the rest to make an impactful shopping experience. Take your time to tailor these assets for your brand and product.

Finally, although this new way of commerce is significantly increasing in our markets, don’t forget to constantly evaluate and adjust your strategy. With the NOW generation, speed and change are crucial to success. Social commerce is here to stay; take advantage of it. 

Blog

Beating Stereotypes: Diversity and Inclusion for the NOW Gen

There is a lot of talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion going on globally. This isn’t about fitting the global trend to our companies but joining the NOW generation in this matter. 

In previous blog posts, we have addressed this global issue, and it continues to be an essential topic for the NOW generation. NOW Gen brands are in the middle of this conversation and are focusing on making a real change.

NOW Gen brands have a unique opportunity to change history with respect to diversity, equity, inclusion, systemic discrimination and racism, just like they are changing history by moving us into the digital age, but without DEI transformation, digital transformation won’t be any transformation at all.” 

In a recent SXSW panel titled “Beyond Black Stereotypes: Redefining Black Fatherhood,” Kendricks Thacker shared some insights about what needs to be done to incorporate better DEI practices. He said that brands couldn’t just start talking when convenient, especially when they wade into topics they never previously championed. 

“Don’t say nothing, if you haven’t said anything before,” Thacker said. “In those cases, the best a brand can do is listen, and donate their platforms to voices that understand the issues.” 

As Thacker mentioned in this panel, to overcome the stereotypes of adapting DEI practices incorrectly, we must first learn to listen to those in the middle of the issue and understand their movements. We must not act before we think because DEI is not a vane issue and its impact on our society goes beyond participating as a brand or not.

With change comes trial and error; it will be utopic to believe that just making one change will forever change the global conversation. However, making this kind of amendment will often make us face errors. For example, DE&I has been one of the main focuses for many global companies for a while now. And although inclusion is vital to this global change, the mistake we are making is stereotyping that inclusivity. So from being stereotypical in the ways we present our DEI to making inclusion a stereotype. 

In the case of DEI, stereotypes are fogging our judgment and blinding our inclusion. We are so used to boxing people according to their race, gender, religion, and even their jobs that we see individuals as groups of people. Stereotypes have been known to humans for a long time now, and much work has been done to eradicate them in society, but the truth is that stereotyping is more natural to our minds than we can imagine. We could blame heuristics for this, but the truth is we can all do better. 

Heuristics, where stereotyping begins, are useful mental shortcuts that help us navigate life. These rule-of-thumb strategies help us shorten decision-making time and allow us to function without constantly wondering what needs to happen next. Overall, heuristics is a fantastic tool called “common sense,” but the downside is that it can lead to inaccurate judgments or biases, like stereotypes.

Theoretically, we should replace stereotypes with actual knowledge. Realistically, stereotypes are seldom challenged unless something creates a reason to change them. But this current DEI issue is a practical reason to make an effort to break from assumptions and demolish stereotypes. As Now gen brands encounter these roadblocks, they must stick to their DEI efforts and strive to make changes happen. 

“The past year has shed light on what many people already knew: Much of the onus (obligations) of diversity, equity and inclusion was on the appointed DE&I leader, who historically often worked in isolation to carry out these objectives.”

In short, as companies, we must find ways to set objectives to beat stereotypes and be more inclusive. Still, we must learn to hear those affected by the situation and work together to impact how they are perceived in society positively. In the eyes of The NOW Generation, being inclusive speaks volumes, and as the saying goes: actions say more than words.

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Can Marketers Really Make a Difference?

Less than three months into 2022, which has started with as much gusto as the first two years of the decade, presenting us with not only a resurgent pandemic, but a land war in Europe for the first time since World War II (this time with nukes, how fun), we’re going to try to take a break from a new season of doom scrolling and get super positive in order to answer the rhetorical question: “Can Marketers Really Make a Difference?” The answer is an emphatic yes! Yes! YES! Marketers can make a difference, and they can’t just take that for granted; consumers are demanding that marketers make a difference, and the long-term success of their brands depend on it. 

First, let’s talk about the stats. According to McKinsey, 68% of consumers say their social values shape their purchasing decisions. IPSOS has also found that approximately 70% of consumers tend to buy brands that align with their personal values, and in the UK, France and the US this number has increased by at least 15% in the last 10 years. IPSOS and McKinsey are not alone. Edelman has found that consumers want CEOs to speak out on social issues, and Taluna has found that almost 60% of consumers believe “it is the responsibility of brands and manufacturers to drive change in society and better support social issues.

