Young Consumers Expecting a Very Merry Christmas (December, 2004)
After several lean years, this holiday season finds young consumers expecting large, expensive gifts - and lots of them. Two-thirds of teens and young adults also plan to spend more on gift giving this year than last.
What's hot on their wish lists?
Young Voters Decide: Bush or Kerry (October, 2004)
The Zandl Group recently conducted a nationwide survey of tweens, teens and young adults to get their perspective on the state of the nation and the Presidential race. We found young people more involved with the political process, and more polarized about the issues and the candidates, than anytime over the last 15 years.
Overall, 53 percent consider Kerry the best person for the job while 44 percent want Bush and 3 percent want neither. Whites and Hispanics were closely divided between the candidates but there was a strong skew among Blacks for Kerry. Other skews were regional: In the South 64 percent chose Bush, whereas in the Northeast 78 percent chose Kerry.
While young adults and teens skewed to Kerry (around 57 percent), tweens were in the Bush camp, with 54 percent for Bush, 43 percent for Kerry, and 3 percent choosing neither candidate. Tweens trust Bush and cite his experience, "He's been a good president so far, and maybe he'll be good in the future." Although tweens aren't old enough to vote, their choices frequently predict the winner - often reflecting not just the tween point of view but also the opinions of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
We were pleased to see that 76 percent of young people 18 or older plan to vote. Those polled were split on whether the country is headed in the right direction (50 percent no, 49 percent yes). Bush supporters are overwhelmingly positive, 81 percent think the country's going in the right direction while 75 percent of the pro-Kerry group think the country's headed in the wrong direction.
When asked why they support their candidate, views were extremely polarized and partisan. Bush supporters cite his experience in office e.g. "He's done a great job," that he's a Republican, that he's aggressive e.g. "He doesn't think that we should have to ask permission to go to war," and his strong Christian values.
Kerry supporters look to him to restore the economy, be more socially attuned and end the war in Iraq. Approximately one-third supports Kerry because they are vehemently opposed to Bush. Still others concede that "Kerry's not the best man, but he's the lesser of two evils."
The economy and jobs are priorities particularly for young adults frustrated by a stagnant job market. Other issues tied to the economy, such as healthcare and tax cuts are also important for young voters. Bush supporters are especially concerned about tax cuts but so are young adult Kerry supporters who hate to see their paychecks diminished by the taxman. The war and terrorism are also on young people's minds. Iraq is an especially polarizing issue with the pro-Bush group fully supportive while the pro-Kerry group blames Bush for "attacking Iraq and screwing up trust with European countries." They look to Kerry to end the war. Other priorities for Bush supporters, especially for his teen base, include Christian values, gay marriage, and abortion.
The Hot Sheet (February 2004)
"Everyone wants to be an Easy Rider. Motorcycles, dirt bikes and scooters are becoming more popular with young people. The Discovery Channel scored a huge hit with 'American Chopper,' a reality show that featured the custom bike shop owning Paul Teutal Sr. and his brood.
and the Buzz ...
Celeb Culture is the Currency of the Day (December, 2003)
everyone wants to see what the stars are doing - and with magazines like us weekly, teen people and mtv, e!, style etc., stars have become more accessible. with fashion more than ever about lifestyle today, musicians, more than most designers, are perfectly situated to rule the fashion kingdom. thru their videos, mtv interviews, concerts etc. they are able to project their lifestyle to the masses 24/7. what we've seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg - i think we'll see many more musicians getting into the apparel business e.g. jessica simpson is bound to be next. we expect most of the celeb brands from gwen stefani to 50 cent to be very short-lived however. two exceptions may be sean john who seems to have risen above the fray and is taking all the steps necessary to create a legitimate fashion business and the marykateandashley line at walmart which i believe can transcend their full house celebrity and become a long lived tween line.
