Exposing the Millennial Myth – What’s the real deal?

By Cassandra Bremer, Content Manager and Developer at The San Jose Group

Quarterbacks throw Hail Marys; hockey players pull their goalies; advertisers post viral videos.

Sure, viral videos have their place—views boost recognition, keep brands top-of-mind, increase SEO and occasionally bring viewers back to the brand’s website for those coveted conversions. However, when brands develop videos as last-ditch efforts to win over the young, social media-obsessed and self-absorbed Millennial consumer group (roughly speaking, those born in the ‘80s and early ‘90s), they’re wasting their resources.

According to The National Chamber Foundation’s “Millennial Generation Review,” this generation, 80 million strong, has a $200 billion direct purchasing power, $500 billion indirect spending power and will outspend the Baby Boomers by 2017. As such, marketers are on the Millennial treasure hunt, and every Millennial obstacle (i.e., increased mobile technology use, decreased attention span) has brands on the quest creating new advertising avenues. However, they largely misunderstand the true Millennial market, so the loot they’re trailing is little more than fool’s gold. Opportunities to win a greater portion of their spending power exist only once brands shed their stereotypes.

Although TIME characterizes Millennials as “Lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents,” the reality—in most cases—is quite the opposite. While Millennials are not carbon copies of their parents, they do share a plethora of similarities with the Baby Boomers and Generation X, including education and families. In a recent study, “Millennials as New Parents,” Barkley found that older Millennials (ages 25 to 34) actually are, contrary to popular beliefs, hard-working and family-focused: 63% are married with children, while 44% are “very financially stressed.” So with their families in mind, they’re not working to splurge entire paychecks on the latest and greatest trends. In other words, Millennials aren’t the types of consumers brands think they’re targeting. The narcissistic, social media obsessed, younger spenders concerned with keeping up with the Jones, Kardashians and everybody in between are a part of the mix, but according to Maureen Morrison, they only make up 7% of the Millennial population.

So where does that leave all the new marketing avenues advertisers have created to target Millennials?

Undoubtedly social media, viral video content and native advertisements are here to stay and will become increasingly important advertising avenues; however, conventional advertising tactics lie at the foundation. The goal is not to be seen, heard and “liked,” but to earn the consumer’s business. Millennials are both open to new brands and seeking to build meaningful relationship with brands—making now marketer’s “go time.” Countless brands, including Kmart, released humorous ads in the past year in attempts to build loyalty and/or preference. But who really gets the last laugh when brands get funny? In 2012, Ad Age released a study that found funny content actually generated less desire to purchase compared to unfunny ads. While Kmart’s official “Ship My Pants” spot has over 20 million views on YouTube, the Sears Holding Company’s 2013 third quarter revenues dropped 2.1%. Bottom line: producing viral content won’t keep companies from declaring bankruptcy.

Genuine and conventional ads can also go viral as well as win the market. Guinness, the Diago brewer, also achieved viral success in the third quarter with an emotional (vs. humorous) ad, “Wheelchair Basketball.” The spot on Guinness’s official account achieved over four million YouTube views (a great number, but far less than Kmart’s), and the company experienced a 4% increase in the third quarter. Consumer relationships, as it seems, are better built amongst genuine content vs. hilarious ads. After all, brands want their sales to go viral, not just their videos.

As Millennials approach their peak, marketers must realize exactly who these consumers are and engage them. With a large portion marrying, raising families and running households of their own, catering to the stereotypical financially dependent, media-saturated Millennials won’t get brands too far. Millennials are becoming more powerful consumers by the day, so it’s time for marketers to ditch the stereotypes and desperate viral attempts and start taking them seriously, making digital and social content a part of the strategy, not the entire strategy. 

Latin America: The China of 2020 and the Booming Healthcare Industry

Employee healthcare requirements could impact American companies’ decisions to expand their business to the global market. Latin America is moving fast towards a healthcare system that resembles our own and will surely facilitate management of this critical aspect for U.S. companies that recognize the ample business opportunity to invest in Latin America.

Throughout the last few decades, healthcare systems in Latin America have experienced activity and popularity surges among both international and domestic citizens. Affordable and accessible public-private healthcare initiatives and partnerships define a healthcare system model that efficiently serves a major market and is set to transcend all others in the near future.