As for issues themselves, we’ve already talked a lot here about the importance of DEI. “Digital Transformation without DEI is no transformation at all,” talked about the moral imperative of DEI, and in “Talk is Cheap: Consumers Demand DEI Action” we cited the data, which speaks for itself: 

«According to Facebook IQ 71% of NOW Gen consumers expect brands to promote DEI in their advertising. According to Microsoft 70% of Gen Z consumers are more trusting of brands that show diversity. A study conducted by The Female Quotient, Google, and IPSOS found that 64% of NOW Gen consumers took some action after seeing an ad that incorporated DEI. That same study found that 69% of Black consumers were more likely to purchase from a brand whose ads positively represented their race, and that 71% of LGBTQ consumers were more likely to click ads that authentically represent their sexual orientation. Furthermore, 75% of Gen Z consumers will end relationships with companies that run ad campaigns perceived as macho, racist, or homo­phobic. These statistics pretty much speak for themselves, and the trend is that DEI is only becoming more important to consumers.»

As we have already discussed in detail, DEI is not just a business imperative but a moral one and companies that turn their backs on the opportunity this cultural moment presents will be left behind. When it comes to DEI, marketers don’t just have the opportunity to create change but a responsibility, and most importantly those who have accepted the challenge are making a difference

Sustainability and reducing environmental harm are two other major issues for consumers. In fact, according to Google, 78% of consumers think big brands must play a role in fighting climate change. Marketers in turn have a duty to inform consumers about what companies are doing to fight climate change and spread the message that action to fight climate change is possible. Data shows that consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable CPGs. In 2022 consumers are going to continue to demand that brands turn everything on its head to have the most minimal environmental impact possible.” Fifty-nine percent of consumers say they prefer buying from brands that are addressing the climate emergency, and “91% wish to see brands ‘show by example’ and demonstrate the actions they are taking to support the planet.”

While all of this data shows there is strong consumer demand for these types of initiatives, the recent Unilever kerfuffle is illustrative of the fact that not everyone agrees that brands should be trying to do things to make the world a better place. Unilever is loud and proud about its commitment to sustainability. It says that it is “working towards a better, fairer, greener world for all,” and that “taking action on climate change is taking action on human rights.” Recently one of their shareholders took issue with the strategy, and it generated a lot of press, but an equal amount of backlash. In the end, it boils down to a political argument between those with a vision  of a soulless capitalism trundling blindly forward in the name of short term shareholder profit and those that think the purpose of capitalism “is to produce profitable solutions to problems of people and planet.” That debate won’t be settled anytime soon.

But to frame “brand purpose” as somehow anti-capitalist is absurd, and the debate is founded on the basis of a false choice. Whether to pursue a “brand purpose” or to work towards sustainability and human rights is a strategic choice. And as all the data above shows, the strategic choice for brands to move to sustainable practices and to support DEI would be based on meeting consumer demand. That old dichotomy of supply and demand might sound a little old-fashioned, but it’s rather new that multinational corporations who adjust their strategies to meet consumer demand might be accused of being anti-capitalist. The Unilever debate mentioned above may well be better framed not as a debate over brand purpose but whether brands should dedicate themselves to shareholder demand rather than consumer demand, which would be way way way beyond the scope of this article. 

Since “behavioral science teaches us that when we feel positive about our actions, we are more motivated to continue to act” we are going to try and crank up the positivity here. As all the overwhelming weight of data shows, consumers are demanding that brands take action when it comes to making changes to make the world a better place. As marketers, it’s our job to communicate with consumers and when consumers are communicating to bring that message to the c-suite and to make sure that consumers are heard and that brands are delivering what consumers want. Consumers are telling brands what they want and the only question is whether brands will listen. In this historical moment, marketers really do have an opportunity to “make a difference. Marketers can really make a difference and they should.

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Digital Transformation without DEI is no transformation at all

Digital Transformation without DEI is no transformation at all; social inclusion and kindness are 2 musts for a successful digital recipe.

In 2020 Americans experienced two events that at the time everyone thought would change the world forever: the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the historic protests following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police. But last Sunday’s Super Bowl, in which brands paid $484.7 million for 42 minutes of advertising–possibly the most notable of which having been a retro-looking QR code bouncing around old-school-screen-saver style, sending people to a crypto-currency site they ended up crashing–during a game where “End Racism” was written in the endzones, culminating the season for a league currently being sued for systemic discrimination against minority coaches, raises the question about how much things have really changed.

