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“Buy American” Is Still a Selling Point—If You Know How to Sell It

April 11th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Are you hoping that the “Made in America” label will help your product sell better? Chances are you’re right. A recent Harris Interactive survey found support for buying American products across a wide swath of age groups, both genders and both political parties. However, it’s important to define what “American” means when it comes to a product.

Being made in America is the biggest deciding factor in whether an item is considered American. Three-fourths of respondents say a product has to be made in the U.S. for them to think of it as “American.” Being produced by a U.S. company or being made from parts manufactured in the U.S. was important to about half of consumers; being designed by an American was important to about one-fourth.

What type of people care about buying American? Just about everyone. However:

  • The older people are, the more importance they typically place on buying American. Respondents age 48 and up were most likely to say buying American is important; 18- to 35-year-olds were least likely.
  • Women were more likely than men to believe it’s important to buy American.
  • Republicans and Democrats, however, were equally likely to believe it’s important to buy American, and felt more strongly about it than did Independents.

What types of products are people most likely to want to buy American? Major appliances (75 percent), furniture (74 percent), clothing (72 percent), small appliances (71 percent) and automobiles (70 percent) were the categories for which respondents were most likely to say it was “very important” or “important” to buy American.

What are people trying to accomplish when they buy American? The most important reason for buying American was to “keep jobs in America,” which 66 percent of respondents rated “very important.” Next on the list was “supporting American companies” (cited as “very important” by 56 percent). Safety concerns about products made outside the U.S. were a very important reason for buying American for 49 percent of respondents.

Less important reasons for buying American were:

  • Quality concerns with products assembled/ produced outside of the U.S.
  • Patriotism
  • Human rights issues with products assembled/produced outside of the U.S.
  • Decreasing environmental impact since products don’t need to travel as far. However, even this factor—the lowest on the list–was rated “very important” by 32 percent.

Clearly, buying American is still a priority for many people. If you decide to use this as a selling point, be sure that you:

  • Are honest and accurate about exactly what “Made in America” means in terms of your product.
  • Emphasize the factors that matter to customers, such as keeping jobs in America or supporting U.S. companies, in your marketing.

To fine-tune your marketing message, drill down into more details about specific consumer groups’ opinions at Harris Interactive.

Image by Flickr user donkeyhotey (Creative Commons)

What the New American Household Means to Your Business

March 27th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

How are the demographics of U.S. households changing—and what does it mean to your small business? SmartBlog on Leadership recently rounded up some data from the U.S. Census that paints a picture of the new makeup of the “average” American household. Here’s some of what they found:

Husband and Wife on the Decline: The traditional, husband-and-wife household is on the decline. In 2000, 51.7% of households were husband and wife; that went down to 48.4% in 2010. While the percentage decreased, the sheer number increased: In 2000, there were 54.5 million husband/wife households and in 2010, there were 56.5 million. One area where husband/wife households tend to dominate is near military bases.

While the percentage of husband/wife households shrank, the percentage and number of unmarried, opposite-sex partners rose from 4.8 million (4.6 percent of all households) in 2000 to 7.7 million (5.9 percent of all households) in 2010.

Non-family Households on the Rise: Correspondingly, the number of non-family households (people living together who are not related and not married) increased. As of 2010, 33.6% of U.S. households were identified as non-family.

Solo Households Increase: Most non-family households are made up of people living alone. The percentage of single-person households rose from 25.8 percent (27.2 million people) in 2000 to 26.7 percent (31.2 million people) in 2010. One-person households exist in all parts of the country—not just in the urban areas that you might expect. There are two key demographic segments that make up a large percentage of the one-person households, and they’re pretty much polar opposites. The first is young, well-educated singles who are starting their professional careers; they tend to live in large urban areas. The second is older retirees, who are frequently living in rented apartments or subsidized housing.

Multi-generational Households Surge: The percentage of multi-generational households (defined has having three or more generations of relatives living together) has also grown, from 3.7% of households in 2000 to 4.4% in 2010. This is partly due to economic hard times and the difficulty of finding affordable housing, but also due to the growth of the immigrant population.  The Census Bureau says multi-generational households are most commonly found in areas with a lot of new immigrants or where a lot of children are born to single mothers. Hawaii, California and Texas have the highest percentage of multigenerational households, partly because these areas have a large immigrant and minority population.

What do these trends mean to your business? If your products or services, or the way you market them, are tailored to traditional, two-parent households, it may be time to shake things up—or get left behind as America’s average household continues to change.