Latin American countries already exhibit relatively high rates of public participation in their respective healthcare systems. As an example, the institution of a particular family health plan in Brazil recently contributed to the expansion of healthcare participation to nearly 70% of the population. Similarly, recent reports show that Colombia and Chile both posted increased health care participation rates: 73% and 80% respectively, compared to the U.S.’s healthcare participation of roughly 83%. These high rates of both public and private health insurance participation are trends that will only increase with the rising Latin American middle class and with economic progress in the region.

Latin America’s population growth accompanies increasing access to health professionals and facilities in many Latin American countries. In Brazil, Chile and Mexico, the number of medical schools and health facilities has grown quickly in the region over the last century. The ratio of doctors in Uruguay (3.65) and in Argentina (3.01) rose just above the ratio of doctors in OECD countries, such as Canada (2.14) and the United States (2.45) according to data from the WHO . Thus, the breath of medical resources as well as the reduced cost of health care services available in many Latin American countries presents points of investment for American companies everywhere.

Clearly, this critical aspect of employee healthcare can be effectively managed within many Latin American countries and that the structure of healthcare in Latin America encourages increased investment in the region by American businesses. Once more, our neighboring Latin American countries have much more in common with us than commonly expected.

Insurance companies from health to life and from property to casualty have an awesome opportunity to expand by targeting Latin America’s new middle class.

Stay tuned the next installment of our China 2020 series.

Latin America: The China of 2020 and its Growing Labor Force

Latin America is a notoriously progressive region. By 2020, it will represent 10% of the global population and a total market of 670 million consumers. However, what most don’t realize is that Latin America is home to a young population. Approximately 280 million young adults between the ages of 15 to 35, many of whom are part of the working population, reside in Latin America.

Over the next decade, analysts project significant growth in the Latin American labor force. In 2010, the working population between the ages of 25 to 59 amounted to 255 million. By 2020, this population is expected to rise to 296 million while the United States labor force will only increase to an approximate 105 million from 103 million in 2010.

Latin America’s growing young labor force possesses sizeable disposable income, raising consumer demand and spending. The growth has favorable implications on the region’s economy.

The size of the young working population translates to a larger share of consumption by these groups. Similarly, the entrance of 100 million women (who are young), into the workforce by the end of 2012, signifies the financial independence and increased decision-making power over household consumption by the young generation.

Latin America’s young population is not only growing in terms of size, but also in terms of annual total gross incomes. In Brazil, people between the ages of 30 and 39 accounted for 18.4% of the population with an annual gross income that is equivalent to over $150,001. Clearly, the young demographics expect to see further increases in their average gross income over the next ten years and a corresponding increase in leisure and consumption. Similarly, in Colombia, those in the 15 to 37 age bracket will see their gross income expand over the next decade along with an increased purchasing power. The emergence of a new generation of high-income, young adults will mean more spending in categories such as household items and family-related goods. Business interested in investing in the young, consumer-friendly Latin American market should look to introduce affordable luxury goods, mobile phones and trendy clothing brands.

A growing young middle class will begin to represent the majority of consumers in Latin America, a number that will only continue to grow. As the young consumer segment experiences economic prosperity and a rise in disposable incomes, demand will likely increase for higher quality consumer goods and household products. Again, this young population boom presents immense opportunities for foreign and domestic businesses alike in the financial services, telecom and retail industries.

Businesses expanding to Latin American markets have to consider the evolving demographics and socioeconomic characteristics of the young working population to capitalize on their raw purchasing power. Successful companies will employ market-entry strategies that are attentive to the emerging consumer trends of a growing young, willing-to-spend Latin American population now and into the future.

Stay tuned the next installment of our China 2020 series.

Latin America: The China of 2020 and its Growing Middle Class

Allow me to elaborate on the last post.

According to a United Nations estimate, Latin America’s 21 countries will have about 670 million people by 2020, with some of its countries representing a .83% compounded annual population growth rate. As a point of reference, the figure would nearly double the North American population at that time, estimated to be 352 million people representing a .58% growth rate. China, on the other hand, would likely report a population compound growth rate of .55% (down from 1.31% in the ’90s), yet maintain a population size that will be more than twice that of either Latin America or North America.