Brands didn’t hesitate to transform themselves in the face of the pandemic. Necessity is the mother of all innovation to paraphrase a cliche. According to KPMG’s Global Head of Advisory, thanks to the pandemic, “The move to digitization has accelerated, and the benefits will be permanent…There is no going back.” McKinsey data suggests that 80% of consumer interactions have moved online and that the pandemic has caused a quantum leap, having sped up digital adaptation by several years. Deloitte says that “to grow and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world, swift digital transformation into a pandemic-proof organizational model is vital,” and the pandemic even inspired notoriously slow CPGs to accelerate their strategies

The move to digital as a response to the pandemic has been indisputable and unanimous, and it makes sense. Consumers are demanding that companies meet them where they are and that they deliver personalized experiences. Approximately 75% of consumers experimented with new shopping behaviors because of the pandemic and 80% of them expect to continue with those behaviors. Consumers are increasingly demanding more personalized experiences and expect to experience them digitally.

While DEI has grown in importance, the change in the wake of the George Floyd protests is more of a mixed bag. It wasn’t all bad at the Super Bowl. For the first time in the history of Super Bowl advertisements, “female BIPOC representation (46%) and male BIPOC representation (41%) mirrored the 38% BIPOC US population,” and we saw the first hip-hop act to headline a history making and extremely well received halftime show. Those bright spots, however are probably overshadowed by the fact that the NFL is currently being sued for systemic discrimination. The NFL isn’t alone. In the last month Tesla has been sued by California for systemic discrimination in its factories and Spotify has been in the news for all the wrong reasons because of racist comments made by its most popular podcast host. 

In our last blog post, Talk is Cheap: Consumers Demand DEI Action, we dropped a lot of data about how consumers are demanding DEI action, just like they are demanding digital transformation.

«Research is basically unanimous that consumers want more diversity. According to Facebook IQ 71% of NOW Gen consumers expect brands to promote DEI in their advertising. According to Microsoft 70% of Gen Z consumers are more trusting of brands that show diversity. A study conducted by The Female Quotient, Google, and IPSOS found that 64% of NOW Gen consumers took some action after seeing an ad that incorporated DEI. That same study found that 69% of Black consumers were more likely to purchase from a brand whose ads positively represented their race, and that 71% of LGBTQ consumers were more likely to click ads that authentically represent their sexual orientation. Furthermore, 75% of Gen Z consumers will end relationships with companies that run ad campaigns perceived as macho, racist, or homo­phobic. These statistics pretty much speak for themselves, and the trend is that DEI is only becoming more important to consumers.»

The data raises a rather unfortunate question: in the face of equally pressing consumer demands, why can brands make monumental changes at speeds never before seen in the realm of digital transformation, but they can’t do the same in addressing issues of systemic racism and discrimination? In a famous New Yorker essay, Letter from a Region in My Mind, James Baldwin theorized that “America, of all the Western nations, has been best placed to prove the uselessness and the obsolescence of the concept of color. But it has not dared to accept this opportunity, or even to conceive of it as an opportunity.” 

Some brands do see the opportunity, and they’re making changes. Levi-Strauss says that “Digital Transformation Depends on Diversity,” and in the eponymous article they lay-out several strategies to combat discrimination that results directly from digital transformation. Google’s Super Bowl ad spoke directly to how their technology takes into account the difficulties some people have in being photographed emphasizing that their product makes sure that “everyone feels seen.” Hershey’s, for example, has created a new position, Chief Diversity Officer, that already boasts a laundry list of DEI focused action and initiatives. We wholeheartedly applaud these brands and their efforts, but it has to be said that a handful of brands alone won’t make a difference.

As no other writer has described as deftly the problems of race  U.S., we leave you with another classic quote from the great James Baldwin: 

“Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise. If we—and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others—do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!”

NOW Gen brands have a unique opportunity to change history with respect to diversity, equity, inclusion, systemic discrimination and racism, just like they are changing history by moving us into the digital age, but without DEI transformation, digital transformation won’t be any transformation at all. 

Blog

Talk is Cheap: Consumers Demand DEI Action

NOW Gen consumers want more than lip service from brands when it comes to DEI and anti-racism efforts.

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and lots of people are talking about DEI. People talk about DEI in boardrooms, in schools, on TV, in movies, on the radio, in science, in sports, in journalism, in literature, and, of course, in marketing. DEI talk is literally everywhere, which is a good thing, but talk is not enough.

What is DEI?

In breaking down DEI into its parts it’s useful to start with a metaphor. Imagine the world as a big dance, like prom or homecoming. Diversity means that everyone is invited to the dance. Equity means that everybody has an equal opportunity to dance, and Inclusion means that everybody is able to contribute to the dance’s playlist. Pretty simple and if it was implemented as easily, the world would be a happier place.