Image by Flickr user Images of Money (Creative Commons)


America’s Stressed Out. Here’s How You Can Help (and Profit)

March 18th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

When you think of “stressed-out” consumers, do you picture a frazzled CEO rushing from meeting to meeting while answering emails on one smartphone and holding a conversation on another? Well, you might need to refresh your visual to include a stressed-out teenager. That’s right: According to a new study from the American Psychological Association (APA), younger people are more likely than older ones to report high stress levels.

The study, Stress in America, found that while Americans of all ages report higher stress than they think is good for them, Millennials (ages 18 to 33) and Gen Xers (ages 34 to 47) reported the highest average stress levels.

On a 10-point scale where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” both Millennials and Gen Xers report an average stress level of 5.4. That’s much higher than Boomers’ (age 48 to 66) average stress level of 4.7 and Matures’ (age 67-plus) average stress level of 3.7.

Of course, you can’t avoid stress entirely, so the study asked respondents how much stress they felt was healthy, then measured the difference between what they saw as “healthy stress” and what they actually experienced. Younger generations had a bigger gap: The difference between Millennials’ stress levels and their perception of healthy stress was 1.4 points, compared with 1.6 points for Gen X, 1.3 points for Bommers and 0.7 points for Matures.

Stress is on the rise for everyone: Thirty-nine percent of Millennials say their stress has increased in the last year, as do 36 percent of Gen Xers, 33 percent of Boomers and 29 percent of Matures. But what’s stressing us out differs from generation to generation. Not surprisingly, work, money and job stability are the biggest sources of stress for Millennials and Gen Xers, while health issues affecting themselves and family members are the biggest stressors for Boomers and Matures.

In the past five years, a majority of all age groups have tried to reduce their stress, but while Boomers and Matures are succeeding fairly well at doing this, 25 percent of Millennials and Gen Xers admit they are falling short. They’re also more likely to use unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking, smoking or overeating, to manage stress. Interestingly for businesses, 19 percent of Millennials and 13 percent of Gen X said they shop to manage stress.

What does this trend mean to you?

  • A marketing message emphasizing how your product or service can lessen stress, help manage stress, or be a well-deserved reward for a stressful day will resonate with all age groups.
  • However, be aware of the different types of stress affecting different age groups. Work-related stress is a hot button for younger consumers, while health and wellness are trigger issues for older ones.
  • Make sure your customer service creates less, not more, stress for your clients. If buying from you is easy and pleasant, they’ll come back again and again.

Image by Flickr user BLW Photography  (Creative Commons)

What You Must Know About Marketing to Baby Boomers

March 13th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

As they enter their senior years, Baby Boomers are still one of the most powerful consumer demographics in the U.S. What do you need to know to target Boomers today? MediaPost recently spotlighted some research from Navigate Boomer Media on what Boomers are doing, buying and interested in. Here’s where the opportunities are:

Online Marketing

If you’re only marketing to Boomers in the newspaper or print media, you’re missing the boat. You might be surprised to learn that the average Boomer spends more time online than the average teenager (15 hours per week vs. 13 hours). Put your money into online advertising to reach this market.

Transition Time

Baby Boomers are currently experiencing huge life transitions as they enter their 50s and 60s. If you want to capture their emotions during these times, Navigate Boomer Media advises your marketing should include one or more of these three messages:

  1. We understand you.
  2. We make your life easier.
  3. We make your life better.

Wealth Transfer

Baby Boomers will be inheriting money from their parents and will spend it on luxuries including physical rejuvenation and health-related costs such as home gyms, trainers and spa visits; luxury travel; luxury cars (including Porsche, Mercedes and Corvette) and second homes.

Empty Nesters

As their children move out, Boomers will take advantage of the empty nest to pursue their passions, including traveling, pursuing education and volunteer opportunities, starting a business, and remodeling or redecorating the home, often including a home office. Many will also turn to pets (especially dogs) for companionship.

Boomers as Caregivers

With their parents living longer, many Boomers will find themselves in the unusual situation of caring for aging parents long past the time when prior generations were doing so. This creates opportunities for businesses that provide them with support, time off, or pampering to rejuvenate them to face the challenges of caregiving.

Divorce Means Change

For Boomers whose transition includes divorce, demands will include products and services to help them downsize their households and adapt to single life. Sales of condominiums and active adult communities will grow. Wealth management services will be in demand. Travel is popular with this group, with “girlfriend getaways” a hot commodity.

The Grandparent Life

Many Boomers are grandparents, and they’re ready to spend on travel with the grandkids (adventure or education-themed trips and cruises are popular). They also buy books and toys for their grandkids and start savings or college accounts for them.