A finer analysis of the markets suggests that the largest segment of consumers in both markets–the middle class–would shift the attention from population size to buying power. While the Chinese middle class (estimated to be 630 million in the 2020s) currently has an annual disposable income of $4,000 per household, Latin American consumers eclipse this at $5,700. The region’s demographic, labor and spending characteristics (among others) allow me to predict that by 2020 Latin American consumers would resemble U.S. consumers during the middle class explosion of the 1960s. Like the enormous growth many of the most-respected American brands experienced at that time by tapping into the increasing needs of the surging classes, those who recognize the Latin American opportunity early may thrive in the coming decade and obtain greater return on investment than they would investing in other opportunities. A word of caution, leave your conquering helmets behind; there is a way to do business in Latin America, and it is different than ours. If you learn the intricacies, it works just as well as in the U.S.

Stay tuned the next installment of our China 2020 series.

Nygaard, D. World Population Projections, 2020. IFPRI. 
Minority Language Policy and Practice in China: The Need for Multicultural Education. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 2009.
CNN Money. 
RTT News.
Euromonitor International (Countries and Consumers) from national statistics.
China Business Handbook, 2013.

Latin America: The China of 2020, Sizing Up the Opportunity

Size does not really matter …well, sometimes.

In terms of sheer size, China, with its 1.4 billion residents who speak 120 officially recognized languages, stands as the most populous country on Earth by far. However, they are not consumers of most of the products and services we buy and sell here in the U.S. Thus, for companies looking for the next market to expand to, Latin America shines as the new frontier of opportunity for market growth and expansion. Aside from the obvious logistical advantage due to its proximity, these 21 independent countries have more in common with themselves than the single country of China. 

For starters, the infrastructure is already in place for getting products and most services to nearly all Latin American markets, consumers are easy to reach, communication materials need only be in Spanish and Portuguese and the numbers are there to substantiate the effort. The Latin American consumer base has grown to 170 million customers that purchase products and services as we do here in the U.S. Of utmost importance, this number is growing by double digits every year. Yes! 170 million strong and growing. At the current pace, there will be a total of 260 million consumers like us by 2020, out of a total population of about 670 million. So when we look for the future labor or consumer markets to come, our own back yard has the best upside potential yet. I do admit it could be challenging for the typical American company to try to set up a beach front in Latin America, but here again, if you know what you’re doing, it always tends to be easier; if you do not, it is always going to be harder. 

Latin America stands to yield a much better opportunity for North American companies looking for a quick and very cost-efficient way to grow their sales, protect their global market share from European and Asian products that have already made great inroads and possibly even achieve brand leadership status in the hemisphere. The return on investment in Latin America has no equal.

In my next segment I’ll elaborate more as to the stats behind the why.

Stay tuned the next installment of our China 2020 series.

Latin America: The China of 2020

Practically every time I discuss the future of global business opportunities, specifically when it comes to new emerging international markets, China always finds its way into the conversation. It does not matter whether the conversation is with a potential client looking for new growth or a fellow international veteran currently exploring how to do business in China or on the brink of initiating his/her expansion in the region. In any case, they feel that they have missed out on the benefits that a market of this size can yield in terms of global revenue and market share growth. All politics and bureaucracy aside, there seems to be three main categories that U.S. companies fall into: (1) Those who got an early start, did it right and are now enjoying the fruit of their pioneering spirit; (2) Those that missed the earlier opportunities or did it “their way” and are still struggling to figure it out; (3) And those that are just now looking into the Chinese market. Simply put, everyone is talking about it.

The Chinese economy has eclipsed the U.S. and European markets consistently over the past ten years. So of course it is a very hot international topic…but that was then. Consider this: the Chinese economy is currently stagnant, the U.S. has flat lined and Europe is in total disarray. There is a new yet not-so-new player in the arena, and if you are looking for the next emerging market opportunity, the next middle class boom (as we had in the U.S. in the ‘60s), this series of articles in my upcoming posts will explain why I believe the emerging double digit growth economies and middle class populations of Latin America will be the China of 2020.

Stay tuned for our Latin America: The China of 2020 series.

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network Public Service Announcement Awarded Silver Telly Award

“At the Opera” PSA earns third award, sees increase in donor registration.

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network has been awarded a Silver Telly Award for its “At the Opera” Public Service Announcement. “At the Opera” is part of a multichannel campaign featuring 30- and 60-second TV spots, digital video, and online banner advertising developed by The San Jose Group, an integrated advertising agency based in Chicago.

Aimed at attracting Illinois and northwest Indiana residents to register as organ and tissue donors in order to provide a lifesaving opportunity to the more than 5,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in Illinois, the PSA campaign was a significant contributor to statewide spikes in registration. Since the launch of the “At the Opera” campaign in June 2013, there has been more than a 15% increase in organ registration at the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles, where the broad majority of residents choose to register. However, the Gift of Hope website also saw a 176% increase in donor registration compared to the same time the year prior.