Diversity in marketing means that different voices are heard and that each group is spoken to. In an age where personalization is increasingly more important, consumers really don’t like to be sent messages that aren’t applicable to them, and, on the flip side, consumers are more likely to respond positively to brands that portray the groups they’re a part of in a positive way. Diversity means that everyone can find themselves and people like them represented. 

Equity means that within this wide group of diverse people each different identity and every perspective is treated equally. It means that not only is everyone represented but that within this framework each group has an equal opportunity to participate, and that each voice and each experience is valued equally. 

Inclusion is pretty literal and Inclusion is where the real action happens. It means more than just that everyone is equally represented. It means that all voices and all perspectives are included. Inclusion means that different voices and different perspectives are actively sought out, listened to, and incorporated equitably. It means that the myriad identities and perspectives of all consumers play an active role in development and decision making and pushing conversations about the things that matter to people further.

Why DEI is important

There’s two simple reasons why DEI is important: it’s good for the bottom line and it’s the right thing to do.

Research is basically unanimous that consumers want more diversity. According to Facebook IQ 71% of NOW Gen consumers expect brands to promote DEI in their advertising. According to Microsoft 70% of Gen Z consumers are more trusting of brands that show diversity. A study conducted by The Female Quotient, Google, and IPSOS found that 64% of NOW Gen consumers took some action after seeing an ad that incorporated DEI. That same study found that 69% of Black consumers were more likely to purchase from a brand whose ads positively represented their race, and that 71% of LGBTQ consumers were more likely to click ads that authentically represent their sexual orientation. Furthermore, 75% of Gen Z consumers will end relationships with companies that run ad campaigns perceived as macho, racist, or homo­phobic. These statistics pretty much speak for themselves, and the trend is that DEI is only becoming more important to consumers.

DEI goes beyond consumerism. DEI is about social justice and building a society in which all people are treated equally, where everyone feels safe and where everyone feels they have the opportunity to achieve the things they want. DEI is also about curing the very real harms of systemic racism. Still, in the United States of America in the year 2022, more than half of black and brown consumers report that they have felt discriminated against in a store. There is simply no reason to justify this and brands should be doing everything in their power to change it. When you add the statistics about how consumers are demanding that brands use their power to support DEI, there is simply no reason for brands not to be leading the way in helping create a more equitable and inclusive society. As James Baldwin once said: “And once you realize that you can do something, it would be difficult to live with yourself if you didn’t do it.”

Why Talk is not Enough

While it is undoubtedly important that brands send the right message to their consumers and their communities by speaking out in favor of DEI and against racism, talk is not enough. In the wake of the protests following the brutal killing of George Floyd, many brands made promises about their commitments to DEI. People are not going to forget these promises. Consumers want brands to make measurable DEI commitments. They want brands to ensure that their teams and suppliers reflect the community that they serve and that diverse voices are made a part of the conversation. They don’t just want culturally sensitive and culturally informed messaging, they want customer intimacy, they want concrete action, and they want to see change. Soon DEI is going to be part of every conversation, and if brands are talking the talk without walking the walk, people are going to notice

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Is Empathy the Key to Optimizing Data?

Empathy-driven marketing and data-driven marketing are two pretty common catch-phrases in marketing these days, but should we really be thinking of them as two different things?

They may seem like opposites at first. When we think of “Big Data” we might think of giant internet monoliths watching our every move, following us everywhere, knowing everything we do before we even think it, which admittedly is not the most pleasant image. It’s intimidating, and it’s cold. On the other hand when we think of empathy maybe we think of grandma, a teddy bear, and that friend who is always there for us, listening and offering a shoulder to cry on. That image is warm and welcoming so, fair enough, two very different things.

But in this article we’re going to talk about how in order to get a full picture of the person you want to create a unique customer experience for you need to supplement your data with some empathy and your empathy with some data. To create authentic experiences that NOW Gen consumers are looking for you have to combine your cold hard data with some TLC.

Why Empathy

Empathy is generally defined as “the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.” It’s considered a key ingredient to building successful relationships because it’s how we understand the perspectives, needs, and intentions of others. 

If the definition alone isn’t enough to convince you of its importance in marketing, we have data to back it up: according to research conducted by Pepsi and IPSOS at the beginning of the pandemic 86% of Americans said that it was “critical” for brands to be more empathetic in order to build brand loyalty.  Consumers are stating clearly that they want their brands to treat them like people. 