Menopause and More

Menopausal Boomer women will seek products and services to help them learn about menopause, be comfortable and continue an active lifestyle. Information and education about menopause and solutions for its challenges will be a hot commodity.

How can your business market to Baby Boomers?

Image by Flickr user dannybirchall (Creative Commons)

Who’s Got Smartphones and Apps? Gen Y

February 1st, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky
It may not be a surprise, but Gen Y is leading the way when it comes to adoption of smartphones and smartphone and tablet apps, eMarketer reports. A study by Forrester, cited in eMarketer, found that consumers aged 24 to 32 are the most likely to own smartphones. Ninety-seven percent of Gen Y consumers have a mobile phone, and 72 percent have smartphones, higher than any other age group.

Overall, 93 percent of Americans owned mobile phones; however, only 50% have smartphones. Gen Z (age 18-23) was the second most likely group to own a smartphone, at 64 percent, followed by Gen X at 61 percent. After that, smartphone use declines rather drastically, with just 39 percent of younger boomers (47-56) owning them, 28 percent of older boomers (57-67) owning them, and 16 percent of those over 68 owning them.

Gen Y consumers are also more likely than any other age group to use smartphone and tablet apps, a different study by Flurry found. (This study defined Gen Y as 25 to 34.) Of the Gen Y users surveyed, 33 percent used smartphone apps and 26 percent used tablet apps. The 35-to-54 age group was next most likely to use apps.

You might be surprised that Gen Y are bigger users of smartphones than the younger generations, but eMarketer notes this group is in the “sweet spot” in terms of being old enough that they can afford more expensive smartphones, but young enough to want them and know how to make the most of them. In fact, the biggest reason younger customers cited for not having a smartphone was that they couldn’t afford it, while the top reason cited by older consumers was that they didn’t think it was useful or necessary for their lives.

What do these stats mean to you?

  • If your target market falls in the younger end of the spectrum, you’ll want to make sure your business website is mobile-friendly.
  • You’ll also want to consider developing useful, relevant and/or fun apps for your business that encourage sharing with friends.
  • Keep in mind that Gen Y is most likely to own iPhones, while in other age groups and overall, Samsung phones dominate.
  • Finally, keep in mind that Gen Y’s smartphone-dependency isn’t going away. As these customers move into their prime buying years, they’ll rely on their devices even more—so be ready to grow with them.

Image by Flickr user milesopie (Creative Commons)

What Will America Look Like in 2060?

January 2nd, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The U.S. population is getting older and more racially and ethnically diverse, which will mean some big changes in the face of the population by 2060, say projections recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The projections of the nation’s population by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin between 2012 and 2060 are the population projections to be released based on the 2010 Census. Here are some of the trends the Census Bureau foresees, and what they’ll mean to your business.

  • The U.S. will become a “plurality,” with the non-Hispanic white population still the largest single group as of 2060, but beginning in 2043, no one group will be the majority.
  • The population will projected to grow much more slowly in the next several decades due to lower projected birth and immigration rates.
  • The number of seniors will increase dramatically. The population age 65 and older is projected to more than double by 2060, from 43.1 million today to 92.0 million. That would mean one in five Americans would be over 65, compared to one in seven today. The number of people age 85 and older will grow even more dramatically, more than tripling from 5.9 million to 18.2 million, or 4.3 percent of the population.
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) currently make up one-fourth of the population, but by 2060, the youngest Boomers will be 96, and Boomers will account for just 0.6 percent of the population.
  • The non-Hispanic white population will peak in 2024, then gradually decrease. At the same time, the Hispanic population is expected to more than double. By 2060, almost one in three U.S. residents will be Hispanic, compared to about one in six today.
  • The Asian population is also growing strong, projected to more than double from 15.9 million in 2012 to 34.4 million, or 8.2 percent of the population, by 2060.
  • The black population will remain fairly stable, increasing just slightly from 13.1 percent of all Americans in 2012 to 14.7 percent in 2060.
  • Multiracialism will take hold, with the number of people who self-identify as being of two or more races projected to more than triple, from 7.5 million to 26.7 million, by 2060.
  • By 2060, the total minority population will double and minorities, which currently make up 37 percent of the U.S. population, will account for 57 percent of the population.
  • Older Americans will be predominately non-Hispanic white, but younger Americans will increasingly be minorities. For example, by 2060, just 32.9 percent of Americans under 18 will be non-Hispanic whites.