The campaign centers around Lola, a first-time opera attendee, whose passion for organ donation and saving lives gets the best of her when a character dramatically faints on stage. Caught in the moment, Lola engages the audience by sharing just how easy it is to register as an organ donor using Gift of Hope’s website, encouraging everyone to take action.

“Throughout creative development, several different storylines and ideas were considered. In the end, we felt it was important for us to break out from the standard in the category,” remarked George L. San Jose, President and Chief Creative Officer of The San Jose Group. “Our creative team was thrilled that Gift of Hope chose one of the most unique concepts to take to execution.”

This integrated campaign was developed alongside an outreach strategy designed by SJ Public Relations. An affiliate public relations division of The San Jose Group, SJ Public Relations has already won seven awards for outstanding public relations programs for its Gift of Hope campaigns. To date, The San Jose Group’s PSA campaign has earned three awards.

“For some time we’ve seen a consistent pattern in the approach of these particular organizations. Incorporating humor to spark interest from potential donors has been the key to this campaign’s success,” noted San Jose. “We wanted the PSA to capture a peculiar moment that took the uncomfortable topic of death and placed it into a more lighthearted everyday situation. We’re asking for the viewer to stop, think, and make a choice.”

Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy Selects The San Jose Group as Agency of Record

Integrated marketing agency to launch a mass media campaign

Chicago, Illinois — Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy has selected The San Jose Group to plan and launch a media campaign for the greater Chicagoland market. The San Jose Group, a total market integrated marketing and advertising agency based in Chicago, adds the higher education leader to its diverse and expanding client roster.

“The San Jose Group was an ideal choice for Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy. First, they come with a total market approach and knowledgebase of the Chicago market that expands our prospect base. And secondly, they took our media challenge on holistically, with sound planning for what we anticipate will lead to smart execution and successful consumer engagement,” said Dina Schenk, Chief Marketing Officer at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be working with Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, one of the most respected media art schools in the country,” said George L. San Jose, president and CCO of the San Jose Group. “What a perfect opportunity to contribute to recruiting the next great crop of talented artists, filmmakers and creatives who will drive our industry in the near future.”

The media campaign will target the parents and families of prospective students with a draw to the communication arts in the greater Chicagoland area. Highlighting Tribeca’s immersive apprenticeship model that quickly propels graduates into the business, the campaign will run from April through August of 2014 for a fall semester registration.

About The San Jose Group

The San Jose Group is an integrated marketing and advertising agency specializing in award-winning total market solutions for today’s complex markets. Over the course of thirty-two years, SJG has earned over 182 awards for advertising excellence and 168 awards for public relations work. SJG, along with its Consulting and Public Relations divisions, service Fortune 1000 clients and today’s industry leaders. SJG is the founding member of the San Jose Network Ltd., the largest independent advertising agency network reaching the U.S. and Latin America. For more information, visit www.thesanjosegroup.com.

About Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy is Chicago’s premier digital media arts college. TFA offers a two-year, career-focused associate degree program in disciplines including Film & Broadcast, Game & Interactive Media, Recording Arts, Animation & Visual Effects and, Graphic Design & Visual Communication. The downtown Chicago campus and two learning sites provide a combination of hands-on learning, expert instruction, cutting-edge technology and an emphasis on collaboration and professionalism. TFA is accredited by the American Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. For more information, please visit www.tfa.edu.

Are you getting through to your audience? Successful campaigns are still about the message

By George L. San Jose, President and Chief Creative Officer

Marketers are always searching for how and where to get the best ROI, and the answer is always the same: brands that develop creative insights aligned with consumer needs and expectations and allocate adequate resources to reach their target consumer will always achieve far better marketing success than those that don’t. I know the answer sounds simplistic…and it is.

The key lies in the message, the channel and the resources. The right message in the wrong channel – no matter how much money placed behind it – will always fall flat. It’s like placing a lamp under the table; the light would represent insightful creative, yet no one gets to see it. On the other hand, the right message in the right channel with the right media weight is like a beacon shining from a hilltop. So the pursuit of finding this right balance is really the approach for developing a winning strategy and accomplishing marketing success. Mastering this fine balance comes from experience.

The other critical component in a successful marketing equation is targeting effectively. In effect, investing against the real customers and not the marketer’s personal experience. There are too many retail and packaged goods professionals that year after year continue to market to the likes of themselves, or just as flawed, to the same old they knew from yesteryear.