On the Now Gen Podcast we recently talked to Jos Harrison, Global Head of Brand Experience & Design at Reckitt, and this is what he had to say about empathy: “I think that demonstrating your empathy with the person that’s trying to solve a problem can come in 70 different ways. And that’s what tends to generate those little moments of gratification, because that person feels that you actually care as a brand. You prepare to take action based on that.”

Mondelez is a great example of a company mobilizing both data and empathy, with their “empathy at scale” strategy. According to one Mondelez marketing director, “The common approach today towards targeted marketing is to use data and AI – and we are still using a lot of data and technology, but in these current times, we have found that there is a need for a lot more empathy if we want to bring our marketing to the next level.”

Why Data Alone Isn’t Enough

The word data gets tossed around an awful lot these days, and as its dictionary definition–“factual information (such as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation,”–isn’t particularly enlightening, it’s worth taking a minute to think about what we mean when we talk about data in the context of marketing. What does data tell us and what are its limitations?

Speaking very basically, data can help us identify two critical pieces of information 1) our ideal customers and 2) the best way to reach these people. Once data identifies your ideal customer, it can help you personalize the experience that customer has with the brand. In identifying the best way to reach people marketers can more efficiently allocate their resources. There’s no denying the utility of data and we can’t underestimate its importance. According to Yale School of Management 90% of consumers consider irrelevant ads annoying, and a further 68% say that a single negative experience with a brand will make them more likely to go elsewhere.

On the podcast Jos went on to talk about the importance of “why” in the customer experience: “The purpose has to sit at the heart of the engagement between the brand and the end user because if it doesn’t have a reason to exist, why would I buy it? Why would I engage with it?”

We can’t answer these questions with data alone. The problem with data is that it only gives us half the story, or rather data doesn’t give us the story, it only tells us who the characters are. Data can tell us about the “what” but data can’t tell us “why.” Without asking who these people are, without knowing their stories how can we truly connect with them? 

With empathy, we can transform consumers and data points into real human beings with real lives and real stories. Empathy tells us the story behind the data. It fills in the two dimensional picture outlined by the numbers and it connects that data to people. Empathy puts individuality in the demographics and gives the narrative to the customer journey. 

Ironically, the way to get the best out of all our cold soulless data harvesting technology may just be to add a little human touch, some TLC, and some empathy.

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CMO’S – Taking the lead in the industry

As we all know, Covid-19 accelerated digitalization by years like never before. The urge to keep brands relevant in a contactless world pushed companies to look for data-driven ways to reach customers. This behavioral shift became the key factor for CEOs in changing how they perceived CMOs.

According to Deloitte’s Marketing trends, the CMO role has gained tremendous momentum over the last 20 months. At the beginning of that period, only 46% of CMOs said they had a significant impact in C-suite conversations relating to marketing strategy. Now, this number is double at 81%. 

One of the reasons CMOs are becoming a much more essential piece across different departments is their direct access to data. The CMO’s day-to-day involves obtaining data, analyzing it, and coming up with innovative solutions across the customer journey. These actions are a necessary support to other company areas. 

Let’s take sales, for example. Before the pandemic, the sales team usually dealt with their customers face-to-face. Now, sales has to lean on the marketing team to generate leads across the digital platforms and create strategies that generate higher profits and strengthen relationships with users. 

One of the many successful examples was Coty’s Live Beauty Event with People Magazine; A 3-day event where different influencers and makeup artists from the beauty industry live-streamed tutorials, tips, and trends. During the event users were able to buy the products from the brands’ Ecomm platforms and access exclusive content afterward. This campaign was one way for sales and marketing to join forces and turn social media into an accessible experience for customers.  

CMOs and marketing leaders have also become critical players in predicting the future of a company according to the demands of today’s world. However, as the industry’s environment is constantly changing, CMOs must go a step further by becoming top strategists with a global vision and having the ability to implement a cultural shift across every area of their companies with the help of the available data.  

CMOs have to be the ultimate professionals delivering the right content to their over-saturated users. A skilled CMO has the power to use traditional channels intelligently to create much more relevant, compelling, and actionable content for customers in a much more agile way than other departments.  Fernando Machado, CMO of Activision Blizzard, suggests, «If you continue to play safe unless you have an outrageous amount of budget, people aren’t even going to notice,» meaning that creativity is, and will always be, an essential asset for brands. It’s the window for creating relevant solutions.

Learn more on how CPG CMOs are changing the game to win 2022 in our White Paper. Download it for FREE here:

https://121corp.com/white-paper