How will these trends affect your business? I see so many ways, but here are a few that stand out: Products and services for seniors will continue to be hot, with different options and markets depending on whether you’re pursuing the “oldest old” or their kids, the 65-to-85 age group. And if it doesn’t already, your marketing will need to reflect America’s increasingly diverse culture, especially if you’re marketing to children, families and parents.

Image by Flickr user (Creative Commons)

How to Capture the Millennial Customer

November 30th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Where are Millennial consumers spending their money? Boston Consulting Group recently conducted an in-depth survey of Millennials (age 16-34) and older consumers (age 35-74) to compare their behaviors and attitudes. The study, Millennial Passions: Food, Fashion and Friends, has some valuable insights into how companies need to market to these consumers, particularly restaurant and retail businesses.

Why do you need to care about Millennials? BCG spells it out:

  • Millennials are forming strong opinions and are vocal about sharing them, not only with friends and family but with strangers online. As such, they’re influencing the purchasing habits not only of those they actually know, but also of people far outside their social circles.
  • Millennial attitudes and preferences about marketing are early indicators of marketing methods that will ultimately take hold among a wider, non-Millennial audience.
  • The older Millennials are about to enter their peak earning and spending years—and contrary to popular belief, they like to spend money.


  • Eating out ranks above consumer electronics, apparel, footwear, beauty and cosmetic products and accessories in terms of where Millennials like to spend their money. This age group eats out more often than non-Millennials (no matter what their income).
  • When it comes to menus, they love fast-casual and takeout restaurants, as well as exotic, organic and Asian foods.
  • They also love to eat with friends and coworkers and are more likely than non-Millennials to do so.
  • Whether your restaurant is quick-serve or white-tablecloth, you’d better serve up a great experience—Millennials expect no less.

Retail Apparel

  • Both Millennial men and women shop for apparel more often than non-Millennials. The difference was especially striking among men (38 percent of Millennial men shop more than twice a month, compared to just 10 percent of non-Millennial men). They also spend more on apparel than non-Millennials.
  • When looking for fashion information, they turn to magazines, retailer websites, social media, fashion blogs and store associates.
  • When shopping, Millennials like to go in groups and are more likely to consider their friends’ opinions before making a purchase.
  • Just as with restaurants, the “experience” is important. Millennials care more about in-store events, store environment and getting personalized help than non-Millennials.
  • They expect in-store and online offerings to be integrated to make shopping simple and convenient.

Image by Flickr user Geoff Peters 604 (Creative Commons)



Message to Marketers: Don’t Ignore Gen X

November 21st, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

There’s a lot of hullabaloo about marketing to Millennials these days, but in all the frenzy, you might be forgetting about a very important demographic: Generation X. Aged 35 to 44, this often-ignored generation is important for marketers to target—but it’s important to target them correctly.

New research from SymphonyIRI’s Q3 2012 MarketPulse study found that while Gen Xers might at first glance seem similar to Baby Boomers, they actually have a lot in common with Millennials. Dubbed “cheap but cheerful” in the study, Generation X generally has a positive outlook on the economy, but are still more frugal than either Baby Boomers or seniors. They’re more likely than either group to buy products on sale, seek out the lowest price, buy products based on loyalty rewards, and avoid making unplanned impulse buys.

One reason for this frugality is that Gen-Xers had already gone through their own version of the recession pre-2008. Many of them first entered the job market after the 1987 stock market crash. Just like today’s Millennials, many of them struggled to find jobs out of college and had to move back with their parents. They also lived through the dotcom bust of the early 2000s. This “bleak” heritage has shaped their outlook on spending, just as the Great Depression left its mark on seniors and the Great Recession is shaping today’s Millennials.

Despite their past, Gen-Xers are more financially optimistic than the average shopper, SymphonyIRI found. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) say their financial situation has improved in the last 12 months, and more than one-third (37 percent) believe their finances will improve during the next 12 months.

That doesn’t mean they’re free spenders; on the contrary, Gen X is cost-conscious. Before going shopping, 69 percent of Gen X consumers make a shopping list, 49 percent look at sales circulars and 48 percent use coupons.

One important difference between Gen X and the Boomers is that Gen X is much more tech-savvy. In fact, this generation is pretty much on par with Millennials in their use of technology for shopping. More than half of them download coupons from manufacturer, retailer or couponing websites; 35 percent go to daily deal sites; and 31 percent look for coupons on social media.

No matter what demographic you’re targeting, SymphonyIRI’s study found some good news: in general, U.S. consumers in all demographic groups have shown an increasingly positive financial outlook during the third quarter of the year.