Please research your consumer thoroughly and leave your belief system at home. I see too many disjointed communications strategies and they usually all have one thing in common: either the market demographics and psychographics have changed and aren’t being addressed by the marketer…or even worse, the unseasoned marketer has an obtuse impression of the customer in their mind so the fate of their brand is limited to the personal experience of the inexperienced.

Last week I was having lunch with one of our clients and approached the subject carefully to get an inside look as to what is currently happening on the client side. Wow, did I hit the jackpot. We’ll call her Mary. She is a senior marketing professional with twelve years experience in marketing and advertising and works in a company with a collaborative culture. “Getting peoples opinions about marketing strategy and creative never ceases to amaze me, everyone one has a different opinion and it is usually based on a personal preference and nothing related to market facts or experience. So I have learned to hear people’s opinions; but ultimately I make the decision based on sound research, or seek counsel from experienced individuals in the subject matter.”

These days we live in very dynamic and converging markets with highly sophisticated consumers who can be reached in so many ways. Connecting with a consumer does not mean a click or like, but by delivering a compelling and engaging brand story. What I have seen from today’s successful brands is that marketing leaders like Mary are like orchestra directors running their symphonies; not instrument players who only play the instrument they have mastered.

There is a demand for orchestra directors, the seasoned marketers who understand that the box is much bigger than their limited life experiences. It seems the time has come again when consumer reality will trump personal will and that is good for those of us who make a living in writing the music, promoting it to an audience…and sometimes getting a standing ovation when we do it right.

What happened to the USP?

By George L. San Jose, President and Chief Creative Officer at The San Jose Group

In high school, I could typically identify people by their cliques (jocks, cheerleaders, hippies, disco fashionistas, etc.) but not as individuals. So unless I personally knew them, they had no individuality. Today’s consumers see brands as cliques and clicks; they have learned to navigate cyberspace without looking at the obtrusive digital ads popping up wherever they go. Not too appealing for brands campaigning to win consumers. We have conditioned consumers to get free software or new apps in exchange for allowing a provider to bombard them with ads that they have mastered to utterly ignore. Mix this with brands caving to funding in-store promotions instead of branding and you have the perfect ingredients for a brand’s death sentence…lack of differentiation and discount price are always the race to the bottom.

Brands that lost their consumer preference entirely have died, so brands must establish the right brand positioning, Unique Selling Proposition “USP,” and creative content to win preference and emotionally connect with consumers. A recent report by Northwestern University’s Don E. Shultz and Martin P. Block, Killing Brands… Softly, presents some alarming news for brands and their advertisers. Over a ten-year study, Shultz and Block found consumers are shifting from having specific brand preferences to no preferences. Although this may sound like brand loyalty’s obituary, the study points out a major flaw in the industry: consumers can’t identify the differences between brands, because in the “smaller competitive space,” consumers find brands “more and more similar.”

Rare opportunities for brands to win consumer preference exist because brands scarcely produce actual persuasive content. Today’s brands (with the help of social media) distribute more clutter than they do creative. Since social media’s inception, brands have attempted to use it to establish their brand identity and engagement to win consumers, but just because a consumer favorites your brand’s funny tweet or likes your Facebook page, it doesn’t mean they’ll purchase your brand.

Even Coca-Cola knows that social media doesn’t transmit directly into sales. Earlier this year, Coke shocked brands everywhere when it revealed to Ad Age that its social buzz (74 million Facebook likes and two million Twitter followers) didn’t increase sales. Social media alone can’t give a brand a unique identity and win consumer preference, but it’s still essential to the brand (as Coke asserts). The value relies in combining relevant and unique social media accounts with other media to reach, engage and build loyalty. Brands can win consumers as long as their content is persuasive.

Brands seem to manufacture their content through the same idea assembly lines. (I could write a book about why this is happening). They sound, look and feel like each other and unsurprisingly run together in consumers’ minds. Imitation may be flattering, but it will not make you the brand of choice.

Advertisers challenged to win consumers break through the clutter with memorable entertaining creative. It’s the brand story weaved creatively in the consumer’s lifestyle, through memorable, unique and engaging content that creates the personal experience. Brands still win with unique creative, and that only happens when there is a trust in the relationship. An audacious brand professional and a trained USP story telling Adman may become the new click that gives consumers a reason to choose brands…as they once did.