Musicians Launching Fashion Lines (November, 2003)
today, fashion is about lifestyle and musicians are better positioned that most to project lifestyle thru their music, concerts and videos (more so than actors or even designers). musicians' lives are essentially long-form ads. and with so many one-hit wonders, there's more urgency to milk every last ounce of a star's celebrity before the consumer's attention moves on.
to make it to the big time and have any lasting impact, however, the product line must reflect the star in a meaningful way. for example, sean john has been successful because it is a high quality line that reflects p diddy's casual, as well as, dressy side.
jlo's line, on the other hand, has been somewhat of a disappointment because it does not reflect the glamorous jennifer lopez that we see on tv and in magazines. it's hard to imagine her wearing such low quality, badly designed clothes.
the difference between the polo jeans line and, for example, nelly's vokal line, is that ralph lauren has retail and production muscle, proven design talent and has shown that it can stay on trend over a long period of time. vokal and nelly are untested entities and not likely to still be on our radar 5 years from now.
the thalia line at k-mart seems to have the earmarks of success. k-mart is actively courting the hispanic consumer who does know thalia, and i have heard that the line does represent thalia.
why are more musicians doing fashion lines today? the music business has become even more cut-throat. musicians essentially have one chance to make it. because it has become crucial for musicians to have a "look" and "give good video," we're seeing more stylists working the biz. it may be their handiwork that is actually driving licensors to seek out musicians for fashion deals.
movie stars, on the other hand, tend to have less well-defined images - except for the red carpet, they seem to be pretty casual vs musicians. but while nicole kidman and madonna may not want to do fashion lines (yet), the olsen twins are doing extremely well with their line at walmart. also, now that madonna is nearing the end of her performing career, don't be surprised to see her announcing a fashion deal - gap perhaps?
this trend feels exactly like rap/hip hop culture did in the early '80s - and i believe it will follow the same trajectory. on a scale of one to 10, we're at about step 2 in terms of awareness, adoption by the mainstream etc. (vs hip hop which is at a 10 and has clearly peaked).
1. demographic data supports the trend with hispanics now the country's largest ethnic minority two thirds of hispanics are of Mexican ethnicity of those under-30s in the united states, one in six is Hispanic; one in 10 is mexican-american
2. the term "cholo" comes from gang culture which gives it its authenticity/makes it hardcore - much like tupac and public enemy did for rap.
3. like the hip hop culture crossover, this is also starting with music: pocos pero locos on power 106 every sunday nite features latin hip hop or cholo rap (mr. shadow, spanish fly, lil rob, psycho realm etc.) - metallica's new saint anger video makes full use of cholos and cholo style. mun2 - new telemundo channel - very different from telemundo or univision. mun2 is fully interactive and for young urban latinos. they have great shows - the roof, off the roof, comedy jam, speed logic, street hackers - some of the most innovative, visually exciting tv on air today.
4. lowriders and also slabs, which are '80s buicks and olds with candy paint, no hydraulics. i see this influencing the car industry going forward. we've interviewed car club members - i think they're absolutely genius at reconfiguring cars into art pieces.
5. style - shaved or military buzz, bandanas, pendelton shirts, khakis, tats - mr. cartoon is in a class by himself (vh1 recently did a piece on him). also graphic style - especially using the old english fonts -very distinct and a very masculine look. the style is also being co-opted by the hipster world, e.g. magazines like paper doing fashion shoots in east la using cholos as stand-ins for pro models.
6. luche libre is catching on - every few months i see more examples. It will most likely be part of the resurgence of wrestling that we're starting to see. for the hipster faction, there's luche va voom - mexican wrestlers, burlesque strippers and midgets at the el mayan every month.
this trend feels extremely fresh and visually appealing - something we expect will be with us over the next 10 years.
What intrigues me most about "cool" right now are the turf wars being fought over who's coolest and who gets bragging rights for starting fads. Did Pharrell Williams start the trucker hat craze (if so, score one for mainstream hip hop) or does the credit go to some little-known hipster in Williamsburg or Silver Lake (if so, score one for the Indies). this has become a high profile issue as businesses specializing in trendsetter theory and cool artifice proliferate.
the media itself is becoming more involved offering to tap marketers into their hipster network (e.g. Tokion magazine hosting the recent "creativity now" seminar in nyc). Teen People magazine offers its advertisers access to their self-appointed trendsetter panel. countless advertising agencies (from "urban" to mainstream) along with independent cool-hunters are also striving to get a piece of the action even a well-known hipster in the art/skateboarding world who has been fervently anti-marketing , is now in the business of schilling cool for Tylenol. Bottom line: there's a lot of self-serving buzz around cool.
cool is often considered the holy grail of marketing because it adds the "special sauce" that indefinable quality that makes a brand more exciting and ups the must-have quotient. However, there's more than one kind of cool and where things often go awry is when mainstream marketers fall into the trap of pursuing hipster cool vs. mainstream cool.
hipster cool and mainstream cool are world's apart. And contrary to popular belief, hipster cool rarely crosses over to set broad-based trends. hipster cool is almost impossible to monetize. Levi Strauss will probably go down as the most notable case study on how focusing on hipsters (as opposed to hip hop culture's mainstream cool) resulted in a 50% loss of market share in a matter of 10 years.