Image by Flickr user takomabibelot (Creative Commons)

Today’s College Students, Tomorrow’s Food Trends

September 12th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Why do the nation’s 20 million 18- to 22-year old college students matter to you? If you’re in the food or restaurant business, it’s because these students—now being exposed to new cuisines at college—are going to shape the food tastes of the nation as they get older. Packaged Facts and CCD Innovation recently published a study, Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report, which looks at the Millennials’ food preferences.

The report identified four major needs college students want their food to meet (nutrition, flavorful food, comfort/indulgence, and speed/convenience), as well as seven culinary preferences that differ from prior generations:

  • Profile 1: Dining Along the Meatless Spectrum – More students identify with the less-meat to meatless spectrum of dining. They range from flexitarian to vegetarian to vegan and even raw diets.
  • Profile 2: The Mighty Chickpea – Students are crazy for this inexpensive, versatile and protein-packed food, found in many ethnic cuisines.
  • Profile 3: Nut Butters – Many of these students grew up without peanut butter thanks to so many of their peers being allergic to it. However, today college students are embracing nut butters of all kinds, including peanut butter and the more healthful almond butter.
  • Profile 4: Fruit and Vegetable Discovery – New college students are discovering unfamiliar fruits and vegetables thanks to cafeteria salad bars and retail favorites like Trader Joe’s.
  • Profile 5: Asian Love Affair – Younger Millennials have grown up eating global cuisine, and many continue the discovery in college. Dining halls are offering more ethnic foods, and nearby ethnic restaurants also give students the chance to try new foods.
  • Profile 6: Italian & Mexican – When a college student under stress needs a little comfort, something familiar, warm and filling—that is, Italian and Mexican food—fills the bill.
  • Profile 7: On-the-Go Fare – Students are busy, so they’re looking for foods that are “Easy to make.” “Portable.” “Eat quickly.” “Eat as I walk to class.”

How will these preferences affect your restaurant, food-service business or food manufacturing business in the years ahead? You’d better get ready.

Image by Flickr user Charlene Collins.Jamaica Images (Creative Commons)



Marketing to Millennials: What You Need to Know

August 22nd, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Millennial consumers bring their own share of challenges to small business owners hoping to effectively market to this age group. A SymphonyIRI report released in June and reported by MediaPost has some insights into what Millennials need, what they want and how to target them as customers. The report, which defined Millennials as between the ages of 18 and 34, portrays them as a huge generation that will have a massive impact on purchasing.

For now, however, Millennials are struggling on modest incomes in a tough economy. For instance, 32 percent report they have trouble affording weekly groceries, compared to 22 percent of consumers overall. Not surprisingly, their spending habits are fairly conservative; for instance, in the past 18 months, they reported less financial confidence than average shoppers. They are more likely than the average consumer to be cutting back on expenses by dining out less often, limiting hair salon or spa visits, and cooking at home from scratch. And a whopping 86 percent said low prices were the first or second factor influencing where they shop.

But price isn’t the only factor Millennials care about. Millennials prefer retailers that are fun to shop at, and also want products that are relevant to their needs. Unique among generations, they are the first generation that’s “always connected.” The report cites University of Michigan research that 80 to 90 percent of Millennials use social media, three out of four have a profile on a social networking site, and 80 percent sleep with a cell phone next to them.

Clearly, digital media influence Millennials far more than they do the average shopper. Millennials in the study are more than three times as likely to be influenced by smartphone apps, recommendations or information from social media, or mobile advertising than the average consumer. They also rely heavily on peers when making purchasing decisions—and peers include not just friends and family, but anyone in their age range or life stage.

As you might expect given their modest incomes, Millennials are more swayed than the average shopper by low prices, coupons and loyalty card discounts. Surprisingly for this digital group, old-fashioned marketing methods such as in-store signage, product packaging and newspaper ads also carry more weight with them than they do with the average shopper. What mattered least was previous use of a product. That’s both good news and bad news for small business owners, meaning that while it’s easier to capture new Millennial customers if you show them a good value proposition, it’s also easier to lose your existing customers if they see something better come along.

SymphonyIRI suggests these tips for targeting Millenials:

  • Monitor trends among Millennial so you can anticipate and proactively address changes in their shopping needs and wants.
  • Connect with Millennials on an emotional level by offering innovative products, packaging and marketing that help them achieve their goal of “living well for less.”
  • Use both new media and traditional marketing methods to reach Millennials at all phases of their lives.

Image by Flickr user J. Cortazar (Creative Commons)