It's not that hipsters aren't cool, it's just that their esoteric tastes preclude them from being real trendsetters. What many companies who had been involved with the most fringe elements of cool-hunting have found is that outside of that relatively small hipster network, few people are interested in grooving to the latest fischerspooner cd or dressing in their lederhosen a la Chloe Sevigny. Cool is more likely to be 50 cent or Jenna Jameson.
Today's hipster is eerily reminiscent of yesterday's "slacker", the urban myth created by details magazine in the early 90's to sell advertising to mainstream companies looking to connect with 20-somethings. The postmortem of that fiasco revealed that not only did slackers not represent 20-somethings, they were also not trendsetters or even aspirational.
With all the media attention that the obesity epidemic has generated, food/beverage trends have acquired a new significance. The American diet reflects all of the extremes, and the contradictions, found in our society today. For example, consumption of sweets and organic produce are both on the rise. But there are five major trends that are shaping our food and beverage choices, and each trend is evolving in various ways.
Is Fashion Still Cool? (October. 2003)
"Cool" is getting a bad rap these days as even hipsters profess to be bored by themselves, downtown fashion designers are scrambling to get a piece of the action at Target and no-one has been able to figure out how to monetize what cool trendsetters are into or why tipping points don't seem to add up to critical mass.
"Cool" for the sake of cool is an artifice that is relevant primarily to the trendy media. So while it trains its collective eye on the heart of Williamsburg to discover the next fischerspooner, the most meaningful developments are actually percolating out of the heart of America. key to the development of these more popular and innovative activities and products is their liberation from the restraints of cool.
Marketers and advertisers will benefit from broadening their outlook. staying abreast of the new things surfacing in the center and creating communications and products that take these developments into account will be increasingly crucial as the hipster edge falls further into irrelevancy.
Some developments emerging from the center include:
B-T-S: Anything Hot? (August, 2003)
More teens and young adults are going out of their way to "shop where it's reasonably priced," which is good news for Wal-Mart and target.
Fashion, however, continues to take a back seat to electronics and car accessories/performance parts. Also, with no single fashion trend dominating at the moment, teens are taking their fashion cues from hip hop, prep and punk.
Given this scenario, our top ten items for b-t-s are:
A Quick View from the Marketing Front (August, 2003)
Examples of "best in class" at reaching young consumers:
Rejection of traditional, mainstream advertising????
We have no evidence that young consumers are rejecting advertising. The most effective advertising combines entertainment (humor, music, celebs) with product info cable seems to work as effectively as network.
Recent success stories where sales can be tied directly to the advertising include:
Technology/games/ toys/electronics/ communications
Health & beauty aids
I am still not convinced that "guerilla" marketing is worth the effort. The best alternative method relies on serendipity: a popular celebrity uses or wears your product on national TV that generally equals a home run a juicy couture success story.
The internet remains wide open. It is still not understood as a new instrument of communications. The marketer or advertiser who figures it out how to promote in an "organic" way will have a hit on their hands. Note: it's not about pop-up ads or banners it will be a new format that is intrinsic to the internet.
Niche opportunities in apparel
Teen Girls: Looking Good (July, 2003)
The cosmetic category, while still key for looking good, seems to be losing steam as the informal/casual trend continues to grow (e.g. flip flops, capris, sweats). Another trend impacting cosmetics is the growth of more extreme music styles, e.g. punk, goth, metal. For the girls into this music scene, hair color/ styling aids and even piercings/tattoos may be outpacing cosmetics in creating a relevant fashion statement. These girls are most likely to buy niche brands available at hot topic or perhaps even some mac product.
Was there a "new" teen market to begin with?
We are not surprised at the demise of many of the recently introduced teen lines. As a rule, so called teen lines appeal only to tweens (the younger 8-12 group). Teens are more savvy and more sophisticated than many marketers give them credit for and there was not a huge void for teen lines.
Most popular cosmetics brands with teens (13-17 year olds) over the last five years:
Note: cover girl and clinique (clean, healthy lines - may be slowing down for two opposite reasons 1. girls who like a clean look now opting to use less makeup altogether and 2. the trend to more extreme makeup by girls into punk and goth).
Are teens fickle?
Teens, like many adults, are always on the lookout for new products. However, to assume these teen lines failed because teens are fickle is not an accurate assessment. The failure of the lines had more to do with over-saturation of the market and a misread of what teens really want.
The nature of brand loyalty has changed over time. Most consumers today have a broader selection of products in their brandset and are more likely to "step out" on their usual brand for a multitude of reasons including: 1. price 2. new and better products 3. novelty.
Trends that will impact the teen cosmetics market:
Staying on Trend (June, 2003)
Trend vs Trendy: Why it's important to understand the difference.
A trend is driven by demographics, lifestyle, technology it moves forward steadily and relentlessly. It provides the foundation for building businesses and new brands/categories.
Trendy phenomenon or fads - often seem to spring up overnight, burn intensely and then die out just as rapidly e.g. scooters, swing dancing, gin martinis. "Trendy" looks good but generally does not fit into the pattern of people's lives.
Examples of trend vs. trendy:
Living large is a trend, e.g. 60 percent of Americans are now overweight; this is becoming a global trend with over one billion adults overweight and 300 million obese.
Swing was a trendy phenomenon a few years ago in the US. The gap very successfully tapped into this with their "swing" TV campaign but they cleverly avoided creating the kind of retro clothes that the hipsters were wearing to swing dance events.
Trend Diffusion: the new paradigm
The paradigm has shifted from the pyramid to the Petri dish model.
The pyramid model built on the theory that trends trickle down from the top of the pyramid (where the trend elite is the first to be involved) has become largely irrelevant especially for mass-market products. However, many companies still operate as if this was the best way to move their brands to the mainstream generally with unhappy results.
The Petri dish model of trend diffusion is built on the theory that trends spread organically, e.g. "eastern/Asian" is a growing trend in the US as well as in Europe. Examples would include entertainment like pokemon and dbz, movies like crouching tiger, foods like sushi and Thai, beverages like green tea, people feng shuing their homes and offices, martial arts, yoga, bamboo decorations. We've been strongly influenced by Japan and china, and the newest in the US and Europe is India. One development influences the next.
Trendsetters - who are your brand ambassadors?
The trendsetter model, similar to the model for trend diffusion, has been changing noticeably.
Key trendsetter groups today:
Trends to Watch Over the Next 25 Years (May, 2003)
In April 2003 American Demographic magazine published a special anniversary feature entitled, "Trends to Watch Over the Next 25 Years." Futurist and Trendspotter Irma Zandl was selected as one of "25 people who have made a difference." Unlike some forecasters who proclaim every five-minute fad as the latest trend, Zandl believes true trends are long-lived, with a minimum life span of 10 years.
"Too frequently, companies pursue fads like they're going to be a real trend rather than finding something with longevity," she says. She believes that having opportunities to seek out the trends with staying power is one of the best things about her job, adding, "I'm a constant explorer."
Zandl Group trends to watch over the next 25 years:
Terrorism and global unrest will be with us for the foreseeable future. Coupled with economic stagnation, a rising crime rate, and a swelling homeless population, the social climate will be meaner and harsher. We anticipate growth for pharmaceutical companies especially those with new psychotropic and anti-anxiety drugs. Manufacturers of military equipment, firearms, panic rooms, and safety devices should also prosper. Stylistically, as we hunker down, utilitarian designs seem appropriate for apparel, toys, advertising, and even architecture and home interiors.
Big food: the next tobacco
With two-thirds of America overweight and with the tobacco wars essentially over, we anticipate that the legal fight will now shift to "big food" (i.e. large corporations in the snack, soda and fast food industries whose products come supersized for consumption by the supersized). Although the first of these lawsuits was struck down, the next 25 years will see a replay of the tobacco lawsuits and payouts. The first successes will come in cases focusing on advertising directed at children. TV networks will be hard hit, as will all businesses associated with the ad world and of course the food industry itself will be radically changed. The attacks on big food will create growth opportunities for smaller companies offering gourmet and freshly prepared items. We also expect ethnic products and ethnic restaurants that have a fresh orientation to do well in this environment.
Driven by liberating new technologies, increasing social mobility and a very fluid sense of identity, we'll see more people - and businesses - reinventing themselves. In much the same way that people create new identities online or alter their appearance with cosmetic surgery or digital imaging, we'll see more people reinventing their whole personae - age, appearance, name, background, religion, career and lifestyle. With biogenetic engineering and cloning on the horizon, reinvention will reach a new level. Reflecting their new definition of reality, these dynamic consumers will permit businesses to reinvent themselves in the same way; company heritage will become irrelevant.
Target: Is it all Buzz Afterall? (February, 2003)
Target has to be congratulated for their vision, for their appreciation of design and beauty, and for daring to dream big. That said, however, there's a substantial gap between the amount of hype they receive and their sales numbers, which are generally good but not stellar given their idolized status.
In our informal discussions with creative professionals, women consumers around the country and our own first-hand experience in Target stores we've found:
Teen Girls and the Media: Backlash to Big? Hungry for Something Fresh? (January, 2003)
Key changes we're noting in their media involvement over the last five years:
Teen girls are involved with a full-range of media, from tv to music to the internet to magazines. In fact, "entertainment", led by music, movies and tv, is the usual topic of conversation of 26% of teen girls (up over 40% in the last five years).
Television - Friends continued to grow in popularity as it became more widely syndicated making it the favorite show of 22% of teen girls (up slightly from last year and up a phenomenal 630% from 1998). However, the show has now clearly peaked. Various mtv shows (e.g. trl, real world) are favorites of 9%, followed by the simpsons (8%). Reality shows, with the exception of mtv's real world, are seldom mentioned as "favorite tv show" possibly because they are perceived to be more like "specials" than on-going shows. Other notables: sponge bob square pants, a cult favorite from nickelodeon with licensed goods available at hot topic.
Music - Rap, rock and r&b are the most popular music genres among teen girls. Rap/hip hop is holding steady at 29% with eminem and nelly the most popular. Rock has been coming on strong, up over 40% in the last year. Pop has taking a nosedive, down over 30%. Two smaller genres showing signs of life: punk and country.
Movies - Teen girls buy their favorite movies so they can enjoy them whenever they're in the mood to do so. They like both comedy and drama, but their favorite movie last year was all action: the fast and the furious with vin diesel (a small movie that offered something fresh both in subject matter and stars). in general, movies with cool soundtracks have the inside track, e.g. in 2001 the big movie of the year was save the last dance (a small mtv movie).
Actors/Actresses - On the actor/actress front, josh hartnett and vin diesel are the new hotties but their popularity (at 8% and 4%) pales compared to leonardo dicaprio's star rating five years ago when he was the favorite actor of almost 30% of the girls. Julia roberts still dominates amongst actresses but her star is fading with J. lo and angeline jolie nipping at her heels.
Magazines - teen magazines have taken a huge hit over the last five years. While 53% of teen girls mentioned at least one teen magazine as their favorite in 2002, 98% did so five years ago, a 46% decline. The teen girl magazine shakeout has to be just around the corner, especially as girls make the internet a more integral part of their lives.
Internet - 76% of teen girls have a favorite web site and one quarter bought something online in the last year. Popular web sites include yahoo, hotmail, opendiary, abercrombie & fitch, alloy, blackplanet, lyrics, and the spark. using the web is an every day activity and is the preferred way to check out everything from what's on tv to concert listings to the latest sales at the gap.
Why McDonald's is in Desperate Need of Innovative Ideas
McDonald's has been in a creative funk with a lack of relevant new products and messaging. Toys seem to be driving the business more than the food, a recipe for disaster. And recently, it appears that even the value pricing isn't bringing in the customers.
The anti-tobacco litigators also have the company in the crosshairs, which will make it more difficult to market and communicate their products and message to families and kids. Additionally, their new acquisitions have been lackluster and suggest that McDonald's needs a total revamp with an outsider at the helm to bring in a new perspective.
Over the last several years, the company has paraded one old-timer after another, all regurgitating old ideas when innovative thinking is most desperately needed. They may find who they are looking for at one of the more successful casual food chains like Applebees, Chili's, Joe's Crab Shack, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, etc.
At this point, McDonald's reminds me of the situation we had seen at the Gap over the last several years. Out of sync with trends, one excuse after another for why they were failing, a leader who had run out of new ideas. As of this writing, the Gap, under new management from outside the industry, is being revitalized and is once again becoming relevant to consumers with new fashions and new advertising. Hopefully, McDonald's will follow suit before it is too late.
Founded in 1986, The Zandl Group, New York City, provides trend analysis
and marketing direction for manufacturers and advertising agencies, including
The Coca-Cola Company, Bacardi-Martini, General Motors and IPG. The Zandl
Group also publishes THE HOT SHEET, a bi-monthly trend report covering developments
in the youth market, including lifestyle, entertainment, fashion, food and